22 Sep 2007 Selling Editorial Photos

Do you sell editorial photos at microstock agencies? Did you know you could?

What are Editorial Photos?

Technically, it’s not a photo that’s ‘editorial’, but it’s how the photo is used. But generally speaking, editorial photos are informational and educational in nature, unlike stock photos which are commercial. They are suited to publications rather than sales material. News photos showing current events and famous people are the most popular type.

If you submit a photo to a microstock agency as an editorial photo, you don’t need to attach a model release. Editorial usage does not require the consent of the people who appear in the photo. However, this means that buyers cannot use editorial photos in a way that promotes products or services, i.e. in a ‘commercial’ manner.   Editorial photos are exclusively for news and educational use.

Where Can I Sell Editorial Photos?

If you get an exclusive shot of a high-profile news event you can sell it for a large price to news organizations or agencies such as Getty Images’ new acquisition, Scoopt (update: Scoopt has now closed). But for news and other editorial photos that aren’t front page material, you can sell them in the microstock market alongside your regular stock photos.

Shutterstock allow you to sell editorial images simply by ticking the ‘Editorial – does not require release’ box during submission. Buyers are then informed that the images cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Dreamstime will pay you $5 for every accepted editorial photo you submit. However, they still require a signed model release for all recognizable faces in the photo, and removal of all brands and logos. (update Feb 2008: Dreamstime now trusts their buyers to understand the different licenses and so no longer requires model releases for editorial photos. They also no longer pay the $5 for each editorial image accepted)

Both these agencies apply almost the same quality requirements to editorial submissions as they do to stock. Just because a photo contains a celebrity or the latest headline event, doesn’t mean it can be lower quality.

While not microstock, Alamy also sell editorial images. More of their buyers are in the market for editorial shots, and while you won’t sell as many, you’ll earn a lot more for each sale.

Do Editorial Photos Sell Well?

There are always star performers – the images that sell extremely well. However, the majority of editorial photos don’t sell well in the microstock market. Microstock is a market for stock photos, so the majority of buyers come in search of commercial stock, not editorial. Yet.

So What?

If you have photos in your collection that you haven’t submitted because they contain recognizable strangers, consider their suitability for the editorial market. Dreamstime won’t accept these because they still require a model release, but there’s no such requirement at Shutterstock. You may be sitting on a gold mine!

Many photos are rejected by microstock agencies as “not suitable for stock” or “not commercial”. These are hints that the image may be more appropriate in the editorial market. Consider if they would be used by publications to inform or educate, or if they contain news related subject matter. If so, give them a second chance by submitting them as editorial photos.

What about You?

I sell editorial photos:

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  • Ellen Boughn
    Posted at 12:17h, 25 September Reply

    One thing to remember: it’s not the photo that is ‘editorial’ but the use. So in theory any photo can be used editorially and any other photo can be used in advertising. For example, you take a photo of a recognizable fireman at a fire and it runs on a local news site or in the local paper. You submit it for stock as an editorial image. But unless the company requires a release or somehow educates its users in BOLD TYPE that there is no release, the image could easily be used in advertising. Think insurance company promotions. This is why Dreamstime requires model releases for news photos at this time.

  • Simon Petersen
    Posted at 04:18h, 29 August Reply

    “This is why Dreamstime requires model releases for news photos at this time.”

    How can they require model release for editorial photos? I can’t ask people at demonstrations or pressmeetings to sign a model release. It doesn’t make any sense.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 17:04h, 29 August Reply

      Hey Simon,

      They’ve updated this policy since this post was written, so model releases are no longer required for editorial photos at Dreamstime.

      The last three words of Ellen’s comment are a hint that they were already planning the change. If you read her comment, you’ll understand why they required it – they’re essentially protecting their buyers who may not understand the crucial legal distinction in usage.


  • Sourabh
    Posted at 22:22h, 24 August Reply

    BigStockPhoto now also supports editorial photos

  • Pius
    Posted at 07:41h, 25 May Reply

    Looks like 123rf is accepting editorial photos as well.

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