Before the advent of digital marketing, video stock footage was only something that film and television producers needed to worry about. Need a helicopter flyover of New York City? How about a clip of a giant squid swimming deep beneath the ocean? These kinds of shots were purchased, not created, and many of them ended up in your favourite shows and movies.
Fast forward to today and it seems as if everyone is their own director/producer, creating expressive visual stories with little more than an iPhone and a little bit of old fashioned gumption.
But like the filmmakers of yesteryear, there is only so much that you are going to be able to capture. Websites, brands, blogs, small businesses … these aren’t often the types of organizations that can afford their own production team, and especially now that COVID-19 has pretty much put life on hold.
Whether you are a corporate strategist or a budding YouTube personality, stock video clips can give you the dynamic impressions that you need to take your marketing plan to a more visceral level.
Why Stock Footage Is Better than Ever in 2020
Contrary to what all the street-corner prophets have been trying to tell us, the advent of digital technology is not a sign of the end of times. Rather, it is the pathway to advancement and excellence as a species, and if the evidence of this is anywhere it is within the realm of digital video.
Technological advances like personal Steadicams, remote controlled drones and computerized image processing have brought stock video footage into a new era, wherein it is possible to get stunning professional grade footage with little more than a few clicks of the mouse.
At one time, you had to hire a whole B-unit to go and get these kinds of shots. Now you can spend your money on more important things (like your A-roll).
And good thing this is so, because video is the go-to format if you want to reach younger demographics, like the digital-everything Generation Z.
Q: How Do License Options Work with Stock Footage?
It doesn’t matter if you are using a free stock video clip or one that you paid for, you always need to be aware of the licensing agreement that is in place for that particular piece of stock. The way in which you are using the clip could very well be prohibited by its license, for instance, if you are going to be selling the product in which the clip was used.
Most of the big paid stock image and video providers are very clear about the licensing agreements that are in place, but it doesn’t hurt to read through all the fine print before you move forward with a purchase.
It is also important to remember that just because you got your stock footage from a “Free” website, it does not mean that the video itself is without protections. If it features trademarks, brands, or even other human beings, there might be restrictions on how the clip can be used, as well as whether or not the original contributor needs to be credited.
The 7 Best Stock Footage Sources: Ranked & Rated
One of the best ways to determine the quality of an online stock photo site is to have a look at the team that is behind it. Being an industry veteran myself, I formed a team of experienced image experts set out to create a resource for small to medium-sized businesses … content solutions that work on more realistic budgets (think hundreds, not hundreds of thousands).
At Stock Photo Secrets we sell stock footage in prepaid video packs that are a great way to get access to multiple video downloads whenever you need new content and to save in the long run. We have thousands of HD clips awaiting to be discovered, as well as over 6 million still images.
Video packs start at $198 for 5 HD videos, but we offer an exclusive 50% member's discount for those who are subscribed to any of our image download plans –like our popular 99Club– meaning you get to buy any video pack at half-price, starting at just $99 for 5 clips. So if you need both images and videos, this is the perfect solution!
The Stock Photo Secrets digital magazine is also packed with tutorials, interviews, and other helpful information aimed at the young, hungry marketing director.
- Great deals on mid and high-volume footage packs
- Lots of other resources available on their website (blogs, interviews, etc.)
- The collections aren’t as well-curated as Adobe or Shutterstock, making it slightly more time consuming to search through their 5,000,000+ stock images& videos.
#2. Shutterstock: The Trusted Brand in Stock Content
You can’t have a best-of list on this topic without mentioning Shutterstock, one of the most long-lasting and well-established visual content providers on the web. It seems like they have been around forever now, so it is safe to assume that their library of stock videos is one of the largest on the planet, with over 17 million files to date.
Shutterstock has also nailed the concept of scaled pricing and packaging systems, creating super affordable access that makes it possible for small companies and even individuals to find the kind of stock media that they need. Stock videos are sold on demand and priced according to resolution. An SD file costs $65, an HD clip is $79 and an ultra HD, 4K video worths $179.
