Adobe Illustrative Editorial Stock Images

Adobe have recently started accepting editorial images from contributors with more than 1000 lifetime downloads, but what does that mean? What is an illustrative editorial image?

Firstly, what is an editorial image? It is an image that is intended to be used to illustrate or help explain an “educational” or news or commentary article rather than be used to promote a product or a point of view. To take an extreme for clarity – a picture of an Hispanic person being used on a political advert supporting a particular immigration policy is clearly not editorial usage and that person would have needed to sign a model release accepting that the image could potentially be used in that way. However, the same image being used to explain how immigration works could be said to be editorial usage and as long as the image was taken in a public place, the photographer would not need a release. The “public place” is important – people (in the US) do not have an automatic right of privacy in a public place. They do in a private place, but not if they are just on a public street, for instance. Other countries may have stricter policies on privacy than this, however!

Editorial image showing over touristing in Dubrovnik Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia – 22 May 2019: Crowds of tourists in the old town as overtourism becomes an issue across Europe

Editorial images are often used to illustrate things happening in the news and you can imagine that it would be very hard to get permission from Juul Labs to permit the use of their vaping systems in an article talking about lung disease from vaping. To allow this fair use of images of copyrighted products in articles about the products themselves, many countries have laws that permit such editorial usage. As you might have gathered by now – it is the actual usage of the image that creates the potential legal risk – we as photographers have no control over that and so we (and the agencies) protect ourselves my marking any image with a person or a product or a copyrighted building design as being “editorial use only.” If someone uses such an image in that political advert, it is that person (the publisher) that is at legal risk.

Illustrative Editorial image of Juul vaping system in a christmas tree as a present or gift for xmas
MORGANTOWN, WV – 21 DECEMBER 2018: Juul e-cigarette or nicotine vapor dispenser box on Christmas Tree

So what is Illustrative Editorial? To some extent, Adobe have defined their own subset of images they want to see and offer. They have said that they want to have images (no videos as yet) that can be used to illustrate products and other “things” subject to copyright in interesting and effective ways. They do not want any recognizable people in those shots – so no close ups of a person smoking a Juul vaping system in public! You can’t, in fact, add a model release to an illustrative editorial shot, so even a released person with a Juul system is not wanted. They don’t want to see any old apartment building or house that you happen to see – they do accept well known and famous buildings that otherwise would not be accepted as commercial stock, but it does need to be interesting. They accept products against white or dark backgrounds but I think prefer more of a natural environment rather than a straight studio shot of the product. I also think their reviewers are finding their way through this in real time – I have had some images accepted where there are perhaps tiny signs on a city skyline, but then something similar in a different city would be rejected. They are happy with images taken of products as you find them and also staged in a studio environment as well.

But the key message is – it is products and interesting copyrighted things they want not news related imagery.

So what do they accept and how well does Illustrative Editorial sell on Adobe Stock? I did a quick calculation for October and November (I started uploading these sort of shots in September) and found that Editorial shots earned $90 out of my $450 in image earnings from Adobe in October and then $72 out of $522 in November. So a reasonable extra income from images I already had in my portfolio. I’ve got no easy way to find out how many such images I now have on their site. I kept a folder of images that I decided met their criteria and there were 700 of those, but then I often saw that images of skylines or general city shots were not being accepted unless it was clear that there was an interesting or famous building clearly visible. I would guess I probably have 500-600 images in that category on their site. For instance, a series of images of Pittsburgh were rejected – although there are many building signs, it didn’t meet their expectation of something clearly prominent in the shot:

Pittsburgh PA on July 4th
PITTSBURGH, PA – 4 JULY 2018: Overview of the city of Pittsburgh from Mount Washington

So what has been selling for me? This one is the best seller with $35 over the two months:

Juul vaping system set against white
MORGANTOWN, WV – 29 MARCH 2019: Juul e-cigarette or nicotine vapor stick and JUULpods on white background

This one of the Citibank logo in Canary Wharf in London sold for a total of $10 in October and illustrates what they are looking for with buildings, I believe.

Citi brand logo on top of a building in Canary wharf London
LONDON, UK – JANUARY 30, 2016: Logo or sign for Citi or Citibank on side of office building in Canary Wharf, Docklands, London, England

Various pictures of plant based meats have been selling OK as well:

Impossible food burger material
MORGANTOWN, WV – 8 October 2019: Packaging for Impossible Foods burger made from plants on steel background

Incidentally, if you are a Silver rank or above, this is what you see when you upload an image on the website. Once you check that box, the question about Recognizable people or property disappears. You can’t do this (yet) in Stock Submitter although I understand the developer is looking at it.

Adobe stock contributor upload page showing the Illustrative Editorial check box

So, for me, this is definitely worthwhile and I will continue to look through my portfolio to see if any other images meet their definition as time moves on! If you are at the Silver level or above, I suggest you do the same!

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5 Responses

  1. Thanks for this very informative article. Much appreciated.

  2. elles says:

    I do not see an option for editorial, do you need to do something or upload them differently?

    • Steven Heap says:

      It only appears if you are at the Silver rank or above – ie have had more than 1000 downloads of your images or videos.

      • elles says:

        I have more than 6000 download, but nothing appeared…..

        • Steven Heap says:

          I’ve modified the post to show where I see the check box on the Upload page after you have uploaded the image(s) to the website. If you don’t see this, I think you need to contact Adobe contributor support.

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