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 undisturbed 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 cheaply 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, and even your apps. You can insert photos into more elaborate videos for YouTube, even in TV and film production! 

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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.

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Stock Photos and Videos – A Good Match for Visual Impact

If you are after royalty-free stock photos to use in your video clips for commercial purposes, 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, for a while, become prominent in visual communication. As new digital technologies push the boundaries for visual content and the way we experience them, the trend only strengthens. Nothing is more telling of this than the fact video is the preferred format by the powerful Generation Z.

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. And have higher chances of going viral.

In another testament to stock photography versatility, high quality stock photographs can make it so much easier to create any videos you need for content marketing. A Photo slideshow to promote your product, brand, or content and to share on social media. Quick YouTube videos for your channel –and complementary graphics such as YouTube banners, YouTube thumbnails, and more. Stills to complement your footage. You name it; stock imagery 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.

Keep in mind that most of the main stock photography sites –from Shutterstock to Getty Images– also have curated collections of stock footage available, with reasonable pricing, so you can get all the materials you need for your videos in one place!


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

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 using photographs in video productions of high resolution. You’re not alone: the verging of media formats and variations in license types for one and others can be indeed confusing. Here, we’ll help you eliminate 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 image sites, enables using the high-resolution photos in videos, for both personal and commercial use, without attribution. Always read the licensing terms carefully, of course. But in general lines, this kind of use is covered at most stock photo agencies' standard license, and it’s perfectly okay to use photos in videos.

Can I Use Royalty-Free Photos in YouTube Videos?

Yes, certainly. And if you're a serious YouTuber, you definitely should! Not only in videos, but to professionalize the appearance of your YouTube channel. Stock images and graphics are ideal to use in YouTube banners and to make the perfect YouTube thumbnails; many agencies offer templates for this that you can easily customize.

Nearly all top stock imagery sites permit downloading and using their photos on the YouTube platform, but there are a few that introduce certain limitations. Some agencies apply a limit to the video project's budget size 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 its 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 an 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 permit this use with no restrictions in the Standard license. Some others apply limitations to the audience (Adobe Stock) or budget size (Shutterstock). But again, those obstacles can be sorted with an Extended license.


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

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.

By far, the wisest option when it comes to using stock photos in video footage is to buy royalty-free images from a reliable stock photo agency online. This saves you the hassle of doing custom photo shoots and 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 dedicated 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 also offer vibrant collections of royalty-free HD video files that are the perfect resource for creating video content quickly and at a low cost. Some of them even offer free previews –with watermark– that you can test edit into your project before deciding on a purchase. 

If you want to maximize your benefits truly, 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 coupons 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 video deals available.

  • The gives a number of free video downloads with its stock photo plans. Find all about it in our review!
  • iStock lets you buy both photos and videos on demand using credits, so by buying a credit pack; you can download files from any of these media types indistinctively. Their Premium+Video subscriptions also let you download videos, images and audio files indistinctly and with the best prices. Learn more details in our iStock review, and make sure to use our special iStock Promo Code with 15% off in EVERYTHING!

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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 several 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, including the renowned Unsplash and Pixabay, 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 analyzed 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 offers available! Because yes, there are free websites with creative commons videos and other types of stock video footage for free!

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

It’s All Creative – Image Editing for Video Projects

Filmmakers, video editors or graphic designers, and marketers, 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 huge pool of video editing options to use images in videos to insert a still in a clip or 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. Suppose you want to create slideshows or make basic use of an image in a video. In that case, there are simple yet efficient tools like the iStock Video Editor that are very user-friendly and come with templates and other resources to make your video creation process faster and easier. And it's free!

Plus, essential apps such as the natives for popular desktop and mobile operative systems, like Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie, will do the trick and are very user-friendly.

Two great and user-friendly tools to edit video are Adobe Creative Cloud Express and Canva. They're very similar, so it can be sometimes difficult to decide which one to choose. Do check out our Adobe Express vs Canva comparative analysis and discover your best match from the two!
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 fundamental 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 an effortless 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!

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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