But they wouldn't be Shutterstock if they didn't have a volume-based deal, right? Shutterstock's footage packs are prepaid and cut a nice chunk off the individual clip price. There are packs for 5, 10 and 25 downloads in any of the three available qualities. And they save you as much as $296 compared to a la carte pricing.
Even better, they have just launched a new video subscription perfect for regular content producers, that offers 10 or 20 video downloads per month and can be hired month-to-month, yearly and paid upfront, or yearly with monthly billing. These plans cut down the per-clip price by A LOT, letting you download 4K clips for as little as $8 each!
Are all these numbers making you dizzy? Don't worry, we have this dedicated article explaining Shutterstock pricing in details!
- The “old hand” of stock image sites; trusted and reliable
- Their library has grown to over 17 million items … the largest out of all the sites we feature on this review
- The best per-clip rates at Shutterstock require a significantly larger investment
Our exclusive coupon gives you 15% off in your stock footage purchase!
#3. iStock by Getty Images: 4K Stock Video & B-Roll
Formerly known as iStockphoto, the new and improved iStock is sleeker than ever, though there is no doubt that the ocean of content beneath the pretty home page is as bulky as ever. Backed by Getty Images, iStock was the company that truly pioneered the micro-stock movement of the last decade, in which royalty-free photos could be purchased individually with licenses that worked for both the small company and the individual consumer.
While this is something that almost every stock footage site does these days, there is no overstating how integral iStock was to the prices. Their pricing is based on quality and intentionality, divided into two main collections each with its own tier. “Essentials” is for every day, budget content, and “Signature” is for high-end, exclusive visuals.
A single Essential clip costs $59 and a Signature video is $170, regardless of the video resolution. This means you can buy 4K quality footage for $59 the piece, by far the lowest market rate for this kind of quality. Even more, you can buy in bulk with credit packs and save hundreds of dollars.
Because they are owned by the single largest stock photography company in the world, it safe to say that most consumers are going to be happy with the amount of content available. But the real value of iStock is their Getty-powered curated collections … this is one of the best stock search & recommendations that we have had the pleasure of using.
- Powered by Getty Images, the biggest stock image company on the planet
- Curated collections are an easy, time-saving way to find the exact piece of stock that you are looking for, or, alternatively, the one that you never knew you needed.
- iStock subscription plans are for images only; video stock clips have to be purchased individually
Buying stock footage at iStock is a smart choice especially with our iStock Promo Code you can see below.
#4. Adobe Stock: Powered by Professional Stock Contributors
The fact that Adobe Stock's stock videos are fully integrated into their Creative Cloud platform means that all of the videos and images they offer can be seamlessly browsed, tested, and utilized within your favourite Adobe programs, like Photoshop, InDesign … the whole gang. We can tell you right now that your graphics & web person will be thrilled to find out that you bought them a subscription to a service that puts the photos directly beneath their digital fingertips, streamlining the design, execution, and release of your most important marketing content well ahead of the deadline.
Small companies and one-man-operations can also benefit from the collection even if they are not a part of the Creative Cloud. Of course, what stands out about Adobe Products is their unique, refined aesthetic … something that makes the Adobe Stock website a pleasure to explore.
Adobe Stock videos can be purchased by the unit, paying as you go. HD footage is $79.99 per item and 4K clips are $199,99 each. However, you can reduce the cost per clip by acquiring a credit pack.
- Full Creative Cloud integration for Adobe Programs
- A great looking site with high-functionality; not as cluttered or laggy as some of the other top rated stock footage sites.
- No audio files on Adobe Stock
We have already mentioned the sizable database of stock content that Getty Images has to brag about, and that is surely one of the things that makes them so highly-rated among users. However, there is another benefit which no one seems to be talking about, and that is the incredible cultural reach of the Getty Images library. Because they are such a large company, their content reflects users from dozens of different countries and cultures.
