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Digital Media Glossary A-Z

Buy Out

A buy out usually means that the copyright holder agrees, for a fee which is often high, to transfer all rights to the buying party. This ensures that the original copyright holder can no longer sell the image. The new copyright owner will have purchased unrestricted usage rights, as a usual condition of sale.


This refers to the process of setting a device to certain accepted color conditions. Calibrating monitors is essential when purchasing stock images, unless you are not particular about matching colors. There are many ways to calibrate a monitor, here’s one


This is the process of creating a standard ICC printing profile. See


Cyan, magenta, yellow and black are the four process colors that are used in four-colour printing.

Comp image

A comprehensive layout, usually shortened to comp, is the page layout of a proposed design as initially presented by a designer to a client, which will often include a comp image from a stock agency. This will usually be a low resolution image and used for evaluation purposes only.

Continuous Tone

Refers to an image in which colors and shades of gray smoothly merge into the neighboring colors or shades, instead of producing distinct, sharply outlined areas of color or shade. Camera film photographs are continuous tone images but digital photographs are not. Almost all printing processes (except the Iris system and dye sublimation technology) are non-continuous tone.

Copyright ©

It is the set of exclusive rights granted to an author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned. Copyright applies to a wide range of works that are substantive and fixed in a medium. Some jurisdictions also recognize "moral rights" of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work when shown.

Digital Proof

A digital proof is a color prepress proofing method where a job is printed from a digital file using inkjet, color laser, dye sublimation, or thermal wax print technologies to give a good approximation of what the final printed piece will look like. The digital proof is generally less expensive than other prepress proofs. Digital proofs can often be produced on the actual paper stock of the job adding another element of accuracy.


Height and width, measured in centimetres or inches that a stock photo should be output at.


An image is downloaded when a digital copy of an image is transferred from a stock photography seller's computer to a buyer. Once payment has been received a client from the stock agency can then download the image.


DPI (dots per inch) is probably the most familiar measure of resolution. It is the measure of how many dots of ink or toner a printer can place within an inch.

Most printers print the same number of dots horizontally and vertically, though some may have differing numbers. Basically, 600 dpi printers print 600 tiny little dots across one inch and 600 dots vertically for one inch. The higher the number of dots, the greater the resolution of your stock images.

Editorial Use

Stock photos that don't have model or property releases can only be used for editorial purposes i.e. alongside editorial features. This does not generally include advertorial use. Editorial is also sometimes referred to as street photography.


A EULA is an "End User Licence Agreement". When you licence an image, you may only use that image in the way outlined in this document.


Exclusivity refers to licensing a stock photo outright so that no-one else can use that image. There are different types of exclusivity available and they offer different levels of protection - you can therefore generally get basic exclusivity just for the same usage and various other types up to and including full exclusivity across any use in any industry.


Exchangeable Image File: the file format used by most digital cameras. When a camera is set to record a JPEG, it's actually recording an EXIF file that uses JPEG compression to compress the photo data within the file, for example


Stock footage, like, stock photography, is material that has been custom shot for use by clients on a license basis. It can be Rights Managed or Royalty Free and there is much now available as Microstock.


File Transfer Protocol (FTP), a standard Internet protocol, is the simplest way to exchange files between computers on the Internet. FTP is an application protocol that uses the Internet's TCP/IP protocols. FTP is commonly used to transfer Web page files from their creator to the computer that acts as their server for everyone on the Internet. It's also commonly used to download, programs and other files, such as large images, to your computer from other servers.


The entire range of colors available on a particular device such as a monitor or printer. A monitor, which displays RGB signals, typically has a greater color gamut than a printer, which uses CMYK inks. When a color is "out of gamut," it cannot be properly converted to the target device, for example, to a different type of printer. Some "over manipulated" stock photography images have gamut issues.


A photo made up of varying tones of black and white. Stock images, which have been shot using a digital camera, are often converted from color images.


