Licensing photos for commercial use can be a great way to earn extra income, but understanding the requirements is crucial to ensure your images are accepted. In this series, Dave Fitzsimmons, 500px’s Asset & QA Supervisor, shares his tips for submitting successful licensing images.

When it comes to accepting or declining an image for licensing, the primary factor is commercial viability. Essentially, that means whether or not your photo will appeal to people looking to use it for commercial purposes. To find out whether your image is commercially viable, start by asking yourself these questions:

Hunter by Anne Geier on

1. Does the image have mass appeal?

It may be a good photo, but it also needs to appeal to a wide range of people for commercial use.

2. Does it communicate a simple and clear concept/idea?

If the concept is complicated or unclear, the image is unlikely to be useful to potential buyers.

3. Is it generic enough that it could be used in many different advertising scenarios?

Different buyers will be looking to convey different messages to suit their promotional needs.

Run! by Kristjan Järv on

4. Is it free from logos and brands that could cause a copyright/intellectual property issue?

Double-check for logos or branding in the background, such as signage, or on small, less-noticeable items like coffee cups. If they can’t be avoided, remove them in post-production.

5. Does it portray an aspirational lifestyle or activity?

This is more likely to be useful to buyers for promotional purposes.

Light by Adrian C. Murray on

6. Is the quality of light beautiful and the photo well-executed technically?

You don’t want the audience to be distracted by any technical errors or poor lighting in your image.

7. Does it show the subject matter in a unique and creative way?

This will help make your image visually-interesting and add more appeal.

Simple joy (with coffee) by Dina (Food Photography) on

8. Does the image invade anyone’s privacy?

Recognizable people/properties cannot appear in the image without a release, and identifying details such as license plates and registration numbers on boats/trains/planes must be removed in post-production.

9. Is the photo visually busy?

Since the photo will likely be used for some sort of advertisement, leaving copy space in the image can make it more desirable. A photo that is very busy throughout might make it difficult to read any text that is added.

10. Is the image high-quality and a good size?

Photo quality matters when it comes to licensing. Photos should be as high res as possible, but must be a minimum of 3MP in size. Check the photo for quality issues before submitting. If there are dust spots, banding or high noise in the image, you should remove/reduce these issues as much as possible in post-production first.

Garden party or family celebration outside in the backyard. by Jozef Polc on

Have more licensing questions? Check out the 500px Licensing information hub, or share your thoughts in the comments!