What is licensing a photo?

Let's look at this both ways. As a photographer, you'll get to protect your work, as an end user/buyer, you'll be entitled to use the images legally.

What licensing your photos means?

Copyright law word cloud concept on grey background

A license is a form of contract in which a photographer allows the images uploaded on specific sites to be purchased and used legally. In fact, you, as a photographer, offer your permission to interested users to acquire and use your work for certain usages and for a certain amount of time. It all depends on the licenses' terms and conditions.

There is the most common license which is the standard license Royalty Free, and other licenses covered by the term Extended.

If you want to only grant the Standard license, which is set by default, that's OK, but since there are complex usages out there, it's better you enable other licenses, too, such as the Extended Licenses. They will allow the client to use images for different purposes that extend the ones for regular usages. For example, the standard license applies to usages that cover promotional materials: brochures, catalogs, flyers or some other sort of advertisement, but if the clients want to sell say t-shirts using your images, they need an Extended License which is P-EL. Look at the advantages: your image on a t-shirt seen on the streets and higher royalties for you.

Or, you'll get in the history book with more than 15 minutes of fame if clients will purchase your image to use it as their company's logo, because for this kind of usage, they'll need a very extra special license which is SR-EL. This means that if they purchase your image with this license, it will be exclusively theirs. You'll have to take the image off from all sites. A logo is a logo. Of course, the costs are much bigger in this case and you'll get to ask from them the price you want. You can either use our list of recommended prices which vary between $250 - $5,000 or you can set your own price manually (up to $10.000). So more cash for one photo.

So let's make a small recap to see what are the licenses you can set to your images and what exactly do they offer and what's so special about them.

Royalty Free License

That's the one for commercial purposes: book covers, e-books, interior decorations, CD covers, company presentations, billboards, posters etc.

Extended Licenses

There are 3 of them. Each of them is unique, special and big spender.

P-EL is what a client needs if they want to sell t-shirts with different cool prints, calendars, tote bags, funny pillow cases; if they want to make their own art or if they want to sell printable canvas using your images. There are, of course, more other usages.

W-EL is for web templates meant to be resold, e-cards, or for those nice relaxing screensavers with amazing landscapes or cute kittens you see when you switch on your desktop computer early in the morning.


You've already read about this SR-EL license, but you also need to know that there are 3 types of them: SR-EL, SR-EL1 and SR-EL3. The first one grants client the rights to own your image forever and ever, SR-EL 1 means that the client can use their logo with your image for 1 year only, then the image will be put back on track; SR-EL 3 is for a3-year exclusive usage, then back on track.

Why it's better to enable the Extended Licenses when you upload on Dreamstime? Check your possible earnings here.

Editorial License

This one is special, too and it's also set by default if your images depict logos of other companies, trademarks, buildings and other stuff protected by copyright or by public authorities laws. Images with people that don't have any Model Release attached at the upload will also become Editorial. Editorial images can only be used to illustrate news-related materials in all kinds of media, and in some special cases, documentaries or educational books.

Photo credits: Ibreakstock.

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October 25, 2018


Always great to know about the type of licensing and what it really means!

October 24, 2018


thank you ! :)

October 23, 2018


Thanks for the article. Always good to hear the inside scoop from our stock gurus at Dreamstime! That sheds light on why single photo revenues can vary so much. William

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