Insider Guide for Using Stock Photos for Video (and Doing it Right)

If you've been following visual trends recently –and if not, you're really missing out–, you know the market is constantly and undisturbedly moving towards motion imagery, especially video. If you haven't embraced this media format yet, it's about time you start.

To use high quality stock photos for videos is a very easy way to create compelling motion productions easily and on the cheap, to share content with your audience that is what they want to see, without hurting your back or your pockets. You can create slideshows for your social media posts, your site, even your apps. You can insert photos into more elaborated videos for YouTube, even in TV and film production! 

To make sure you do your absolute best with stock photos in your videos, here we tell you all you must know about using Royalty-free stock images from the best stock photo sites in video production.

Let’s go!

Stock Photos and Videos – A Good Match for Visual Impact

If you are after royalty-free stock photos to use in your videos then you already know this, but if you opened this article out of curiosity, to find out why should you use stock photos to create videos, here is your answer:

Video is the media format of the future. Motion imagery in high resolution has since a while becoming prominent in visual communication, and the trend only strengthens as time goes by. New digital technologies are pushing the boundaries for visual content and the way we experience them.

From short and sweet Instagram stories or Snapchat clips to out-of-this-world immersive video experiences through 360º and VR, right now you can say more, louder and clearer if you say it with a video.

In another testament of versatility, high quality stock photographs can make it so much easier to create any kind of videos you need. A Photo slideshow to promote your product, brand or content and to share on social media. Quick YouTube videos for your channel. Stills to complement your footage. You name it, stock photos can make it happen in a whisker.

Bonus Tip for Videomakers
If you’re producing video files, you must know that stock footage is also a huge aid in getting your projects done! For more info on how it works, what you can do with it and the best agencies to buy stock videos cheap and with special discounts, visit Footage Secrets, our very own digital magazine covering the stock footage market.

Let’s Talk Licensing – Stock Photos and Video Usage

Even if you are a veteran stock photo buyer, well-versed in all things image usage, you might find yourself a bit unsure when it comes to using photographs in video productions of high resolution. You’re not alone: the verging of media types and variations in licensing terms for one and other can be indeed confusing. Here we’ll help you get rid of those doubts by answering all your questions about using stock images in videos.

Can I Use Royalty-Free Photos in Video Projects?

Yes, absolutely. The Royalty Free license, at most of the best stock photo sites, enables using the files in videos, for both personal and commercial purpose. Always read the licensing terms carefully, of course. But in general lines, this kind of use is covered at most stock photo agencies and it’s perfectly okay to use photos in videos. Sample content

Can I Use Royalty-Free Photos in YouTube Videos?

Yes, certainly. Nearly all top stock imagery sites permit using their photos on the YouTube platform, but there are a few that introduce certain limitations. Some agencies apply a limit to the budget size of the video project in which the photos will be used, and if yours exceeds it you would need an extended license. Shutterstock is one of those photo agencies, restraining this use to projects with a budget of under $10,000. And some companies restrict the use of photos in YouTube videos based on the number of views. Again, if your video would exceed their cap you will need an extended license. Adobe Stock does this, limiting their standard license coverage to videos with up to 500,000 viewers.

Can I Use Royalty-Free Photos in Social Media Videos?

Yes, this is okay for most stock photo sites according to their licenses. There was a time where this was actually the other way round, and agencies tend to forbid using stock photos in social media (in any format). Now, however, pretty much all major agencies allow social media use, and that includes videos.

Can I Use Royalty-Free Photos in Videos for other Online Platform?

Yes, you can. Royalty-free stock photos grant you the right to use them in videos intended to be played online. This includes YouTube and social media, as we just saw, but also pretty much any other online platform, like Vimeo or your website. You must remember some stock imagery sites restrict this use to the audience size, and some to the budget estimate. Still, even those agencies offer Extended license to get over those limitations, for a higher cost.

Can I Use Royalty-Free Photos in TV or Film Content?

Yes, indeed. Most royalty free licenses cover massive mediums like TV and cinema. Agencies like our Stock Photo Secrets Shop permit this use with no restrictions in the Standard license, and some others apply limitations to the audience (Adobe Stock) or budget size (Shutterstock). But again those obstacles can be sorted with an Extended license.

Getting Down to Business – Where to Get Photos for Video

You know all the ways you can use stock images in video content, so now let’s address the matter of where you can –and where you should!– find stock photos to use in your videos.

