Stock Media Buyer's Guide

Filmmakers know that it takes more to make a great video than just the conceiving of an idea. There’s the physical equipment needed as well as any number of associated issues, such as access to locations, building a support team, unforeseen weather conditions, time constraints and cost. In those cases where these factors conspire to make the shooting virtually insurmountable, the videographer must go without. Or, they can find the media they need by going to a stock media company who has already made and assembled videos, photos, graphics templates, sound effects and music that is available for use.

To effectively use stock media, it’s important to perfectly understand your project’s requirements.

To effectively use stock media, it’s important to perfectly understand your project’s requirements. To simplify, let’s say you’re looking for a 4K-resolution video of a person diving off a cliff where a waterfall is the background. Firing up your Internet browser, you search for just such a video and find it on the company’s website. So, it’s the one you're after but now what? The “what” consists of three things: the types of videos available for that particular choice, what kinds of licensing choices there are for acquiring it, and finally, what does it cost to acquire? Taking the last first, stock companies employ various means to sell their wares. This consists of selling subscriptions as well as selling credits or a direct cost that can be applied towards the stock item desired. Licensing the stock item is also tied into cost — explained further in the sidebar — and in many cases a video or audio track desired will have varying run times available as well.

To help you find the right media for your project, here’s a list of stock media companies from around the web, each with their own unique value proposition to peruse.

AudioJungle / Direct Purchase

This company provides all genres of royalty free music from pop to heavy metal and vocals as well as music kits and sound effects. Every week, a team hand-picks the best royalty free music tracks and sound effects on AudioJungle. All the latest tracks are created by music professionals and reviewed one by one. Besides providing free music and sound engineering tutorials, each month finds free content which ranges from royalty free music on AudioJungle to video effects and stock footage, to 3D assets and stock photography.

As an example of a weekly top seller, there is “Inspiring Upbeat” by White Tiger Production. This motivational track features guitars, piano strings and others and is perfect for corporate projections, motivational videos, advertising and radio use, among others.

Audiosocket / Direct Purchase

A music licensing and technology company, Audiosocket provides creative licensing solutions for all media, with a curated roster of over 50,000 pre-cleared original tracks spanning 204 genres, from 2,800 emerging bands and award-winning composers. MaaS (Music as a Service) aims to make music licensing easier by providing content creators an end-to-end music licensing solution to allow searching, streaming, and an instant generation of a license from the roster of music. As Maas innovators, Audiosocket curates and delivers Indie music to content creators, mobile and digital media companies worldwide for hassle-free licensing.

As an example of Uplifting ambient music, there is “Sunbeams Painting The Electric Sky” by Emlyn Ellis Addison.

Bigstock by Shutterstock / Subscription

Founded in California in 2004 (and acquired by Shutterstock in 2009), BigStockPhoto is one of the web’s leading royalty-free stock image communities. Images are provided under a royalty-free license, with a number of image and video plans, all based on a monthly subscription. The company makes available 50+ million stock photos, videos and vector images.

As photo examples of Children — there’s a group shot of children, captioned as “Child Cutting Paper In Class. Kids Development And Stock Photos”

Digital Juice / Subscription

Based on a one-time payment for a standard lifetime plan or pro lifetime plan, Digital Juice provides animations, projects & templates, visual FX footage, video blends, multi-track music, multi-layered graphics, stock footage, motion elements and vectors. The entire library is completely royalty-free. Training videos and a community of members offer another perk to this service.

As an example, there’s the Motion Designer’s Store with visual FX footage.

Dissolve / Direct Purchase

Dissolve licenses stock footage for use in commercials, TV shows, documentaries and feature films, with stock photography licensed for use in design and creative work. There are over two million video clips and photos. The footage collections are hand picked from the collections of renowned stock agencies, with the exclusive collection “Liftoff” produced in-house, and the premium photo collection coming from hand-picked contributors with a focus on lifestyle themes. Both footage and image collections are hand-picked for technical quality, aesthetic style and cultural relevance.

As an example of film footage, there is the exclusive “Portrait of a young woman looking at camera” by Derek Armstrong McNeill.

Getty Images / Subscription/Direct Purchase

A supplier of stock images for business and consumers, Getty Images has an archive of 80 million still images and illustrations and over 50,000 hours of stock film footage. among the world’s leading creators and distributors of still imagery, video, music and multimedia products in addition to digital content as found through its trusted house of brands, including iStock and Thinkstock. It features advanced search and image recognition technology. The company focuses on three markets: creative professionals in advertising and graphic design, the media in print and online publishing and corporate uses for in-house design, marketing and communication departments. Also available is a Getty Images app for iOS/Android.

