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Site Graphics and Multimedia Design Forum

Buying Photos for a Client
legal ways to use stock photography

 7:52 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

As probably some of you know, Iíve been doing some freelance for some time now and I am trying to gather as much information as I can to protect myself legally.

So I have few legal questions about buying-images from stock photography websites:

Letís say a client of mine wants few images that he has seen in a stock photography website: is it legal for me to go ahead and buy them (under my own account) and implement it into the clientís website? Am I breaking any rules? Wouldnít be better for the client to create his own account and buy them himself? I think this would annoy the client.
Other question: am I able to modify these images to death?

And this might be like a silly question butÖis there an expiration date on these images that I buy from these stock photography websites, can I use them forever?

I need to learn more about buy images as a freelancer so I wonít break any rules. Any articles or info websites about this will help a lot.

Thank you partners.



 8:14 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

The answer is Yes. Or no. Or sometimes.

Well sorry, but you will have to read the TOS or license agreement on the stock photography website. Because there are stock photo website where you as webmaster can get a license that allows you to use the photo on the clients site and there are stock photo websites where the client has to create his own account and there are stock photo websites where you are not allowed to alter the image and there are stock photo websites where you can modify the image to death and there are even stock photo websites where you can choose from different licenses.


 8:27 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I do this all the time, just save records of your purchase so when they get a complaint, you can produce the receipts. Or forward them on completion as proof of purchase.

An even better way, if it's the site I use, have the client do their own shopping. Have him/her pick the images and send you the lightbox then take it from there. They seem to like that, it empowers them with picking the images, and not having to pay you for the time to find them. Otherwise I always use the watermarked comps until they accept the images.


 5:28 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

thank you for all the replies.
I usually use fotolia and they have a long (and I mean long) documentation about this (maybe I can just contact them directly)

too much information

 5:57 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

All the stock photo site (and the photographer) care about is that you paid for the image license. If you have a receipt or proof of purchase then I don't think it matters if you buy the image or your client.


 6:02 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Other question: am I able to modify these images to death?

Usually "no"... you'll have to read the TOS of each provider of images to see what they allow.


 6:44 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

you guys are really helping me here.
Here I have another questions about using stock photography:

Letís say the client needs me to create some design mockups. How do you guys usually go about that? Do you grab the thumbnails from the stock photography website and if the client decides to go with the pictures, you pay for them?
Do you buy them right away even though the client might say Ďnoí?

Thanks again guys


 5:41 pm on Aug 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Right,that's why they call them "comps," you use the watermarked comps for your mock ups, then if accepted you swap out the quality images you purchase. If they don't like the images you chose, see previous comment - have them build you a lightbox. :-) Rinse and repeat the comp process (and of course, bill for your time . . . "free mockups" is a disease in this industry, don't do it!)


 3:15 pm on Sep 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

I buy them until the client says he likes the pictures. Not before.


 1:10 pm on Sep 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Detailed paperwork. And keep all your receipts and paperwork. Seriously. For life.

We've had a few incidents with clients and stock photography. The most recent involved a client who purchased a web template from Template Monster, and a couple years later got a a notice that some of the pictures that were included with it were not licensed. They tried to sock him for several thousand dollars, and Template Monster was no help at all.

The first one happened to a client who had us scan pictures out of one of their brochures for their website - over ten years ago. Then, ten years later, they get a bill from someone for over $20,000 for use of the photos. They'd had some design firm create the original brochure for them, and turned out the design firm had not had legal rights to the photos. They were out of business, we'd also purchased some stock photography for the site, and it was so long ago nobody still had a brochure or remembered which photos were obtained where. It was a real mess. By the time we figured out what was what, the client did have to settle with photographer for some amount that I wasn't privy to.


 2:50 pm on Sep 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

All of this has gotten easier, actually, with the web. It's still a mess sometimes, but using pics always has been.

The TOS explains what is what.

I typically sign up the client with an account. The problem with you buying the pics is after you are out of the picture that the client will take one they like and put it in an ad that goes on the back of Sports Illustrated and, uh oh! That was not the approved use, the client gets sued and then the client sues you for not handling properly. And, if you bought the pics, then they might have a point there.

So, bill the client for "research" or "consulting" on the photo search, but not the pics--and "reselling" them is usually outside of the TOS anyway. Look after yourself, first and foremost. netmeg's story might sound far-fetched to some. It's not.


