How to Use Image Licensing to Increase Sales Revenue

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Your photographs may all come from the same source, but they certainly don’t all end up being used in the same way. Some buyers will use them for personal blogs, while others will profit from them through commercial use. Established stock image vendors already charge the latter party extra for commercial licenses – and it’s high time you did, too.

The solution lies in licensing your images, and our Sell Media WordPress plugin makes it easy, with no inconvenience to your customers.

In this post, we’ll detail the two major license types that you can (and probably should) charge separately for, then walk you through Sell Media’s simple licensing feature.

How to Boost Revenue With Image Licensing

It’s common practice among photographers and stock image vendors to charge different fees for different licenses. Essentially, vendors can stipulate that the larger the intended audience for a specific image, the higher the licensing fee. Shutterstock, a leading stock image vendor, does precisely that:

Viewing Shutterstock's image licensing options.

Typically, when it comes to selling images online, two license types are offered. Let’s take a look at each one.

1. Editorial Licensing

Editorial licenses are primarily purchased for journalistic purposes. Such images can be used in newspapers, magazines (both print and online), textbooks, and educational blogs in ways that do not promote or sell products or services.

In other words, an editorial license is for non-commercial use.

2. Commercial Licensing

As the name implies, a commercial license is purchased with the intention of using the image in question to sell or promote a product, service, or idea. All forms of advertising and promotional activity fall into this category, too.

Since the general principle is to charge more for photos that potentially reach a larger audience, commercial licenses are typically more expensive than editorial licenses.

For more information on the legalities, we recommend the American Society of Media Photographers website.

How to License Images With the Sell Media WordPress Plugin

Sell Media is a WordPress plugin that enables you to sell photography, prints, videos and stock imagery. It lets you create galleries, bulk upload images, analyze sales statistics, take payments, and more. But more importantly for our purposes, it enables you to license your images. After Sell Media users assign usage licenses to their products, buyers can then select the appropriate usage license during purchase.

Implementing this feature is simple. The first step is to head over to the Sell Media section located in the sidebar of your WordPress dashboard, and click Licenses:

A view of the Sell Media plugin inside the WordPress dashboard

From the resulting interface, you will be able to name your new license, give it a slug, and set an optional description:

Naming a new Sell Media license.

Further down the page, you’ll be able to define a markup value for the license you are creating. You can type the percentage in manually, or use the provided slider. When you’re happy with the added fee, click Add New License:

Adding a markup value to a Sell Media license

Next, head back to the sidebar, and select All Products under the Sell Media section. This will enable you to view all your existing products:

A view of the Sell Media plugin inside the WordPress dashboard

Then, hover over over each product and click Quick Edit…

Viewing the products within the Sell Media plugin

…which will reveal an interface that displays a list of all existing licenses within Sell Media. You can then check the box next to the relevant license you wish to apply:

Applying a license to a Sell Media product


Your images aren’t always going to be used in the same way. Major stock image vendors are well aware of this and vary their license fees accordingly. If you aren’t doing the same on your photography website, you’re losing out.

To potentially increase the revenue your images generate, be sure to:

  1. Understand different license types, particularly the ones that may apply to your customers.
  2. Set your licensing types using the Sell Media WordPress plugin.
  3. Charge your customers accordingly.

Are you planning to apply licenses to your photography or stock imagery? Let us know your plans in the comments section below!

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