Stock Video Footage: Pros, Cons, and Options for YouTube Creators
This may shock you, but not everything you see on YouTube is 100% produced by the creator uploading the video. Instead, in some cases, they may be using what’s called “stock footage” to accompany their talking head clips or voiceover. So where do these creators find such clips — and how much does it cost to download stock video for yourself?
As someone who’s only recently started investing in stock footage, I thought I’d share some of the pros and cons that come with stock clips as well as take a look at a few popular sites you might consider.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Stock Video
Saves time editing/shooting
Easily the biggest advantage of utilizing stock footage is that it saves you from having to shoot custom B-roll yourself. Meanwhile, it can also save you time while editing as most stock footage is shot as one, continuous shot that can be plopped right into your project. Similarly, having footage to cut away to gives you more options in editing and more freedom to fix errors (not that you’d ever make any, of course). All of these factors save you time and help you produce new content at a faster clip.
Adds style to your videos
Prior to signing up for a stock video service, I would use still images to fill out my videos. Since making the switch, I’ve noticed an improved flow and energy that the clips bring. Given this experience, I feel that other creators in such a position could achieve similar results. Obviously your need will depend on the type of content you’re putting out but there are several ways you can leverage stock video overall.
Can be corny
Just like stock images, stock video isn’t always the most exciting or “cool” option. In fact, some of it can be downright corny. Yet, it serves a purpose and a need, so these flaws can be overlooked. Additionally, these days there are a number of stock platforms looking to buck this reputation by offering artsier and more unique footage.
Same clips may pop up in other videos
Since stock video clips are there for the taking, in most cases, there’s nothing stopping two creators from utilizing the same footage. This might not be a big deal or even recognizable to most viewers, but commonly-used clips could start to stick out. While this isn’t likely to bother most YouTubers — especially those on a budget — it could serve to annoy others.
Considerations to Make When Comparing
Before you download a stock footage clip or sign up for a service, it’s important to know exactly what type of license the clip carries. In other words, in what capacity are you allowed to use the footage you downloaded? For the most part, royalty-free footage will mean that you’re free to use the clip in as many projects as you want without having to pay an additional fee. Of course, there may be exceptions to this rule, so be sure to read everything about your video license carefully.
Not only do various stock footage sites have different pricing and packages but may also serve slightly different markets. Because of this, I’d recommend taking a look around a given platform first and confirming that they provide clips that relate to the types of topics you cover in your videos. Luckily, several platforms either allow you to trial their service for free or at least search their inventory to get a feel for the footage they offer before you make a commitment. Use this time and opportunity to look through what’s available and decide if it fits your needs.
Finally, when deciding on a stock footage option, you’ll want to pay attention to what file and format types they allow for download. First, those looking for top-of-the-line quality, you’ll want to ensure that the platform of your choice includes footage shot in 4K. Meanwhile, those who don’t need 4K footage may be able to save some money by sticking to a regular HD plan (if offered). In fact, even if a 4K version is offered, those with less-powerful computers or not a ton of hard drive space will likely want to seek out 1080p clips to avoid headaches. For those reasons and more, it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly what types of downloads your potential stock footage platform offers.
4 Popular Stock Video Subscription Options
- Monthly plans price range: $19 to $39 for video, $65 for all access
- Annual plans price range: $99 to $199 for video, $349 for all access
- Biggest advantage: An affordable all-in-one option for music, images, and video
- Biggest drawback: It’s low price means the same clips may be used by several other creators
Full disclosure: when I went looking for a stock video service recently, this is where I ended up. Therefore, I can speak more to what this platform has to offer beyond what you can find on their site. To that point, I can tell you that what attracted me most to Storyblocks Video (called Videoblocks until a mere few weeks ago) was the affordability. Lest you think I’m just a cheapskate, I also choose it because, while doing test searches, I noticed it had more results for some of my common video topics than the next platform on our list did.
So far, I’ve been really happy with my Storyblocks subscription — well, after I corrected my silly error and properly upgraded to an unlimited plan. Furthermore, I could see the $349 all-access package that also includes royalty-free music and still images being a great deal for certain creators. However, if you’re looking for less “stocky” stock footage, there may be better options.
- Monthly plans price range: N/A
- Annual plans price range: $299 to $599
- Biggest advantage: Unique “story-driven” footage
- Biggest drawback: No monthly plans
As I alluded to, Artgrid is another platform I was originally looking at when I decided I should sign up for a stock footage site. With relatively affordable all-you-can-eat plans, good reviews, and unique, high-quality clips, there was definitely a lot to like about the platform. Plus, their emphasis on “story-driven” footage could make it easier for some creators to find multiple clips at once, saving them time while upping their content game.
Ultimately, while I loved what Artgrid had to offer, it didn’t necessarily match my needs. Nevertheless, I think it could be a good choice for those looking to add some flare to their videos.
- Monthly plans price range: $29.99 to $199.99 with annual commitment, $29.99 to $249.99 with no commitment
- Annual plans price range: N/A
- Biggest advantage: Discounted additional assets after plan max
- Biggest drawback: No discount for a prepaid annual plan
Being an Adobe Creative Cloud customer, Adobe Stock would seem like a no-brainer option. However, there are some drawbacks to the platform. For one, instead of offering plans with unlimited footage downloads, each is capped at a certain number of clips per month. To that point, the cheapest non-annual commitment plan ($29.99) includes three downloads per month while the cheapest plan with an annual commitment (also $29.99) includes 10 per month. That said, you do get discounts on additional downloads over your allotment, with the price per unit dropping as your plan tier increases.
From what I’ve seen, I do like what Adobe Stock has to offer in terms of footage. At the same time, the price difference and limitations between this and Storyblocks had me leaning toward the latter. That said, if you’re just looking to get started with stock footage and want something quality, these monthly, no commitment plans might be a smart jumping-off point.
- Monthly plans price range: $159 to $199 with annual contract, $359 to $669 with no contract
- Annual plans price range: $1,599 to $1,999
- Biggest advantage: Quality (presumably?)
- Biggest drawback: Very pricey and no unlimited option
If you’ve ever searched for stock images online, you’ve surely come across Shuttstock. Personally, I’ve purchased more than a couple of images from them for blogging purposes over the years when free option simply wouldn’t do. Given their reputation, it should come as no surprise that they also offer a stock video platform.
Unfortunately, off the bat, this one is a non-starter for me. With starting monthly plans going for nearly as much as a full year of Storyblocks, this option likely doesn’t make sense for everyday creators. On top of that, their expensive plans don’t even include unlimited downloads. So, unless you’re in need of something very specific, I’m guessing this won’t be the best choice for you.
For some YouTube creators, stock footage could be an amazing tool that will help them craft better and more effective videos — perhaps in even less time. At the same time, a subscription to a stock source could be quite an investment, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. Therefore, if you’re considering adding stock video to your projects, be sure to do your research and choose the option that makes the most sense for your channel and your budget.
Also published on Medium.