What is the difference between Commercial and Editorial content?

A quick guide to how each type of content may be used :

The simple answer to the difference between commercial and editorial content is how that content is permitted to be used. What classifies an image, clip, or illustration as commercial or editorial is slightly more complex, but understanding the difference is very important as it will inform how you photograph, film, or illustrate your next project and how that content can be licensed.

Content that is licensed for commercial use has many more restrictions than content that is licensed for editorial use because commercial content is used for advertising and promotional purposes. For commercial content, permission is required from property owners, artists, and recognizable people in the image, whereas editorial content does not because this content is used for the public good via news outlets.

How Commercial Content Can Be Used

As the name suggests, commercial content can be used to commercialize, monetize, sell, promote, and advertise a product, business or service. It could be used on a billboard, a website, a blog, a brochure, a Facebook Ad, or even a television commercial.

As an example, let's say a travel agency wants to promote its day trips from Rio de Janeiro and needs a photo for their website. The photo they are looking for will be for commercial purposes as an advertisement for their travel agency to attract customers who will hopefully purchase a tour package.

Requirements for Commercial Content

Generally speaking, commercial content requires:

  • Permission from every recognizable person in the image in the form of a signed and valid model release which allows the photographer (filmmaker or illustrator) to license the content commercially
  • Signed and valid property releases, if applicable, for recognizable private property, artwork, graffiti, and tattoos granting permission from the property owner to commercially license the content (read more about property releases for the specifics on when they are needed and what information is required)
  • No visible trademarks, company names or logos be present in the content
  • That the location, object, or event is not restricted

How Editorial Content Can Be Used

Editorial is the opposite of commercial in that editorial content cannot be used to sell, promote, or monetize a business, product or service. It can contain logos, business names and recognizable people without model releases. For more information, refer to our Editorial Standard guidelines.