 4:31 pm on Sep 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

JPcinemamaster: Yes to all, no to all, maybe, sometimes.

I've worked on that area: stock photography, producing (is not an ad, is actually to support and give weight to what I'm about to say).

It depends on the license. Every site, every author, every photographer might have diff terms and can be subject to certain benefits/guidelines the law allows him, be it on his country or internationally. Some terms might apply locally, some people might sell only to some countries (I did discriminate for reasonable reasons).

So the answer to your questions certainly is on each of the author guidelines and license. You might even end up with an special deal depending on your provider. I've done it. Sometimes depending on the case some photographers do give a lot of more freedom, and this includes a written permission for the client to keep for their files and also to keep their minds at easy that they have the right to do this or that.

The problem is when you use "general purpose websites" with license that are not always clear. Back to my previous point, you could ask the authors and keep all the written materials for future reference.

Detailed paperwork. And keep all your receipts and paperwork. Seriously. For life.

Exactly. Remember that little annoying line some people use: "terms might vary from time to time without notice", it can become tricky.

Anyway, as a simple general question, there are royalty free images with specific freedom to PAY only once and use forever and ever as much as YOU want to, except for the right to RESELL. This means, you could buy the image and use it for YOUR client only, not to use it on other pieces of work. In fact you might include a disclosure about it.

The thing about being so picky and clear using and documenting how you use the images, and even including the note on your clients site (somewhere) is because you don't know when somebody might copy that file and then you might be accused of something. Trust me, some photographers do check upon their images and hunt copy pasters.

Sometimes you can get better deals with respectable, humble and nice photographers who happen to have nice work and will be nice to you as a person and giving you a special deal instead of tight licenses.

So in short, your answer is on your providers terms.


 6:42 pm on Sep 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

When you buy stock images make sure you know what usage rights you're purchasing.

You may be only getting "web only" rights, meaning that if your client were to run a TV commercial or a print ad, etc. showing that image he doesn't have the rights to do it.

Just double check the rights being purchased vs. clients complete needs and you'll be OK.

If there are other usage fees for other uses, make sure the client gets a copy of that information so he will know where to go to get it if needed.


 9:23 pm on Sep 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think this would annoy the client.

It certainly does.

Plus too many of these fellows gather photos from the competitors in your area and get work done in India.

I had a fellow who used some stock photos from some of the mentioned and not mentioned. Problem was one male photo was of a web site owner who still uses it on his web site for vanity purposes. The female pics were absolutely horrid.

To solve this I requested an immediate change of pics but the designer refused. I also pointed out that that one pic could get me in legal trouble. The designer maintains I insulted him by suggesting this so he wouldn't finish the project. Needless to say it is in a credit card dispute.

Bottom line I found this to be a buyer beware area especially with photos. Iím not going to let some dummy get me sued with their cavalier attitude. A lot of subcontractors for design and artwork are on the Internet.

This is the only area of the Internet that leaves me apprehensive. To many people want to start a business in this area but have no business experience or legal knowledge even with the payment transactions and delivery. The best separate the business end from the design department. All too often artists are too sensitive and see their original creations as perfect. Also many artists want to eliminate all risks involved which make them feel like a superb business person. Life is a risk you canít eliminate them all. When people see you attempting to eliminate all your risks they quickly get fed up with you and do the same. Know your business. Factor in the costs and donít try in sneaking in research fees or anything else. First and foremost be honest with people.

***I take it a lightbox is somewhere the client can see all the photos used.


 11:15 am on Sep 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

I won't use stock photos anymore. As noted even in this thread, these companies are in the routine business of threatening to sue customers. There's no way I need to keep my receipts for something I bought, forever. And there's no way I should have to routinely defend myself against companies that I bought and paid stuff for. So I don't.

It's way beyond protecting (C). I bet some of these companies are making substantial revenue from threatening to sue.


 2:39 pm on Sep 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

That's sooo true. Many photographers, even when they sell all the rights over a great photo, keep it and show it just for vanity and that might get you into trouble. If you can manage to take your own pics then that's better than buying them, not for the money you save, but for the problems you save.


 6:25 pm on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Pay for a lawyer... Don't listen to anybody here. We can offer reasonable advice, but that's it.

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