This week’s installment of Ask Shutterstock examines two different types of stock images. The explanation may seem simple, but the distinction is quite important.
As always, please remember to refer to our Terms of Service, where you’ll find our most up-to-date, official source of Shutterstock image usage terms. This post is merely an overview. On to the questions!

Q: What’s the difference between Editorial and Commercial stock photography?

A: Images labeled “Editorial Use Only” cannot be used for commercial purposes. An editorial image can only be used to illustrate a news-related story – not to sell or promote a product, service or idea. This rules out most websites (with the exception of news sites).

Since the purpose of most (commercial) stock photography is to help sell or promote a product or concept, this essentially puts editorial images in their own category.

Editorial images are most popular with journalists and news outlets. These photos are normally taken in public places, and usually contain recognizable people and places without model or property releases in place.

Q: So when would I use an Editorial Image?

A typical scenario would be when you’d like to source a photo of a celebrity, and you’re reporting something newsworthy, such as a live performance or film premiere. The purpose of usage is generally to report or provide commentary on the subject in the image.

Editorial photos can also be used for educational purposes, so long as the information presented is educational or factual in nature, such as in a textbook or encyclopedia.

For more information, here’s the FAQ from our site. See also Part II, section 14 of our Terms of Service.

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

Image: © Artenot/Shutterstock