A halftone image is made up of a series of dots rather than a continuous tone. These dots can be different sizes, different colors, and sometimes even different shapes. Larger dots are used to represent darker, denser areas of an image, while smaller dots are used for lighter areas.


Hue, Saturation, Brightness. A color space that is similar to the way an artist mixes colors by adding black and white to pure pigments.

The pigments are the hues (H), measured in a circle from 0 to 359 degrees (0=red, 60=yellow, 120=green, 180=cyan, 240=blue, 300=magenta). The saturation (S) is the intensity of the color, and the brightness (B) is a range from black to white, each measured from 0 to 100%. It is essential that good stock images have a good HSB balance.

ICC Device Profile

The International Color Consortium describes rules on color management. Printers, cameras etc. can have a "profile" which effectively tells one device how another "sees" colors, making accurate reproduction from device to device easier. See

Image Resolution

The number of pixels in a digital stock photo, or any other digital image, is commonly referred to as its image resolution. This is important when purchasing stock photos, as resolution will help determine what size an image can be used at without "degrading" visually.


iPhoneography is a term used to describe a specific type of mobile photography - specifically anything shot using an iPhone.


Joint Photographic Experts Group. It's by far the most common compressed standard for high resolution stock photos developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, hence the name JPEG. Strictly speaking, JPEG is not a file format; it's a compression method that is used within a file format, such as the EXIF-JPEG format common to digital cameras. See for more information.


Stock photography supplies photographs licensed for specified uses. A license is constructed for a purchase and specifies how the image can be used, which depends largely on the license model, Rights Managed or Royalty Free for example.

Line Screen

A Line Screen is the measure of how many halftone lines are printed in a linear inch.

Low Res

Low resolution. If you use a low res stock image it is low quality because of a small number of dots or lines per inch, so is generally used for comping or very small end use.


Lines per inch. It is a measure of resolution for halftones.

Megabyte (MB)

A megabyte is a measurement of data storage equal to 1024 kilobytes (KB). It is a general guide to how much space a photo takes up on your hard drive and it has nothing to do with yoru camera's megapixels. 

Megapixel (MP)

One megapixel is equal to one million pixels and megapixels are a general guide to the size of the photo. It is a strong indicator of quality, so generally, the larger the number, the better quality the image. 


It is a license that equates to a Royalty Free license, employed in negotiating the right to use stock photography, or other creative content, such as video or music. The term Royalty Free means that once the content is licensed under a set of guidelines, the licensee is normally free to use it in perpetuity without paying additional royalty charges.

Mobile Photography

Mobile photography is a new genre of photography where images are now taken using mobile devices. Quite simply - it's photography produced using new technologies and tools. The quality of mobile photography is extremely high and it is often not possible to tell that an image has been shot on a mobile device. 

Model Release

A model release, is a legal release typically signed by a "model" appearing in a photograph; a juvenile model requires an adults consent; granting permission to publish the photograph in one form or another. The legal rights of the signatories, in reference to the material, are thereafter subject to the allowances and restrictions stated in the release.


Stock music is, like stock footage, custom recorded for purchase either as Rights Managed, Royalty Free or Microstock.


PICT is a graphics file format introduced on the original Apple Mac computer as its standard metafile format. It allows the interchange of graphics (both bitmapped and vector), and some limited text support, between Mac applications and was the native graphics format of QuickDraw. It is used in stock photography as a file format.


Short for Picture Element, a pixel is a single point in a graphic image. Graphics monitors display pictures by dividing the display screen into thousands (or millions) of pixels, arranged in rows and columns. The pixels are so close together that they appear connected. The number of pixels in digital stock photography is an important aspect quality.


Describes an image in which individual pixels are apparent to the naked eye. Typically, the separate square pixels in bitmapped images such as GIFs do not appear individually. When a stock image is displayed too large or at a low resolution the image becomes pixilated, for example.

