Editorial use only images for blog posts

As blog writers, we are always on the hunt for the perfect picture to complement our writing. This hunt can become long and complicated because of certain laws and restrictions surrounding which photos we can and cannot use for our blog posts. One label you may see when searching for a photo is “editorial use only.” But what does this mean? Can you use those images or not? Following certain rules and steering clear of any liability is necessary to get use out of editorial use only images, but don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it may appear. We explain how to use editorial use only images for your blog posts below.

What is an Editorial Use Only Image?

You’ve seen the name, but do you really know what the label means? Let us explain. Images marked with “editorial use only” have not been released for commercial use and have been taken without the consent of the people present in the photo. Commercial use is a legal phrase meaning the use of a photo for any fare, fee, rate, charge, or direct or indirect use in connection with any business venture intended for profit. For example, if you are designing a brochure for a client to promote adventure vacations and you were searching Shutterstock for some compelling images to get your message across, you notice several pictures of people white water rafting that would look great in your brochure. Below these pictures is the message “For Editorial Use Only.” In this scenario, you would not be able to use the images because you are promoting sales of adventure vacations through the brochure. Additionally, the people in the photos have not given their permission to be included in the photo.

When Can You Use Editorial Use Only Images?

If the situation described above was different, such as a travel magazine with a story about adventure vacations inside, and the image was used to explain how white water rafting is done safely, use of the image would be allowed. In this case the image would be enhancing the effectiveness of the story instead of being used to sell the magazine. Other channels where editorial use only images can be used include newspapers, news broadcasts, blog posts, websites, and other non-commercial presentations. Editorial use only images cannot be used to make money, so this means no advertising or promotional work. The majority of images you will find on sites like Shutterstock and iStockPhoto are for editorial use under the standard content license. The difference with editorial use only images is that they can only be used in this way.

Here is a breakdown of when you can and cannot use editorial use only images:


  • In a newspaper or magazine article
  • In a book or text that does not promote the book or text
  • Film or video documentaries or news broadcasts
  • On a blog or website for descriptive purposes
  • In a non commercial presentation


  • Commercial websites
  • In any kind of advertising or promotional material
  • Product packaging
  • Television commercials
  • Commercial brochures, collateral, or other printed material.

What Are Model Releases?

Some images are marked “Model Released” because they have recognizable faces in them. This generally means the models in the photos have signed release forms for use of their photos. These types of images can be used in any application including for commercial use as long as the usage is within the license agreement. In the earlier example, you would have been able to use the white water rafting photos for the brochure if it had been marked “Model Released.”

Depending on which website you download images from, they may require that you give credit for the source of the image. To be safe, it is also important that you consult with your own legal team and review your license agreement to ensure all necessary rights, consents, or permissions are present that may be required for the reproduction of any photo you want to use. Luckily, most informational inbound blog posts should meet the terms of “Editorial Use Only” images. Next time you’re on the hunt for the perfect image, keep this blog nearby to remind you which images you should and should not be using.

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