Buying Images for Video – Best Quality, Legal Safety and Price

By far the wisest option when it comes to using stock photos in video footage is to buy royalty-free images from reliable stock photo agency online. This ensures not only that you’ll get high-quality images but also that –as you learned in the previous section– are very safe to use in commercial-oriented footage projects.

Where to buy stock photos then?
At any of the 20+ best stock photo sites that we dedicatedly listed for you! Serious and trusted agencies with convenient offers that will let you get exactly the photos you need for your video content, at the lowest price. Be it with a monthly or annual subscription, or on demand with photo packs or credit packs, you will find a deal that fits your pocket and your creative needs.

Heads up! It’s worth noting that many of these agencies additionally offer very rich collections of royalty-free, HD video files that are the perfect resource to create video content quickly and at low cost.

If you want to truly maximise your benefits, opt for a stock photo subscriptions that will give you rates as low as less than a dollar per photo. Definitely make use of the many special coupon and promo codes our Offers section is packed with, to save in your purchase at some of the best stock photo sites in the market! Additionally, find and exploit the perks in combined photos and videos deals available.

Free Photos for Video in Commercial Projects

What happens when your budget is so tight that you just can’t fit even small photo packs or a one-month stock photo subscription in it? Don’t fuss. Free stock images can help your monetary restrictions not to obstacle your creative flow… as long as you use them carefully.

It's important to know that most free photo download sites work with creative commons license or public domain photos, which is not the safest for commercial projects for a number of reasons, mainly the lack of policing and vetting to ensure they are legally safe to use.
Where to Get Safe Free Stock Photos for Videos
If you must use free photos, definitely pick from our awesome list of the best free stock photo sites, with 27+ websites with collections of high-quality images to choose from. Even when some are creative commons license or public domain offers, the listed options are all deeply analysed and ranked in terms of legal safety and overall service quality!

And keep an eye on the few sites that also have free stock video available! Because yes, there are free websites with creative commons videos and other types of stock video footage for free!

It’s All Creative – Image Editing for Video Projects

Filmmakers, video editors or graphic designers, and anyone who knows their way around image editing, already know this. But if you’re new to this video making thing and are wondering how hard –or easy– can it be to put high-quality photos in HD videos, we are about to tell you.

What Software Do I Need to Put an Image into Video?

There is a very large pool of options in video editing software to use images in videos, be it to insert a still in a clip, or to make a photo slideshow styled video with multiple images and music.

The most powerful options include professional and premium software like Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro, intended for filmmakers, as well as free or low-cost tools like Blender, DaVinci Resolve or Lightworks – learn more about them and others similar in this list of the best free video editors.

But there is no need to go for the complex editors: if you want to create slideshows or do a basic use of an image in a video, basic apps such as the natives for popular desktop and mobile operative systems, such as Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie, will do the trick and are very user-friendly.

How to Insert an Image into a Video?
This is not overly complicated to do per se. The detailed process will depend on the specifics of the video editing software you’re using. But in general lines, the steps will be similar:

  • Open your chosen video editor
  • Import the video you want the photo in, and open it in editing layout (Remember you can use free stock video files, as well as royalty free video footage!)
  • Import the photo you want to use
  • Go to the video's timeline and drag the open and closing stitch marks to where you want your image to show and to stop showing
  • Add transitions, music, voiceovers and other effects at your discretion
  • Save the file when you’re done, and export it in the desired format

How to Create Slideshows?
Again, the full process will vary from one editor to the other, but the basic steps are similar in all. Keep in mind for simple –yet beautiful– results any basic video editing app will suffice, but if you want something a bit extra you should use a more powerful and pro styled tool:

  • Open your chosen video editor
  • Import all the photos you want to use
  • Arrange the image files in your timeline
  • Play with the scale and position of the images to add dimension and movement
  • Add transitions, music, voiceovers and other effects at your discretion
  • Save the file when you’re done, and export it in the desired format

These are very basic editing tips. If you want to take your skills beyond, check out this guide to Edit Footage like a Pro.

As you can see, using stock photos is a very simple way to create video content fast and without spending much. Like this, you can have many HD videos for your YouTube channel, your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile, your website, and more!

Master Video Creation Using High-Quality Photos in Video

And that's our full insider guide with everything you need to know to use photos in video content the right way!

Now it's time for you to start developing awesome photo slideshows and video footage! Share content across multiple platforms and use it for the most varied purposes, rest assured it's the media format people prefer today and it's all done nicely and equally important, legally.

Don't forget the best place to get your images will be listed in our 20+ best stock photo sites!

Happy creations!

Amos Struck

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus in providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography, like the PixelRockstar WordPress Plugin. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

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