Stock Footage Buyer's Guide


When your client wants shots of preticular places, events, backgrounds etc. that you don't have at your disposal what do you do? You look for stock footage to meet the clients needs and get the job done.

Stock footage or stock media is film or video that is not shot for a specific film or video project, but rather, is generic in nature. This type of footage is very useful to video producers because it is a lot cheaper and easier to acquire than shooting new footage. Some examples of stock footage are video of cities and landscapes, crowds of people, wildlife and motion backgrounds. There are websites that offer stock footage to anyone willing to pay for it. Some footage can even be downloaded instantly to your computer in various formats.

Where Do You Get It?

There are many websites that sell royalty-free stock media, and it's not limited to only film and video. You can also get stock in the form of music, sound effects and images. There are different options when it comes to usage rights. You can choose from rights-managed stock media, which is extremely limited single use, to copyright-free libraries which are non-exclusive multi-use, to public domain collections. You can even purchase stock footage custom created for your project at a high-end price, which might still be less expensive than what you would spend to shoot the footage yourself. Royalty-free stock media is commonly sought after by video and film producers. This is because you can purchase the footage and use it as many times as you like without having to pay royalties. This way, if your client wants to use a shot of a tropical rainstorm as a background shot on his commercial and you are living in Arizona in mid-summer, your tropical rainstorm footage will be just a click away.


Shutterstock is just one of the many websites out there that provide royalty-free stock footage to video creators and filmmakers for a cost. At the time of this writing, they claim to have more than 21 million royalty-free stock photos, illustrations and vectors to choose from. They are subscriber-based and they have different purchase plans. There is the 25-a-day subscription plan, where you can download any stock footage in their collection for $249 a month, or $2,560 a year. There is the $49 a year on-demand plan, in which you can download five images and clips at any time within one year. Then there is the plan where you can purchase a single clip for $19 for Web use in SD for $49, or in HD for $79.


Footage Firm is a stock website that provides HD and SD royalty-free stock footage of US and international cities, wildlife, sports, visual effects and more. They require no licensing fees, no research fees, unlimited usage, and no extra fees for commercial or worldwide usage. For $149, you can purchase a 30 to 60 minute collection of SD stock clips. An HD collection of clips will run you $249. Footage Firm also carries a large library of stock music and sound effects. All Footage Firm footage comes with a license that allows customers the right to use the footage royalty-free for unlimited use in all media, worldwide, in perpetuity.

NEO Sounds is a stock website that specializes in music and sound effects only. They offer an extensive library of footage available for instant licensing and downloading. You can choose from two types of licenses, standard and mass market, and the latter lets you use them as many times as you like for as long as you desire, even for theatrical releases. They even offer free downloads of low quality versions of every single music track they have, so you can try it out before you buy it. When you are ready to buy, you will receive the high quality version and a certificate that confirms you have the right to use the music. Their prices range from as few as $8 to as many as $35.


Pond5 has an extensive variety of royalty-free stock footage from which to choose. From stock video, to sound effects, music, Adobe After Effects projects, photos, and illustrations, there are few things you can't find at Pond5. They have customizable After Effects projects that can be imported straight to your timeline. With prices starting at just $2 for an audio clip and $5 for a video clip, Pond5's prices are very affordable, especially if you are on a tight budget. They are one of the most affordable stock footage companies, and that's because the prices are set by the artists who create and contribute the footage.

iStockphoto not only offers video, music, and photos, but also has illustrations and flash animations. The illustrations are vector-based with a wide selection from which to choose. The way iStockphoto works is when you sign in, you simply buy iStock credits from their secure page. These iStock credits are the currency you use to make purchases at iStockphoto. Credits cost as few as 24 cents. They can be purchased either in bulk or in subscriptions. The stock media is organized into broad categories with regular featured collections and pages of media., like NEO Sounds, is another stock company that offers royalty-free music and sound effects. It is owned by a father and son team who claim to hand-pick their collection of stock music, preferring to work with only a select few musicians and composers. All of their music is 100 percent legal copyright clear. All music on their website is exclusive, and you will not find it anywhere else. They have added music players to their product line, which makes previewing clips easy. Their prices range from $30 for short clips, loops or full-tracks to $50 for the entire collection.

Time and Money Savers

All stock media, whether it's video, film, music, photos, or sound effects, is considered to be an enormous time and money saver by many of today's video creators. Not only do you not have to spend time putting together a crew, traveling, and securing gear, but you also save money. The money you'd spend paying a crew and on travel expenses far exceeds what you will pay to find stock footage. There are pros and cons to using stock footage, and in the end, which road to take is the decision of the filmmaker or video creator.

One thing you need to watch out for is the quality of your own footage compared to that of the stock media you purchase. Most stock media sites have high standards, and their footage will be pristine and high quality with proper exposure and good composition practices in place. If your footage isn't as good as theirs, it's going to be obvious so you might need to tweak both yours and the stock footage to match. But you're shooting the best quality footage anyway, right?

Taking the Easy Way Out?

There are those who say that using stock footage on your video productions instead of footage that you shoot yourself is taking the easy way out. This may be true. However it can be argued that it is also a smart move to use stock media, especially when you consider shooting all of it yourself which might prove to be too expensive or just downright impossible. Many filmmakers - novice and professional alike - are using stock footage to supplement their artistry and to add that special "feel" to their production that would otherwise not be available if it were not for stock footage.

Anything that can turn your video creation into a work of art that will leave a lasting impression on viewers' minds is worth the time and money. Whether that be stock media or your very own, it's the final result that counts.

Click here to download a PDF of Videomaker's Stock Footage Buyer's Guide

Teresa Echazabal is a freelance video editor, writer, and producer.


Wed, 11/07/2012 - 8:00am


Another Great Resource

paulazimm's picture

You're missing a great one in your list-Envato Marketplaces. They have several types of resources, but my favorites are the music at and After Effects projects, lower thirds, and backgrounds at The music at audiojungle is great because you can find music that works with the latest trends in broadcasting and the licensing rates are great. The full-length clips average around $14, stings are around $6-8. And they're royalty-free. They are my go-to production music site. has an amazing collection of After Effects projects, backgrounds, and lower thirds and they are very popular with clients. After Effects Projects average around $12, backgrounds around $8, and lower third packs $6. And those collections are just the tip of the iceberg-they have a huge variety of graphic resources that aren't to be missed.