Central to the identity of your company or business is a visual representation of your brand, which usually will be a logo. Often, logos may become more well-known than the company’s name, so you want to have a logo that makes your organization stand out.
Can you use a stock image as a logo? No, you cannot use a stock image as a logo without having exclusive rights to the image, which are often difficult to be granted. Using a stock image as your logo will likely violate legal agreements and can result in you having to pay expensive fines.
There are some cases where you may be able to secure the legal rights to use a stock image as your logo, but you must go through the proper channels. Plus, using a stock image for your logo may not be the best representation of your company, so it is better to have your own created.
Peak Ahead: We recommend using Placeit’s Online Logo Maker to create a custom logo. It’s more affordable than hiring a graphic designer, and comes with full commercial usage rights.
Why Can’t You Use a Stock Image as a Logo?
Legally, you do not have the rights to use stock images as logos. While these can sometimes be obtained, the process is not easy and does not even guarantee that you will be granted exclusive rights.
What are the Restrictions on Using a Stock Image as a Logo?
Since stock images are royalty-free and readily available on the internet for free, you might think that they can be used for logos, but your logo cannot include part or all of a stock image, even if you alter it.
This restriction can be confusing because you can use stock images for other content, such as websites or printed advertising materials. The problem with using a stock image for a logo is that it will violate content use agreements. You may not even mean to violate such agreements, but it is imperative that you read through the privacy and rights sections of the platforms you get your stock images from.
Bigstock.com, a common site to find stock images on, includes a section on using content in logos in its Standard Content Usage Agreement. In Part III, Restrictions, point 16 reads that you may not “Use any Content (in whole or in part) as a trademark, service mark, logo, or other indication of origin, or as part thereof, or to otherwise endorse or imply the endorsement of any goods and/or services.”
Of course, each platform may have its own rules, but most of these resources will include a similar passage limiting the use of stock images as logos. Shutterstock.com, another common platform for finding stock images, includes a similar statement on its website. This page is exclusively about the use of images from Shutterstock for logos, with the company stating that its “Terms of Service does not allow photos, illustrations or vectors to be used as a logo, as part of a logo or as a trademark.”
Making Sure Your Logo is Not a Stock Image
There are a number of ways to make sure that your logo does not include any parts of a stock image. As previously mentioned, you may not be aware that your company’s logo includes a stock image that you do not own the rights to. Someone on the design team of your organization may have incorporated a stock image without you even knowing it.
The reality is that even if you were unaware that your logo includes a stock image, you are still legally responsible for the misuse of the image.
To avoid legal ramifications and fines, you need to make sure your logo is free of any stock images. An easy way to ensure this is to create your own logo completely. There are plenty of software applications to make this process user-friendly, and you can also hire a graphic designer to give your organization a completely unique logo.
Remember, your logo represents your organization. A stock image might fit with your company, but think about how many other companies it can also represent. There is no originality there.
Regardless of if you hire a graphic designer or create a logo yourself, you can always use a reverse Google image search to make sure no parts of the logo include a stock image. Also, you can use this search feature to get an idea of just how many people have used a stock image by pasting it into the search engine.
Is There Any Way to Use a Stock Image as a Logo?
If you are set on using a stock image as all or part of your logo, you may be able to gain the rights to do so. This process will vary across platforms, and not all of them will allow you to apply for the rights to an image.
Even if you have a license to use an image online, you do not hold ownership exclusively, so you have to have a separate type of license if you want to use a stock image as a logo.
For instance, Shutterstock.com does have a process for gaining the rights to stock images. According to the company’s site, you can attempt to gain licensing rights to use a stock image in your logo:
“[I]t is possible that we can help you to license either an image or footage clip exclusively. To do this, Shutterstock would acquire the copyright from the contributor and then grant you exclusive rights. These rights would include the ability to use the work for trademarks and logos.”
If you do apply for these rights with Shutterstock, you have to pay for the exclusive rights, and the original creator of the stock image must be willing to sell the copyright in the first place. Plus, any exclusive rights granted to you would only be applicable for future uses. All uses of the stock image prior to gaining exclusive rights would still be in effect.
Keep in mind that this is just the policy for one platform of stock images. Each platform you get stock images from will have its own policies, so you cannot assume that what one company does is the same as all others.
Can You Use Stock Images for Your Company at All?
You can use stock images for materials created by your organization besides the logo. You are free to use stock images on websites, web pages, or promotional materials. You should still keep in mind that you always want to use images that actually are a good representation of your company.
It can be expensive to have a graphic designer create all illustrations and pictures for your company. Because of that, you can save money and use stock images on your website or posts. In most cases, though, it is better to spend a little more money on having a unique logo created than risk heavy legal fines for using a stock image in your logo.
Remember, you want to position your company or organization as the best in its field. Every detail of your company’s materials is important, so you want to include content that is the best representation of your brand. A logo is one crucial piece of your branding, and people will have a much better impression of your company if you have unique images and content.
When in doubt, read through a platform’s License Agreements and contact their customer support if you think you want a stock image in your logo. Otherwise, you are not allowed to use a stock image in your logo because you do not have exclusive rights.
Consider using a logo maker that includes full commercial usage rights. This will ensure your logo stays out of any potential legal trouble down the road (and helps you make a professional looking logo without being a graphic design expert).
BONUS: Placeit was kind enough to extend a 15% off discount to All Free Mockups readers. You can find the coupon here.