Stock Footage | Tips and Tricks

Recently we were asked to create a regional, :30 TV spot for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (see the finished spot above) that aired during Sunday's Super Bowl! The agency presented the storyboards and  requested that the spot be comprised entirely of stock footage. We rolled up our sleeves, allotted some money in the budget for stock and started searching. Our first stop was Getty Images and what we saw made us do a double take.

The images were breathtaking but the prices for the licenses were way out of the client's range.  Did we sweat it out? Nope. We figured out a way to finish the project on time and within budget, without sacrificing the creative vision for the project. Here are some tips and tricks we learned along the way.  The most confusing part about stock footage is understanding the licenses that come with it. Here is a look at the two most comon licenses along with their pro’s and con’s.

Rights Managed


- Right’s Managed clips are usually of a higher quality.

- Right’s Managed clips have more unique content.

- Exclusivity rights are available for a fee.

- The price varies depending on use. A clip used on the web will be less expensive than the same clip used in a TV commercial.

- Some websites allow you to look at the history of the clip, allowing you to see how it has been used in the past.


- Prices are a much higher compared to Royalty Free. (for our broadcast regional commercial, we were looking at an average of $3000/clip).
- You will need specific information about usage, duration, audience size, etc... to determine the price.
- There is a little more knowledge of legal vernacular that is required to purchase these clips.

Royalty Free


- Relatively inexpensive (ours averaged around $100/clip).
- Pay one-time fee to use the image multiple times for multiple purposes.

- No time limit on usage.
- Easy to understand licensing.


- No exclusivity, therefore, the clips you choose could be widely used in other media.
- Quality is varied.
- Because of the vast amount of RF clips, there is more time needed for sifting though large libraries for the right clip.

Here are 5 easy ways to maximize your searching and find quality stock footage at the right price:

1. Have an idea about how you might want to narrow the search.
2. Don’t spend more than 30 minutes looking for a clip. After 30 minutes, take the search in a different direction.
3. Pond5 has a plugin that allows you to search their site directly from within Premiere Pro.
4. Getty Images and iStock are sister companies. If there is a clip you love on Getty, but the price is too expensive, that same clip may be Royalty Free on iStock.
5. Look for coupons! Many stock places have coupons right on their site. It’s easy to find 10-20% your purchase.

Here are a couple of websites that I tend to flock to when searching for stock footage, and what kind of licenses they sell:

- Getty Images (Royalty Free, Rights Managed)
- Pond5 (Royalty Free)
- Dissolve (Royalty Free, Some Rights Managed)
- iStock (Royalty Free)
- Shutterstock (Royalty Free)

I hope you found a nugget of gold in here somewhere! If you have other tricks or sites you frequent often, be sure to post them in the comments.

Edit, getty, Images, stock footage, Super Bowl, tip & tricks


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