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How to Use “Editorial Use Only” Images

Consider this situation… you are designing a brochure that will be used to promote football uniforms and you would like to include some dynamic images in the design. You search through Shutterstock‘s extensive library of over 3 million images and see a great photo of football players that would fit perfectly in your design. However, you notice that below the photo it reads “Editorial Use Only” in the release information.

What exactly does this mean?

This question comes up quite often. Images that are marked as “editorial use only” are ones that have not been released for commercial use and have also been taken without the consent of the individuals in the photo. In the design scenario above, you would not be able to use the photo of the football players because you are promoting football uniforms and generating sales from the brochure. In addition, the players have not given their permission to be included in the photo.

When Can I Use “Editorial Use Only” Images?

Usage allowance would have been different if you‘re designing the layout for a sports magazine and you‘re using the photo to illustrate a story about football playing techniques. In this situation, the photo was not being used to sell the magazine but rather to enhance the effectiveness of the story. Other mediums where you can use “editorial use only” images are newspapers, news broadcasts and other non-commercial applications. As a general rule of thumb, Shutterstock does not provide the service of researching and/or obtaining any needed additional releases. It also does not make any representations or warranties whatsoever with respect to the use of names, trademarks, logos, uniforms, registered or copyrighted designs or works of art depicted in any image. So it is important to consult with your own legal and to review your license agreement to make sure that all necessary rights, consents or permissions as may be required for reproduction of any image have been secured by you.

What Are Model Releases?

Some images within our library are marked “Model Released” because they have recognizable faces of people in them. These individuals have signed model release forms that are kept on file at the Shutterstock offices. Because the images are noted as such, they can be used in any application, including ones for commercial purposes and as long as the usage is within the license agreement. In our earlier case, you would have been able to use the photo of the football players if it had been marked, “model released.” The ones that are not indicated accordingly are noted differently directly below the photo.

So the next time that you are searching for the perfect photo to complement your design, keep these tips in mind. If you have additional questions regarding editorial usage, please email

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