As an example, there’s the Latest & Trending Galleries.

istock by Getty Images / Subscription/Direct Purchase

Seventeen years ago iStock created the crowd-sourced stock industry for user-generated stock photos, vectors and illustrations and video clips. Part of the Getty Images family, the company makes available photos, illustrations, video — both HD and 4K — and audio. There are two Subscription plus credit packs — Signature and Essential — to apply towards file use.

As an example of an exclusive video, there is SLOW MOTION Seljalandsfoss waterfall Iceland credit:Schroptschop.

Killer Tracks / Direct Purchase

Producing and licensing production music for use in film television, advertising and interactive media for over 25 years, the Killer Tracks catalog has 2,700+  digital albums from more than 37 global libraries available. A hundred new CDs of music are produced each year, and while the catalog is primarily intended for business-to business licensing, the the Killer Tracks Artists Series featuring original EPs is made available to fans and the general public for purchase and streaming through popular digital platforms.

An example of production music is the Indie Rock Landscapes album, which is a compilation of DIY Indie Rock: melodic, positive, a bit edgy, mostly upbeat & fun but sometimes emotional.

Megatrax /  Direct Purchase

Megatrax uses talented composers and players, playing real instruments, so as to give their music its authentic signature sound, using world-class recording studios, such as the Abbey Road Studios in London. Servicing clients for TV, radio, film, education, video games and live presentations, new catalogs and new music is created in response to market trends. Thousands of high quality tracks in every style and genre are available, including unique solutions inspired by client needs like HYPERLocal, a news-focused catalog; Aircast, a custom music division; the "You Asked For It" volume series of request-inspired tracks; a Hot Trendz playlist featuring tracks reflecting current radio hits. In addition to live chat with music supervisors, the company will do custom track modifications and custom scoring for any project.  Megatrax also features a Curator's Club — a V.I.P rewards program.

As an example of a music collection is the “9 Oh 90 Yo’s”, hydraulic bouncing, g'funk pumping, bass bending 1990's Hip-Hop, taking you back to those street-conscious, funk-inspired, house party jams.

Musicbed / Direct Purchase

Created by passionate creatives representing over 650 indie musicians and composers for sync licensing and custom scores, Musicbed is a full service music licensing platform providing a highly curated selection of songs for filmmakers to use in their media projects. The platform is based on discovery so that creatives can find the perfect song for their project. 

An example is the non-commercial, nonprofit song “Higher” by Chad Lawson

Pond5 / Subscription/Direct Purchase

Billing itself as the world's largest collection of royalty-free stock footage and creative assets, Pond5's library contains almost 12 million photos, vectors, illustrations, and PSDs. Additionally, there are over six million video clips in 4K resolution, HD resolution and 360-degree video. A wide ranging music library contains over 500,000 tracks, and there is also 700,000+ sound effects as well as an assortment of After Effects templates from infographics to movie trailers and more. The platform is designed to be intuitive and provides the user with tools for quickly surfacing the best content to seamlessly integrate it into the workflow.

As an example of stock footage, there is the Human Skeleton With Body Transparent 3D Model.

PremiumBeat / Direct Purchase

Sourced with curated Royalty-Free music, PremiumBeat’s alternative to a typical “production music library” functions through hand-picking of each track in the library. With sound effects also available, licensing is kept simple and valid forever once purchased and downloaded. Thanks to the music being exclusive, and created by a team of leading composers for film, video and media, there are no copyright flagging issues when tracks are used in YouTube or Vimeo. New music is also added monthly.

As a music example there’s “Storytelling Piano” by Immersive music — flowing and inspirational, featuring pulsing piano and strings that create a hopeful and innovative atmosphere.

ShutterStock / Subscription/Direct Purchase

ShutterStock has created the largest two-sided marketplace for create professionals to license content and provides photos, icons, illustrations, vectors, footage and music — with innovative tools for use to power the creative process. There are over 125 million Royalty-Free images, video clips, and music tracks available through the website with mobile apps for iOS and Android for use as well.

The company’s portfolio now includes Rex Features — a premier source of editorial images for the world's media — and WebDAM — cloud-based digital asset management platform for businesses — as well as having created Offset, a high-end image collection. Additionally, Bigstock — the value-oriented stock media agency — and PremiumBeat are part of ShutterStock.

As an example of vectors, there's the vector illustration by vector artist/videographer Radoman Durkovic, which is a modern style abstraction with a composition made of various rounded shapes in color.