For the mid to large sized brand who is looking to make an impact overseas or across the border, having stock content that is both designed by and for that culture is a great way to boost authenticity and capture new audiences. We’ll also take a minute to mention how much we like their search filters compared to other sites; Getty makes it easy to sort through the chaff, so to speak.
You can buy these exclusive video clips individually, starting at $125 for the lowest resolution option. But you are wise to take advantage of their packs, that save you from $50 and up to hundreds of dollars.
- The most massive stock image and footage library anywhere
- Globally-minded content is great for multinational brands and organizations
- Digital use licensing on Getty Images can be more expensive than some of the other sites, especially for their higher-end content
#6. Dreamstime: Professionally Produced Stock Video Content
In today’s digital world it can be beyond difficult to create a stock footage website that actually stands out from all the others. Dreamstime is one of the only companies to pull it off, and it was clearly not without effort. By placing a significant amount of their focus on the content contributor, they have managed to build an incredibly diverse library full of pictures that have real life to them.
We think this might have something to do with the Dreamstime contributor app, which lets photographers and cinematographers both capture and submit content on-the-fly. This kind of content is less-scripted, less-posed, and generally gives a more authentic feel to your site or campaign. They are also one of the few stock image providers that have a working customer service line, as opposed to those other websites who assume that you are going to find everything that you need in the FAQ.
Dreamstime is one of the very few agencies that offer monthly video subscriptions. You can select a plan from 1 and up to 25 video downloads per month, as well as choose a resolution from web size to 4K. Additionally, you can buy videos a la carte too.
- Dreamstime has an impressive contributor network, both in terms of size and talent
- A good source for realistic content that doesn’t look like stock photography
- The site’s navigation is a little clunky compared to Adobe of iStock
Founded in 2006, Pond5 got its start selling nothing but exclusive, high-impact stock video footage. Although their catalog as grown to include pictures, vector images, 3D models, music, and a lot more, they are still one of the best sources for video stock footage. Today they have one of the largest collections of video-specific content with over 2 million video clips available, and even more images and photos.
Video producers might also appreciate shopping for professionally-products stock music tracks to go along with their footage, increasing efficiency, and convenience while speeding up the overall process significantly. We also have to give them props for a beautifully-constructed website that a sheer delight to navigate; it is a clear indicator of the brand of thoughtful design that Pond5 has become known for.
Pond5 offers various buying options. You can simply buy videos a la carte starting at $25 per download, or go for a membership subscription that, billed monthly or annually, gives you much better rates, as low as $8.30 a clip.
- One of the largest selections of HD stock footage
- Their webpage design puts other microstock sites to shame
- Licensing terms are worded for professionals and as such are a bit more complicated/dense than those of other companies
Artgrid is a young service launched in 2019 by the same team behind the stock music brand Artlist. What sets them apart in stock footage is they offer content from top cinematographers, with a strong focus on storytelling and both artistic and technical quality. The result is a high-end library packed with videos in HD and 4K, all royalty-free and ready to be part of your productions.
In this unique platform, you can search for videos using keywords like everywhere else, but you can also discover “stories”, where each filmmaker puts anything from 3 to 100 clips together to show you potential uses. Stories are built on the base of a location, a theme, or a narrative, and they are an interesting way to get both high-quality content and inspiration for your projects.
To get access to these clips you need to get Artgrid membership. There are three pricing tiers, depending on the quality of the files you want to download, but they all come with unlimited downloads which is a great plus. Like this, you can get a plan for between $25 and $50 a month – keep in mind these plans are billed annually upfront.
- The superior quality footage from professional filmmakers
- The inspiring concept of the “stories”
- There is no a la carte buying options, which means you have to hire a subscription even if you only one a handful of clips
The Best Stock Footage Sites of 2020
The 7 video stock footage sites that we featured here are but a handful of the companies that are currently operating online, and as the Internet continues to grow and expand, so too will the number of stock video providers.
We’ll do our best to keep you updated on the changing trends in stock imagery and video footage. In the meantime, if you have a favourite stock footage source that we don’t know about, let us know in the comments.