Commercial and Editorial Use: What do they mean?


When a photographer delivers images to you, it’s important to understand what kind of usage rights you have. There are 2 major types of usage: Editorial use and/or Commercial use. While most photos are available for Editorial Use, not all photos are available for Commercial Use.

Here's why:

Commercial Use

Why should I care to get a Commercial License?

When you receive a license for Commercial Use, your likelihood of selling the photo increases exponentially. This is because a customer can use the photo for a greater variety of uses (for both Commercial and Editorial Use). Simply put, a commercial license is when you’re using the photo to sell, promote a product, service or idea. If you decide to use a photo outside of it’s usage rights, then you could be looking at paying a hefty fine of up to $250k per infringement. (If you would like to learn more about Copyright Infringements, click here.)

When should I obtain a Commercially License?

You will need a Commercial License when promoting a product or service or when using your photo in any promotional way. Commercial content can be used to commercialize, monetize, sell, promote, and advertise a product, business or service. It could be used on a billboard, a website, a blog, a brochure, a Facebook Ad, or even a television commercial.

As an example, let’s say a restaurants wants to promote their new chicken dish and needs a good photo for their website.  The photo they are looking for will be for commercial purposes as an advertisement for their marketing agency to attract customers who will hopefully decide to dine at their place of business.
The image below would be an appropriate choice.  It was professionally taken, sharp, lighting is good and shows off the meal in a way that makes your mouth water. There are also no logos or brand names in the background or on the photo, therefore, this image a good candidate to be licensed for commercial use. 

Anthony Johnson Event Photography, Food, Eberly Atx, austin tx

Editorial Use

What is Editorial Use then?

Images that are use only for descriptive purposes in a context that is newsworthy or of human interest and expressly excludes commercial uses such as advertising or merchandising.

Photos can be used editorially to accompany internal presentations, news articles, blog or social media posts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) where the purpose is solely to inform, educate or entertain and not to promote a product or service.

Final Thoughts

Do you know the difference between Editorial and Commercial now?

I hope I have explained the differences between the two and why it is important to obtain the correct license for your photographic sharing needs. Remember, a commercial license is needed when you’re selling or promoting something. Normally, that license will cost substantially more because you are putting the images to work to earn your business revenue. Whatever your budget for photography is, you should always come out ahead when using photos for commercial purposes. A solid marketing plan is needed to maximize your ROI. We can talk about that in our next Real Talk blog. Until then, Happy New year and comment below any questions!