What is Stock Footage and How to Use it

There’s no denying that it costs quite a bit of time and money to create high-quality video content. You’ll need equipment such as a camera, microphone, and lighting. Then, there’s the time commitment involved from brainstorming ideas to filming and editing the content. It’s a lot to manage!

There’s no denying that it costs quite a bit of time and money to create high-quality video content. You’ll need equipment such as a camera, microphone, and lighting. Then, there’s the time commitment involved from brainstorming ideas to filming and editing the content. It’s a lot to manage!

That’s why many companies choose to purchase stock footage online instead. It saves them the time, money, and hassle of taking on this task completely on their own. But what is stock footage? And how can it be used? This guide shares everything you need to know about getting started with stock video.

What is Stock Footage?

Stock footage, or stock video, is essentially short clips or shots that have been filmed by videographers and put up for sale. In many cases, these are video clips that were filmed during production for a larger project. However, some videographers intentionally shoot shorter clips for the purpose of selling them on stock websites as it’s proven to be an effective income stream due to large demand.

How to Use Royalty-Free Stock Footage

Now that we’ve answered the question of what is stock footage, you might be wondering about different ways to use it. After all, if you’re going to invest in video marketing, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck. To get those creative juices flowing, here are a few ways to use stock footage and remove the taboo of using it:

1. Stock Footage as B-Roll

B-roll is one of the most common ways people use stock video. In fact, you’ve seen it in probably every TV show you’ve ever watched. It’s those supplemental video clips that are secondary to the main footage. For example, cutaways to various surroundings, like the street outside of an apartment building or an aerial view to give a better idea of the location where the story takes place.

While b-roll can be used to provide additional context to a story, it’s useful for tying two main footage clips together. It can also come in handy when covering up mistakes or when making edits. B-roll is also great for adding more visual interest, ultimately making a video more engaging and interesting.

2. Video Backgrounds

Sometimes the project you’re working on just needs a high-quality video background. But if you don’t have the skills, time, or equipment to film the video yourself, you can use stock footage instead. It’s perfect for playing a specific clip on a loop and displaying it on the homepage of your website, for example. You may even use a video background as part of a presentation.

stock footage animated backgrounds

3. Commercials and Ads

There are some instances where a commercial or an advertisement doesn’t require original footage. In those cases, stock video footage can be used as a more affordable option. For instance, the commercial could include shots of friends gathered around a table having lunch or show someone walking down the street. Then, narration can be added over the video clips to promote a product or service.

4. Short-Form Video Creation for Social Media

Social media video is an effective way to get your brand noticed online. However, many brands simply don’t have the time or the budget necessary to create eye-catching videos to be shared on platforms like Instagram. By purchasing stock footage, a video can be created with minimal effort.

As an example, you could purchase a single video clip and play it on a loop. Then, add narration or captions on the screen to create a video that can then be used for Instagram Reels or TikTok. It could even be used for Instagram Stories or for creating social media ads.

5. YouTube Videos

Looking to shake up your YouTube videos? Add some stock footage! You could create an entire video with stock clips you’ve purchased and have them playing in the background while you narrate a story. It’ll save you the time and hassle of having to film a bunch of shots on your own. You could also use a few clips in between scenes as b-roll to enhance the storytelling of the video.

What to Look for in Stock Footage?

With so many options available for stock footage these days, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to choose the right video clips for your project. To help you make the best decision possible, here are few things you need to look for before purchasing any stock video:

1. Stock Footage License

As you begin browsing the available stock footage from a provider, you’ll notice different licensing options. These are important to pay attention to because it tells you how a particular video clip can and can’t be used. The most common licenses include Royalty-Free, Rights Managed, and Editorial Use. Its important your stock provider is reputable.

Typically, a Royalty-Free license allows you to purchase and use stock footage in exchange for a one-time fee. This clip can then be used for unlimited amounts of time across multiple projects. There also aren’t typically restrictions on how the clip is used. This offers the most flexibility because the purchased footage can be used many times, ensuring the investment pays for itself.

With a Rights Managed license, you’re usually granted a limited-time use of the purchased clip. This means the clip can only be used in one project and for a set period of time. In some cases, the clip can only be used in certain geographic areas as well. You’ll likely be asked to disclose all of this information upon purchase.

Finally, there’s the Editorial Use license. This particular license limits the types of projects the stock footage can be used in. For instance, content with an Editorial Use license is often used in documentaries or the news. It absolutely cannot be used for commercial purposes. There are also limitations on size, image placement, how long the footage can be used, and geographic distribution. 

Some companies do not allow Editorial Use clips to be cropped or color corrected, but at Storyblocks we don’t have these limitations. If you want to learn more about video licensing check out our more in-depth blog on stock content licensing.

