Types of Stock Photo Licenses
When you use stock photos, there are several types of licenses you need to be aware of-- royalty free, rights managed, and extended licenses. Royalty free is the most common and affordable, rights managed offers exclusivity, and extended provides extra permissible uses.
The most popular, and most affordable license type for stock photos is royalty free (or RF). Royalty free means you can use the image multiple times, without paying a royalty. This is the best choice for budget-minded designers and marketers. The downside of royalty free is that RF images are non-exclusive, meaning anyone can purchase and use them. Royalty free images have the most lenient permissible uses for both commercial and personal projects.
A rights managed (or RM) license gives exclusive, time-limited use of a stock image. Exclusive use means that only the licensee can use the image for the period specified in the license contract. RM licenses are granted on a pay-per-use basis, meaning the stock image can only be used for one particular project, only for a set period of time, and often only in certain geographical areas. Rights managed images are expensive to license, but they offer protection against brand dilution (due to competitors using the same image) and allow for larger print runs.
Extended / Enhanced licenses
Some stock photo companies allow you to purchase an Extended or Enhanced license that extends the permitted uses of a previously licensed work (usually royalty free). Extended licenses give you permission to "extend" upon the uses granted in the original license. These uses may include increasing the number of copies showing the image, use it for resale purposes (print-on-demand, calendars, t-shirts, greeting cards, etc), or allow for other methods of distribution and use. Uses vary from company to company, so be sure to read the licensing agreement in detail.