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 now been using stock footage for a couple of years, 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 some viewers.
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.
5 Popular Stock Video Subscription Options
- Monthly plans price range: $35 for Starter, $70 for all access
- Annual plans price range: $240 for Starter, $360 for all access
- Biggest advantage: An affordable all-in-one option for music, images, and video
- Biggest drawback: Its low price means the same clips may be used by several other creators
Full disclosure: when I went looking for a stock video service a couple of years back, 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 (called Videoblocks at the time) 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. On that note, since I first subscribed to Storyblocks, it seems as though they’ve discontinued their video-specific plan. In turn, you’ll now have to opt for an all access plan — which includes video, photos, and music — whether you want it or not. Also, there’s a big price discrepancy between paying monthly and paying for a year upfront. However, even with those somewhat negative changes, Storyblocks remains a relatively affordable option and the additional services you get beyond video could end up coming in handy.
- Monthly plans price range: N/A
- Annual plans price range: $240 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 fairly 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 at the time. However, revisiting it now, the company has added a Junior plan for $240 annually, which includes HD clips (as opposed to 4K or 8K). Since I don’t yet shoot in 4K, I’ve been considering trying this one out now that my Storyblocks subscription has expired. In any case, I think it could be a good choice for those looking to add some flare to their videos and don’t need any extras like music.
- Monthly plans price range: $49.99 to $199.99 with an annual commitment, $69.99 to $249.99 with no commitment
- Annual plans price range: N/A
- Biggest advantage: Discounted additional assets after plan max and rollover credits
- 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 that includes video ($69.99) only offers three downloads per month, while the top plan (even with an annual commitment) comes in at $199.99 and gets you up to 25 videos a month. That said, you do get discounts on additional downloads over your allotment, with the price per unit dropping as your plan tier increases. On the other end, if you have leftover credits, you can roll them over up to the cap your plan allows.
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 the aforementioned options have me leaning hard toward those picks. 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: $49 to $199 with an annual contract, $69 to $669 with no contract
- Annual plans price range: $499 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 Shutterstock. Personally, I’ve purchased more than a couple of images from them for blogging purposes over the years when free options 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 as their expensive plans don’t even include unlimited downloads. Instead, their main video plans allow for 5, 10, or 20 downloads per month depending on your pick. To their credit, Shutterstock has now also added a Mix and Match plan that starts at $49 a month with a yearly commitment. With this plan, you get 25 credits per month, which can be used for a total of 25 images, six music tracks, or 3 video clips. While this is slightly better and the mixed media may be useful, three videos for $50 is still quite expensive in my opinion. So, unless you’re in need of something very specific, I’m guessing this won’t be the best choice for you.
- Monthly plans price range: $11.99
- Annual plans price range: $99.99 — or a Lifetime Plan for $199
- Biggest advantage: Price
- Biggest drawback: Quality?
Finally, I wanted to add another stock footage that’s only recently come to my attention: YayImages. To cut to the chase, this may be the most affordable option I’ve come across, with no-commitment monthly plans that include unlimited downloads coming in at just $11.99 a month, while yearly plans in the same vein go for $99 and the unique quarterly plans will set you back $24.99 every three months. Each of these plans includes HD video, images, and vector downloads. What’s more, at the time of this writing, YayImags is offering a Lifetime Membership for just $199. According to the site, this includes up to 10 downloads a day for life.
In terms of downsides, I will admit I’m a bit skeptical of this lifetime deal. Plus, as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” Still, in my searches of YayImages, I’ve come across some pretty good clips, which I’d say are comparable to what I had with Storyblocks. So, while I’d recommend taking a look for yourself to make sure it will meet your needs, perhaps YayImages is at least worth a try given its low price.
For some YouTube creators, stock footage can 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 can 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.