Stock Media Buyers Guide


Finding and using stock video is extremely simple, but planning ahead takes a lot of headaches out of the process later on down the road.

Purchasing stock footage requires you to pay attention to the resolution, frame rates, price and licensing. People expect beautiful shots; that’s why camera sensors are becoming increasingly more powerful — and expensive. High resolution is a necessity since most consumers have the capability to view full 1080 video in their pockets and 4K UHD has all but solidified its presence as a viewing standard.

Price and resolution often go hand in hand in the stock media world, so be prepared to pay for those top notch clips.

Price and resolution often go hand in hand in the stock media world, so be prepared to pay for those top notch clips. Typically you’ll pay more for stock 4K clip than for video shot in 1080. Sometimes you’ll find the perfect scenario where the 4K shot that compliments your video so well is the same price across the board. It’s a sweet little jackpot, but not one that’s common. Regardless of the deals you find, make sure to choose a clip that fits your project. The information is there, so use it.

Shopping Around

It’s no secret that there are multiple outlets out there to purchase stock video. It will only benefit you to become familiar with them.

We understand and empathize with you when you’ve spent hours trying to find the one piece of footage that will complete a gaping hole in your videos timeline. Many may come close, but when you find one that’s framed perfectly, it’s hard to resist immediately hitting the buy button. It’s almost as if the creator knew you’d be looking! You may want to just get on with the project, but it’s beneficial to see if the creator has the same footage on other sites. Chances are they’re smart enough to broadcast their talent, and that can save you a little money. Your best bet is to look up the file name or the creator on other stock media sites and browse their portfolios on multiple sites.

Take the file “Girl friends high five in car” (62425852), by Wundervisuals. It’s $60 for a 1080 HD file on, but on it is $79 for the 4K file. Meanwhile, on, it is $199 for a 4K file. That is a huge difference in price between the three sites. Note also that doesn’t carry the 4K version. Had you stopped there, you wouldn’t have gotten the same bang for your buck.

Locating the most cost effective stock video may take a little more time, but the saving could be worth it. Naturally, the above is just a singular example, and you may find that who has the lowest price on an individual clip varies from clip to clip. In your own search, you may find the results to be reversed.


You have plenty of options in your hunt for stock media, be it video or still images. To begin, check out iStock, Pond5, Dissolve, Getty Images or ShutterStock to browse libraries packed with video, photos and, in some cases, music and graphics templates. Clips can be purchased individually at prices ranging from under $30 to over $400 depending on your prefered resolution and license. Again, be sure to shop around for the best deal.

VideoBlocks and Big Stock by ShutterStock are both subscription-based services that might be perfect if you find yourself purchasing large volumes of stock footage. VideoBlocks offers subscriptions for $79 monthly or $149 yearly, with a Premium option for $198 per year. BigStock has a variety of plans based on clips downloaded per day or month. Prices range from $79 to $99 per month depending on the options you select.


While many of these stock photo and video sites also offer stock music, there are also sites specifically dedicated to production music. For off the shelf royalty free music and sound effects, check out Audiojungle or PremiumBeat. If you’re looking for more familiar tracks to use in your work, MusicBed, SongFreedom, and AudioSocket all offer licensing for curated tracks from popular artists. For more flexibility, look to SmartSound for additional customization options and software to help you edit individual tracks. Expect to pay anywhere between $1 and $100 for a track from these sites.

Additionally, MegaTrax and Killer Tracks each offer music in collections if you are looking build up a music library of your own.

Graphics and Templates

Now, you may need a whole graphics package or template as well. After all, creating custom motion graphics can take a considerable amount of time depending on the complexity. If you’re juggling multiple projects at a time, creating the custom graphics would take far too long and ultimately push the deadline of your projects back. This ends up hurting your production and possibly your relationship with your collaborators.

VideoHive and Digital Juice may have the motion graphics templates you are looking for. Browse thousands of whole project packages, or if you’re just in need of some lower third designs, video effects packages or logo stings, they have those, too. Prices on VideoHive range from under $10 on up to $65, and Digital Juice offers unlimited access to their stock media library for a one-time payment of $400 for their Standard tier and $600 for the Pro tier. With these solutions, you can give your project the wings it needs to fly a lot sooner.