2. Video Quality

Another important thing to consider is the quality of the video footage because there’s never just one option to choose from. And these days, viewers aren’t going to settle for a poor-quality video. Neither should you. When you find a clip you like, look over the available options and choose the one that’s best suited to your project. In many cases, you’ll wind up paying more for the highest quality stock footage, so carefully consider if you really need 4K footage or if HD will suffice.

stock footage video quality

3. Choose the Right Stock Footage Provider

If you know you’ll be using stock footage for many future projects, it’ll be a wise investment to sign up for a subscription with the provider of your choice. This way, you’ll save some money in the process. But what should you look for when comparing providers?

Check out their library of footage so you can be sure there are plenty of video clips you’ll be able to use. Look at the licensing options so you’ll know if their videos are suitable for what you’ll be using them for. And of course, review their pricing plans so you can get a subscription within your budget.

4. Consistency

And the final element to consider is whether or not the particular stock footage is consistent with the rest of the footage you’ll be using. For instance, the quality should be the same, as well as the overall look and feel. You also want to ensure the video footage you choose makes sense for the message you’re trying to portray. After all, a sad and dreary video doesn’t work if you’re sharing a positive message.

Where to Buy Stock Footage?

Next, you need to find a great place to buy stock footage. Luckily, there are tons of websites that provide extensive libraries featuring a wide array of videos. Here are five options to check out:


Storyblocks Homepage

When you sign up for Storyblocks, you’ll gain access to a library that’s jam-packed with royalty-free content. You’ll have unlimited downloads, allowing you to utilize the high-quality video and templates, music and sound effects, and the images and illustrations Storyblocks has to offer. There’s even an easy-to-use editor so you can whip up amazing videos with no experience at all.

However, that’s not the only great aspect of Storyblocks. The content library is always adapting to ensure it offers diverse, representative images and videos. This is all part of a diversity and inclusion campaign known as Re: Stock.

Storyblocks offers plans for individuals and businesses. Individual plans start at $15/month for five total monthly downloads of HD footage, music, photos, vectors,, and illustrations.


The Shutterstock library features over 400 million images, videos, and music tracks for download. They offer different subscriptions which are designed to prevent you from paying for more than what you need. If you’re just looking for videos, they offer plans starting at $99/month for five video clips.


Getty Images offers both creative and editorial stock footage, depending on what will best suit your next project. Their creative footage offers a wide array of options, whereas the editorial content often features celebrities or other public figures. Getty also works with partners such as BBC, Universal, and Paramount. Their plans referred to as UltraPacks, give you access to royalty-free images and videos. It starts at $175 per download for small images and low-resolution videos.


Scroll through the Dareful library and you’ll find hundreds of open-source, royalty-free stock video footage in 4K. There’s everything from aerial shots, seasons and holidays, and more. Everything in their library is free to download. Just be sure to review all licensing information for a full understanding of how the video clips can be used.


Pexels offers tons of royalty-free images and videos that have been shared by the creators within their community. There are nature and landscape videos, clips of people walking or working, and everything in between. All videos are free to download.

Stock Footage FAQ

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! To ensure you’re able to confidently move forward in using stock video, let’s address some of the most commonly asked questions people have.

Is stock footage okay to use?

Absolutely! There’s nothing wrong with using stock footage as long as you’re abiding by the rules of the license attributed to it. Be sure to read through it carefully so you don’t mistakenly use the footage in a way that’s forbidden. This way, you’ll stay out of trouble.

Is stock footage free to use?

There are some websites where you can get stock footage for free, however, it’s usually a limited library. Normally, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee for the footage you’d like to purchase or sign up for a subscription with your chosen provider in order to access a more extensive library of footage.

How to buy stock footage?

Once you’ve found a stock video you’d like to purchase, you’ll usually have the option to pay a one-time fee. This is ideal if you don’t frequently need video clips, as they can be purchased as needed. Otherwise, you may want to consider signing up for a subscription with a provider if you’ll be needing stock video often.

Where can I sell my stock footage?

If you’re a videographer wanting to make some extra money, you can sell your footage to different providers. Be sure to review any requirements the provider has for their contributors. Then, you can apply to see if you’re accepted. If you are, you’ll be able to start uploading videos. If interested, you can learn about becoming a Storyblocks contributor.

Wrapping Up

So, what is stock footage? It’s a powerful way to up-level the online content you create with the help of high-quality video clips. Once you’ve chosen a stock footage provider, it’ll be easy for you to find videos that meet your standards and complement your projects. Not only that, but your content will look professional and like you spent thousands, but really it’ll never break the bank.

When you sign up with Storyblocks, you’ll gain access to over one million royalty-free assets, from video footage to templates, music, and photos. And with unlimited downloads, you’ll be able to download new video footage whenever you need it. 150,000+ creators and businesses are using Storyblocks, so now it’s your turn to try it out.

Review our available plans and get started today.