SmartSound / Direct Purchase

SmartSound produces the SmartSound family of Royalty-Free music technology and content products. Funded in response to the growth of the multimedia and video industries, the SmartSound product line gives average visual creators the ability to add high-quality music soundtracks that are customized to the project at hand. The technology allows the user quick and simple manipulation of music content in certain key ways so as to better fit a visual sequence. The SmartSound technology needs certain music which is "enabled to work with it and consists of the following software and audio content: SmartSound Sonicfire Pro, the soundtrack creator tool designed for professional videographer and multimedia creators, Sonicfire Pro 5 Plug-in for Final Cut Pro and SmartSound Quicktracks Embedded for OEMS, which gives licensed SmartSound partners the ability to automate soundtracks right from inside their applications.

The SmartSound Royalty-Free Music and Sound Effects Library consists of 300+ discs of music and sound effects designed to work with the SmartSound process. Two or more discs are released monthly. There is the Strata Series — SmartSound's latest music delivered in a multi-layered format so that each instrument section is controllable by Sonicfire Pro 4 or later — the Audio Palette series of music CDs segmented by mood, style or cinematic application, the Sound Effects series, the Edge Series with cutting-edge music produced in-house and the Producer Series which offers a versatile selection of CDs with many including additional alternate or lighter mixes for certain tracks. There is also the Film Score Series and the Home Movie Music Series, which are compiled from existing SmartSound tracks. Each CD licensed at a discounted price for Home and Education projects only.

As an example, there's "Whimsical Moment" from the album Magical Moments.

SongFreedom / Direct Purchase

SongFreedom is a platform designed to simplify licensing music for filmmakers on a budget as well as for photographers doing still photography. The company offers Top 40, iconic, indie, epic cinematic and other types of music and also has a number of musicians participating in offering their music on the site. A variety of playlists have been created from a highly curated catalogue so as to make the music licensing experience easier for the users.

As an example of a featured track, there is “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra.

VideoBlocks / Subscription/Direct Purchase

VideoBlocks’ mission is to provide affordable creative content as a "one-stop shop" for stock video. Available as a members-only site, members are able to access both the Unlimited Library and the Global Marketplace. The Unlimited Library  features unlimited access/download of the archive of 115,000 studio quality HD videos, After Effects templates and motion backgrounds, among others. A fixed subscription also brings access to the Global Marketplace, which houses more than two million clips submitted by contributors who will earn a 100 percent commission on sales of their work. The Unlimited Library is updated twice monthly with thousands of new clips that can be accessed at no additional cost.

As an example of one of their collections, there is the 9 to 5: The Business Collection.

Videohive /  Direct Purchase

Part of Envato Market, VideoHive buys and sells royalty-free footage and motion graphics, as well as After Effects Project files. Items are priced based on complexity, quality and use of file. Thanks to a community driven approach, fellow users and authors can be contacted to view their portfolios, and questions can be asked and commented on in the forums. User-complied item collections on a variety of themes are available for browsing, and there is also a weekly summary of the most popular items as well as weekly updates of 2017's Best Selling Stock Footage & Video Effects.

As an example, there is the Neon Sign Kit — featuring all that is needed to create realistic-looking 3D signs with your text, logos and images directly from After Effects. Neons are animated using a single slider, with no plugins required. Built-in features include putting the non between panes of glass, placed on a editable truss system or mounted to a wall.

As you can see from this list, stock media companies offer a wide variety of video, music, images and graphic templates. What all this means is that there’s a lot of choices that correspond to what you want and need for your projects, which includes the all-important budget. Shop around for the best fit and best value to take advantage of the possibilities stock media opens up for your project.


Licensing stock media requires knowing the different types of licenses available. Many will gravitate to royalty-free licensing because this has the buyer paying a flat one-time fee that allows them to use it as much as is wanted. This does not mean that there are no restrictions attached — with some sources of content imposing restrictions on the image, such as whether it can be used for commercial use for profit, or for certain resale uses, among others. The downside to royalty-free is that there is no exclusivity to the content, which means that it can continue to be licensed to others. Generally speaking, the terms “stock image” and “clip art” imply that they are royalty-free. However, in the case of where an image is to be used in derivative products — for example, a t-shirt — an extended license can be had to extend the terms of the standard royalty-free license.

More complicated is rights-managed licensing. Here, specific rights are granted in regards to the content being paid for based on the specific usage, the length of time and the location or medium where it is being used. Exclusivity of use is also possible, removing the option of the content being used elsewhere, but as can be imagined, exclusivity can drive the price way, way up. Unlike royalty-free licensing, rights-managed has many restrictions attached, including restrictions on where the content can be used geographically, the timeframe in which it will be used, among others.

Manufacturer List



Big Stock
by ShutterStock

Digital Juice


Getty Images


Killer Tracks










Marshal M. Rosenthal is a technology/entertainment writer whose experience in the industry spans 20+ years.

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture. Past accomplishments include editing of home theater and video gaming publications domestic and international, operating a NY photographic studio specializing in children/product and providing graphic imaging for video game box art, manuals and related.