Q: What does “royalty-free” mean, anyway?

A: “Royalty-free” refers to a licensing method under which image rights are sold at a flat rate for almost all purposes.

This is in contrast to rights-managed licensing, when an image license is priced based on how the image will be used. Rights-managed licenses usually come with usage restrictions, including length of time, regions, image size, and more.

Royalty-free licensing became popular with the rise of digital image distribution, and today the vast majority of stock images are licensed as royalty-free. Royalty-free images offer buyers both greater flexibility and affordability than rights-managed.

Shutterstock’s entire collection of imagery and video is royalty-free, which means that buyers have wide leeway in how they use the images, subject to the limitations in our Terms of Service.

Have a question about stock imagery for Ask Shutterstock? Please e-mail blog@shutterstock.com. (As always, if you need help with your Shutterstock account, you should contact our knowledgeable support team. You can also consult our Customer FAQ.)