Licensing Considerations

Making an awesome video is the end result, no matter how you get there — so long as you stay within the law. There’s no shame in utilizing someone else’s graphics if you purchase a license to do so. Sure the purists may raise their fists and cry non-originality, but you’re a producer, and producers delegate. In this case you’re delegating the task to someone else and paying them for their service. It’s the professional way to go.

It may seem like common sense, but before you purchase any footage to place in your projects, double check the licensing rights. Understanding how the artist is allowing their work to be used is crucial for a successful project and it avoids a lawsuit five years down the road when they happen to see your video online, send you a cease and desist and you have no idea what the original licensing rights were at the time that you made the video. Save yourself two weeks of back tracking and digging and make sure every project is tied off with a neat bow with all the licensing that goes with it.

The licenses you normally get by default are for single use end-product only. That means that each new video you do in the series requires you to re-up the license and pay for the file again. For most instances, you’re working on an individual project, making this a non-issue. But what if you’re producing a web series or a service training video series?

You can purchase extended licenses that usually last either a set amount of episodes or 1 year, whichever comes up first. For a series that will use the same clips or graphics repeatedly, an extended license is the way to go. Make absolutely sure you check the sites definitions for their license agreements — cease and desists are such a drag.

Direct Contact

On the flipside, often it pays to contact the creator right off the bat, explain your project and see if they have a solution. Just look for contact information in the creator’s profile. In some cases, you can negotiate a special license with them or buy out the graphics or video file completely. The buyout guarantees that you retain the sole rights to the work and will be the only one who gets to use it from that point on. They will remove it from the stock video websites per the agreement. 

The beauty of these stock video companies is the ability to talk directly with the creators of the content. Networking is hugely important for independent video producers, and you never know when it can lead to more work. So get on there and talk, ask questions and share with other artists how their work improved your project.

A Clip for Every Project

While stock video and audio sites are perfect for when you’re in a pinch, they can and should also be used for general projects as well. If all goes as planned, you’ll have your success, fame among your peers and most of all, paid rent!

SIDEBAR: Making Video — without a Camera

There will be scenarios where you need a video made within a couple days. You may not have time to gather a crew and shoot. Maybe all you have is a couple photos and graphics.

That’s not a lot to go on, but knowing your resources well allows you to pull off a video that you’ll be proud to stand behind. Determining the style of the video is your first step before you start purchasing files and editing. You can then head to VideoHive or a similar site and browse the logo stings and openers sections to find a good fit. If you stick with the same artist, you’re bound to find an After Effects package that marries well with your first decision.

Next you can head over to iStock, for some choice footage. Once you find the shots you like — or if you don’t — head over to the other sites like Bigstock, Dissolve, VideoBlocks and others to see if the same shot might be a little cheaper, reducing your project cost.

Now you have your logo intro, your graphics are looking nice and your purchased stock footage marries well with the product pictures they gave you. It’s all starting to take shape, but we’re still missing a couple of things.

Head on over to sites like AudioJungle, MusicBed, SmartSound, SongFreedom, PremiumBeat or AudioSocket to find the perfect track that both energizes the viewer and conveys the video’s personality.

You’ve got everything together and it looks and sounds great. It’s informative, professional and has the right feeling, but the information just isn’t landing quite how you hoped it would. Lower thirds can only carry a video so far. What you may need is a good narration to tie off the project just right. has a great library of professional voice actors and actresses who can send you custom auditions based off of your script or examples of their previous work.

At this point, you have a solid video and, with maybe one round of edits, you’re hopefully happy with the product, you’ll have met your deadline and you have a new work to add to your demo reel.

Manufacturer Listing



Big Stock by ShutterStock

Digital Juice


Getty Images


Killer Tracks










Shawn Zeilenga is a videographer who spends his days working in the corporate realm and his nights battling his wife in epic games of Risk.

Susan Schmierer
Susan Schmierer
Susan is the Art Director at Videomaker and Creator Handbook Magazines.

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