A few years back the only place you could get stock footage was from the good people at Getty Images and for the privilege they demanded your first born child as payment! Footage was generally poor, mostly American and tangled in complex licensing agreements that meant you were only allowed to show your finished production to a maximum of 10 people for 3 months, and only on a Thursday… and you had to pay £1000’s for it.

Fast forward to today and there are plenty of great online companies offering copyright free footage and its now really good quality (often HD) stuff. Some of the ones I use regularly are istockphoto, pond5 and revostock to name just a few.

Now some puritans among you will argue that stock footage cheapens video production and should be avoided at all artistic costs. I’d argue that stock footage is so good now that it can only make a production richer, more creative and ultimately, your client happier. Stock footage of course does have to be used sympathetically and blended into a final production piece to be effective – there is no need for space travel in the CEO’s annual video report...

Here are my 5 reasons for using stock footage in videos:

1. Cost:
If your production needs a shot of a London bus, why spend a day in London being hassled for filming permits and waiting for the rain to stop when istockphoto has over 50 shots from just £25 per clip? Plus, the client actually doesn’t care who or how you got the bus shot, all they want is a great production on time and on budget.

2. Time:
It’s a cliché I know, but time is money. Your time is probably best spent editing and getting paid for a day filming, not spending extra time trying to film the b-roll footage of a duck landing on water and then worrying about charging that time and cost back to your client.

3. Creativity:
I’ve spent many an hour tinkering with footage trying to make a sequence work, and with a little bit of stock footage I’ve been able to make an idea really come together. An example being an opening sequence I needed to make for a global chain of hotels – within minutes on istockphoto I had 6 landmark skycapes of major cities which when merged together worked brilliantly and made my client very happy.

4. Get Involved:
It’s a proper industry now with people making a great deal of money from submitting good quality purposeful useable footage. I know a photographer here in Cambridge who makes nearly £70,000 per year out of keeping up with the market and selling relevant footage.

5. Client:
If you still believe stock footage is the plague of the creative industry, then speak to your client. I’m sure they’re much happier with a rich, cost effective production that exceeds their expectations -  and they still don’t care who shot the London Bus!

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Jamie Huckle