A Brief Overview on How Do Stock Photos Work?

Stock photos refer to photographs that are available for commercial use under certain licensing agreements.

A few stock photo agencies like Planet Stock Photo offer a wide range of photos, illustrations, and videos that can be licensed for use in various media, including websites, magazines, brochures, advertisements, and more. The following is a brief overview of how stock photos work.

Photographers create and submit images

Stock photo agencies typically work with photographers and other content creators who submit their work to the agency. These photographs are often of high quality and capture a range of subjects, including landscapes, people, animals, and objects.

Images are reviewed and approved

Once photographers submit their images, the stock photo agency reviews them to ensure that they meet certain quality standards. This process may include checking for technical issues such as lighting, composition, and focus, as well as ensuring that the images are commercially viable and have broad appeal.

Images are tagged and categorized

Once an image is approved, it is tagged and categorized based on various factors such as subject matter, color scheme, and intended use. This makes it easier for buyers to find the images they need for their projects.

Images are licensed for use

Buyers can then browse the stock photo agency’s library of images and license the ones they need for their projects. Licensing agreements may vary depending on the intended use of the image and the length of time it will be used.

For example, a buyer may choose to license an image for a one-time use in a magazine, or they may choose to license it for multiple uses across various media over a longer period.

Photographers and agencies earn revenue

When a buyer licenses an image, the revenue is typically split between the photographer and the stock photo agency. The exact split may vary depending on the agency and the licensing agreement, but photographers generally earn a percentage of the licensing fee.

Different types of licenses

Stock photo agencies offer various types of licenses, each with different usage rights and restrictions. For example, a royalty-free license allows for unlimited use of an image in multiple projects, while a rights-managed license restricts the use of an image to a specific project or time period.

Model and property releases

Stock photo agencies require photographers to obtain model and property releases when photographing people and certain types of property.

A model release is a legal agreement between the photographer and the subject that grants permission to use their likeness in commercial contexts, while a property release grants permission to use images of certain types of property.

Image exclusivity

Some stock photo agencies offer exclusive image licenses, which means that a particular image is only available through that agency. This can be beneficial for buyers who want to ensure that their competitors don’t use the same images in their marketing materials.


Overall, stock photos offer a convenient and cost-effective way for buyers to access a wide range of high-quality images for their projects. By working with talented photographers and content creators, stock photo agencies are able to provide a vast library of images that can be used in various contexts, from marketing materials to editorial content.