Like you, we are passionate about photography and want to find a place for every photo in our collection. In an effort to eliminate guesses on your part, we’ll take a second to set some guidelines and simplify the submission process.
One of the most common points that photographers face is understanding the difference between commercial and editorial photography—specifically, what content is considered safe for commercial purposes and what is limited to editorial use?
Here is a simple breakdown for you…
What is a “commercial” image?
Commercial or creative images are used to promote a wide range of products and services worldwide. These images communicate an ambitious concept or idea and make it a powerful tool for advertising.
Since images are almost always used for advertising and marketing purposes, we need to be careful when it comes to privacy, authorization and trademark infringement issues—meaning that all recognizable people and protected/private property must be shared if they are the main purpose of the image (or can be realized). Whenever possible, Logos and branding should be avoided or completely retouched from the photo.
It is important to keep in mind that the question is not whether a person is recognizable to you, but whether he is recognizable to himself. Even people who have silhouettes or are partially hidden can recognize themselves through contextual details such as their location, clothing, or other people around them. For more information on how to work with model versions, see this article.
The same applies to privately owned sites and real estate (Note: Just because a site is open to the public does not mean it is public property). If in doubt, ask a representative of the site for restrictions on Commercial Photography.
Examples of Commercial Use are:
- Advertising in print and digital media campaigns
- Marketing and advertising materials
- Corporate presentations and brochures
- Commercial sites
- Film and television
- Books and covers
Are there exceptions for commercial use?
Identifiable individuals and private sites that are the sole purpose or constitute an important part of the image always require a signed version for a commercial license. Similarly, copyrighted Logos and Branding should always be avoided or removed, unless you have previously agreed to label this trademark. Of course, as with any rule, there are exceptions…
What is an “editorial” image?
Editorial photos truthfully document real-life topics, current events, and human interest stories around the world. They serve as an effective way to reinforce newspaper and magazine articles, blog posts, and other written comments by giving visual context to a story.
Examples of editorial use are:
- Newspaper and magazine articles
- Editorial Functions
- Blog or website (for descriptive purposes)
- Articles and Reviews
Are there exceptions for editorial use?
Children: Because of the sensitivity of photography of children and minors, photos of children alone must convey a very clear message of cultural or socio-economic importance. Images with a group of children are usually fine, but all images are checked on a matter-by-matter basis.
Ticketed Events& Locations: Photography of an event or venue for which an entry fee is applied almost always requires permission, including for editorial use, due to the intellectual property you protect. Many of these events and venues are limited to accredited members of the press, so it is important that a press card, property authorization, permit or contract issued and/or signed by an authorized representative of the Organization is uploaded with their deposit. A downloadable copy of the Standard 500px property version is available here.
Examples of ticket locations and events:
- Art museums
- Art gallery
- Pro Sports Games
- Theatrical performances
- Concerts and music festivals
- With salt
Do I need descriptions and keywords?
Because of the way editorial photos are used, keywords and descriptions should describe the image in a way that is true to the original and not misleading. Unlike commercial photos, including product or brand names as keywords, it is recommended as long as they are truthful about the object.
Descriptions are intended to provide context, so it is important that they are informative and detailed (i.e. a photo showing a famous building is of little value to editorial buyers if the name of the architect and the location of the building are not included).
What about creative filters and artistic treatments-are they allowed?
No. To be credible and maintain truthfulness, editorial images must reflect the subject matter in an honest and factual manner. Slight adjustments in color, contrast, exposure, etc. however, changes that change the context of your photo are considered misleading and inaccurate.
This includes cropping, using filters such as HDR or digitally editing the photo in any way. Even sepia is a no-go, it doesn’t change the body facts, but many people use sepia toning to imply age for a Vintage effect that changes the context.