Print Run

The number of copies produced of any printed item, which is used to help calculate the price of a rights managed license in stock photography.

Process Color Printing

Process color printing, also known as CMYK or 4-color process printing, uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to simulate thousands possible colors.

Property Release

A property release is a legal release typically signed by the owner of property contained in a photograph, such as a house, granting permission to publish the photograph in one form or another. The legal rights of the signatories in reference to the material are thereafter subject to the allowances and restrictions stated in the release.

Raster Image

A raster image, also called a bitmap, is a way to represent digital images. The raster image takes a wide variety of formats, including the familiar .gif, .jpg, and .bmp. A raster image represents an image in a series of bits of information, which translate into pixels on the screen. These pixels form points of color, which create an overall finished image.


The RAW image format is the data as it comes directly off the CCD (from the camera), when no in-camera processing has been performed. For high resolution digital stock images, this is the format most compressed images will originate from.


Image resolution describes the detail an image holds. The term applies to digital images, film images, and other types of images. Higher resolution means more image detail. In stock photography images are typically, 300 dpi for print and 72 dpi for screen, or computer.


The RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors, as used for TV and computer screens.

Rights Managed (RM)

Rights Managed refers to a type of stock photography, footage or any creative content license. The term Rights Managed means that the seller of the license is specifically giving permission to the buyer to use the content in a certain way. This typically includes restrictions on the length of time and image can be used, the medium, the size, the format and the location of use.

Royalty Free (RF)

Royalty Free is a term employed in negotiating the right to use stock photography, or other creative content, such as video or music. The term Royalty Free means that once the content is licensed under a set of guidelines, the licensee is normally free to use it in perpetuity without paying additional royalty charges.

Royalty Ready Images (RR)

Under the rights ready model, duration and territory rights are unlimited and user parameters are broadly defined, so customers can avoid re-licensing for creative campaigns that have the potential to evolve over time. Images are offered with fixed price points designated according to basic commercial, internal company, and editorial use categories. A mix of Right Managed and Royalty Free licensing not generally available in stock photography.


Color saturation refers to how vivid and intense a color is. For example, a display with poor color saturation will look washed out or faded. See for more in depth information on matters relating to color.

Screen Ruling

Screen ruling referrers to the number of lines of dots per inch on a screen. Each line (or row) and each column contain a certain number of dots at a particular density. For example, a 150-line screen contains horizontal rows of 150 dots per inch and vertical columns of 150 lines per inch, for a total of 22,500 dots per square inch.

Stock photo

A stock photo is an image that is available to licence from a stock photo agency which is effectively a library of images. The photographer always retains the copyright but depending on which licence is applicable, you are buying the rights to use the image in a specific way. 

Street Photography

Street photography (sometimes also called editorial) is type of documentary photography and it's specifically a term used to describe candid photographs which have been taken in public places. Typically it's about capturing creative one of a kind moments that haven't been staged, so there are no props, models, setting up of shots or artificial lights involved. Street photography can only be used for editorial purposes since it's generally not model or property released.

Subscription (S)

The subscription business model, as with stock imagery or other creative content, is one where a customer pays a subscription price to have access to certain creative content, for the period of the subscription. This is regularly used to sell stock photography, footage and other creative content. Subscriptions can be of varying duration but are typically, monthly and annually.


The most common form of digital stock photo format. Tagged Image File Format (abbreviated TIFF) is a file format for storing images, including photographs and line art.


This relates to any increase in the resolution of a stock image.


Where, when and for how long stock content is going to be used. This is of particular relevance with Rights Managed licenses as this will help determine the price. Royalty Free licenses differ and have little reliance on such matters, other than to restrict usage of certain prohibited uses, such as resale or illegal use.


A picture file that is calculated by the computer with lines (as part of an X,Y coordinate) rather than separate pixels. A vector based image can be increased or decreased to any size without distortion. This is a file format that is used in Microstock Photography, more than in any other stock licensing model.

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