Image Licenses (Shutterstock etc.) What license do I need?


New Member

I work as a designer at a large format print company.

Something that has always confused me is image licenses, what license do I need? Standard or enchanced?

Below outlines how we use the images:

  1. Client requests a design which they want some 'nice' photos on
  2. I find an image on shutterstock, which I use in the concept
  3. The client approves the concept, so I start to get the design ready for print
What license would I need for the following scenarios:
  • Image will be used only by me, only on this project and only printed once, image WILL NOT be viewed by the public
  • Image will be used only by me, only on this project and only printed once, image WILL be viewed by the public
  • Image will be used by more than one designer in our studio, only on this project and printed several times (under 100 times), image WILL be viewed by the public
Also, once I purchase an image am I free to use it on any future projects, be it for different clients?

Would greatly appreciate anyone's help.


Active Member
The biggest issue with buying a license and then using the image on a client site is you then have no control over what happens next. If the client then uses the image in a way that breaks the license agreement you can end up with the bill.

I always source the images and let the client pay for the license. That way you don't have any liability.

If that's not possible I always include a copy of the license agreement (or invoice) with the project


Staff member
Good advice ^^above^^.

A company I worked at had a website built and the web designers used some stock imagery from Getty Images.
The company where I worked used an image from the site elsewhere and got landed for a bill for £1300.


Well-Known Member
The way I understand it is, in basic terms, if the image is just being used on a website or on printed material like brochures or business cards
(up to a certain print run number), then a standard license is fine.

You will need an extended license if the image is being used to primarily sell a product, for instance t-shirts, calendars, posters etc.

Once purchased, you can use it again but the stipulations still apply.


Staff member
That's pretty much as I understand it @Wardy.

I think the term they use for the standard licence is "Editorial" from memory and it's when you use it for products and such that you need the extended version but it's worth reading the small print.

I think the company I worked at got stung because the web designers hadn't passed the licence on so in effect, they didn't have the licence to use it.


Staff member
I'm like fisicx in letting the client pay, I'll normally help them find what they need and explain what it is they need but on the rare occasion (and it is rare) where I need licensed images I generally let the client pay.

Having said that I often work with people who are actually clients of someone else and imo a lot of these t&c's for images don't actually cover that sort of scenario.


Active Member

If your contract with the client is to create a product and you retain all rights then all the client is paying for is your time. They own nothing, it all belongs to you and you can do the licensing yourself.

I have a dispute with the ThemeForest seller who is using one of my plugin as the centrepeice of the their theme. Without my plugin the theme is worthless. I've told them they don't have a license so they need to pay up. I'm still waiting. If I don't get a response then I can add a single line of code in to prevent the plugin from working. Don't see why they should make a profit out of all my hard work.