The way we do business has changed a lot over the past year. In our industry in particular, simply capturing footage has become more of a challenge with the ever present strain and restrictions that Covid has put on our daily lives.  As a result, requests to use stock footage has increased dramatically as video marketers search for ways to create and distribute content in an increasingly digital world.

For those unfamiliar with stock footage, it is essentially a term used to describe archived video footage, photos, or other forms of media that can be repurposed and used legally after obtaining a license for use. Nowadays, there are literally hundreds of stock footage sites where users can go online and choose from millions of available clips.

Before the pandemic, stock footage was a tool that was more or less used in a pinch. For us, it was a way to get the right clip needed for an edit if we absolutely did not have the ability or access to capture it ourselves. Nowadays, Stock footage is being used a lot more liberally. We’ve even done projects using stock footage entirely! For better or worse, the ways we use stock footage is continuing to grow, however, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of this industry hack to know if it’s the right move for your next project.

Pros of Using Stock Footage:

1) It saves time: 

Time is money. And if you can save time and still get the proper messaging across with stock footage, that’s a big win. The reason stock footage saves time is because it doesn’t require a videographer or film crew to scout locations, capture, offload, log, or occasionally, color grade the footage. Basically anything that goes into the capturing of footage has already been done, which can take days or weeks to get the necessary footage for your project. 

2) It can save money: 

Depending on how much footage you need for your project and where you source it from, stock footage can be a very economical route. Most stock footage clips range in price from $50 – $150 depending on the quality and where you source them from. If you only need a handful of clips, it’s typically cheaper to fill those gaps with stock footage rather than pay a videographer or film crew to go out and capture the footage. This cuts costs. 

3) It can help tell your story:

As an editor, I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had that one perfect shot to overlay over a particular sound bite. Filmmakers aren’t perfect, and unless they have a script or shot list on set, it’s not likely that they captured the perfect shot for every single sound bite in the edit. Occasionally, not having a particular shot can make or break an edit. Stock footage can be the perfect solution. 

4) It’s high quality:

It takes a decent amount of time and effort for a filmmaker to shoot, color grade, export, tag keywords, and ultimately get approval on their stock footage uploads. When we upload stock footage at Fog Coast we only choose to upload clips that have a good chance of selling, so we don’t want to waste time uploading a low quality clip. Based on the quality of footage we’ve seen on many stock footage sites, it appears that many filmmakers have adopted this same approach. Stock footage can add some serious production value with the abundance of high quality clips available on the internet. Many clips are also available for sale in various resolutions, from 1080p up to 16k!

Cons of Using Stock Footage

1) It can get expensive:

Stock footage can add up quickly depending on how you use it. For instance, an entire edit made out of stock footage will likely cost more than if you just paid a videographer or film crew to go out and capture the footage themselves. For marketers on the fence about this, I’d recommend bookmarking stock footage clips that you’d like to be used in your edit and adding up the total cost. Once you have that number, compare it to the day rate cost of a videographer/crew and see what makes the most sense for your project.  Many stock footage sites actually allow you to download watermarked previews of the clips you want to use. If you have even the slightest bit of editing experience, all it takes is to throw these in a timeline and see how your edit times out. We call these storyboard edits, and whether you choose to use stock footage or not, you’ll have a great reference to begin production. 

2) No control of distribution:

Stock footage generally falls into the realm of public domain. This means that anybody in the world can purchase a license and be allowed to legally use a particular clip at their discretion. The issue here is that you have no control over where else this clip is used on the internet. I once saw the same stock footage clip of a board meeting being used in 3 different company videos. This is not a deal breaker, but may not be the best route if your company is going for a more personalized look. In that case, stock footage is probably not the best fit for your marketing videos. Some stock footage sites will actually show you how many times the particular clips you are interested in have been downloaded. This is a great thing to reference because it shows you how many people own and have the rights to that clip. 

3) Stock footage can look like stock footage:

Ever had fish that tastes fishy? It’s like the one food that you don’t want it to taste like what it actually is. Well stock footage is a lot like that because you don’t want your stock footage looking too much like stock footage. Effective use of stock footage is when it feels like it works with your brand or edit. It shouldn’t feel forced, and it shouldn’t look impersonal. Some tell tale signs of a stock footage clip are sterile lighting, blurred out logos, perfectly dressed actors, and dated technology/ business practices happening in the clip. Don’t get caught using a clip of a model in a suit, taking notes on binder paper while talking on their landline. Not a good look in 2021. 

4) It may not match your edit:

When using stock footage in your edit you run the risk of it not matching the look and feel of the other clips in the story. Throwing a stock clip into an edit that doesn’t match the look and feel can be quite jarring and distract the viewer from the overall message. Sometimes a simple color grade is necessary to allow a certain stock footage clip to work for an edit. If you are editing a video or hiring an editor, make sure to use a preview of the clip before purchasing it for your edit. This will allow you to assess whether or not the clip is working. 


I hope this article helped you decide whether or not using stock footage is the right move for your marketing videos. If you are interested in using stock footage on your next project, you can check out our library of clips on Pond5 and see if any of them would work for your project.

There are so many stock footage sites to choose from . Here are a few that we frequent:

Happy New Year!

Written By: Andrew Klein, Executive Producer at Fog Coast Productions