Commercial stock photography can be used in posters, ads, promotional brochures, etc. that advertise and/or endorse services or products. One could define it as any photography for which the photographer is paid for images rather than works of art. Commercial images usually include: better than average to normal looking, everyday people or models; subject matter that is politically correct; or the year’s latest trends, colors and hues. These photos frequently are taken by a commissioned photographer on assignment, or or licensed via a stock photography agency like Cutcaster.com. All images included in commercial stock photography must have a model release signed by the person depicted in the image, since commercial photos purpose are to endorse or help sell a product/brand.
Editorial stock photos are used in magazines, as illustrations in books, educational materials, informational periodicals and electronic media, etc. Generally these images illustrate a story or idea within the context of a published piece of work. Editorial stock photos can include people in real-life situations and capture a specific real life moment in time. Photojournalism is considered a subset of editorial photography. Photographs shot in this context are accepted as a documentation of a newsworthy event. Obviously editorial photos are inherently more unique and content-specific than their counterpart, commercial stock photos. Editorial buyers look for “authentic” pictures, not images that appear staged. Model releases are not needed for editorial usage, in most cases, because their purpose is to educate and inform.