To Stock or Not to Stock, That Is the Question

Stock footage has become the subject of great debate. All editors and producers must make decisions regarding what footage to use when making a commercial. Everyone has the goal of getting work done as quickly as possible, at the highest quality, and under budget. One of the most tedious tasks can be choosing where you get your footage from. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology editors and producers now have more choices for footage than ever by using stock footage services.

Using stock material cuts out the tedious parts of the artistic process. Whether you are looking for timelapse images, stills, or video, stock footage services likely have a wide range of offerings that can help aid your production.  Most notably, stock footage saves time, increases quality control, and saves money.

A Brief History of Stock Footage

Stock footage came to be in the early days of Hollywood. Movie studios and film companies acquired B-roll for a project and then realized it could be used in different places. Studios realized they could save time and money recycling this material. Movie studios came to appreciate the benefits of stock footage. Before long studios began to start projects with the explicit purpose of getting stock film. Specialized companies then formed and began capturing and supplying stock footage. The new availability of material created the modern film industry as we know it today.

Stock footage is used for more than B-Roll. Documentaries and commercials can benefit from stock material. One notable example of this is the 2011 file Senna.  The movie was produced almost entirely from stock video of Formula One racing. Stock is also used to highlight key points or to make a dramatic moment. For instance, showing forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and tornadoes when advertising disaster insurance is a perfect use for stock.  Stock footage enhances business presentations, seminar speeches, and conventions. Industry leaders know that adding these touches demonstrates quality without needing the expense of a large in-house video production unit. Stock saves money for all of these projects.

Stock Footage Saves Time

The first way that stock footage can help with the production of commercials is by saving time.  Stock footage allows producers to rapidly move through options by placing tens or hundreds of thousands of images and videos at your fingertips. This reality not only helps you find the footage that you need quickly, but also saves time by bypassing the standard process. Find and hire a photographer. Describe the shoots you need. Wait for the photographer to take them. Wait for post. Then you get to find out if you need re-shots. This phenomena is especially apparent when it comes to timelapse needs, which by definition take time. Going over budget or exceeding a timetable in order to get the perfect timelapse shot can ruin any project. That is why using stock material can make your life easier.

Saving time is a vital consideration when making a commercial. Your client has specific windows in which to run the commercial. A late delivery will almost certainly mean that your client will be looking elsewhere for their needs. Finally, stock footage saves time by cutting out the basic editing steps like sensor dust removal and saturation adjustments, freeing you up to flex your artistic muscle.Finally, using stock footage lets you do more projects each project that stock material is used on is faster. More time for products means more money for you.  Don’t waste your time doing work a first semester film student can do.

Stock Footage Means Quality Control

Another key facet of stock footage is the way that it enhances quality control. Quality counts. Quality is what gets clients coming back for your services again and again, and quality is the basis for advancing through the ranks and receiving recognition for work. The unnerving and nagging question about what you will get is one of the biggest problems with commissioned work. This is especially true for jobs that require remote hiring of unknown photographers. Producers and editors can be forced to “make due” with sub-par work in these situations. This is where stock footage comes into play.

Stock services show you what you are getting before you pay for it. As a result, you can be sure that the footage you get is just what you are looking for. Therefore, you are free to truly show off your skills and talents. Additionally, making commercials demands the utmost quality as the goal is to drive sales. The higher the quality of your work the more effective the commercial will be, and the more effective the commercial the more likely that clients will be coming back for more. Coming back for more is they key aspect of the production business. A firm can only be confident that they will stay in business if they can achieve a high retention rate, and the number one way to retain clients is by consistently offering a quality product.

Stock Footage Saves Money

The most important thing is that stock footage saves money. Everyone wants to save money on their projects. This is where stock footage really comes into its own. When you hire a photographer you pay for four things: the copyright (or share of it), professional service, subject access, and uniqueness. Stock footage saves money by providing the things you need from that list, and not making you pay for the things you do not need. The bottom line is what counts the most.


Copyright provides almost zero value in certain situations. Examples include landscapes, street views, and other setting type shots, as well as images or clips that are used as backing under text. Why pay for something that you stand to gain no value from? Use stock to get the most value for your investment.


The stock option is head and shoulders above commissioned work when it comes to professionalism. Stock footage can be previewed before it is purchased, and the purchase process is automated and instantaneous. Customers and industry participants leave reviews of stock companies. As a result, stock footage companies must provide the highest degree of professionalism. The pressure forces providers to strive to set the standard for professionalism in the industry.


There is a staggering quantity of stock footage available. It covers a huge range of subject material. As a result, you can choose not to pay for special access if you do not need it. Almost every popular site is depicted in stock material. Producers can get shots of Paris without going to France. They can get images of Florence within the budget of a local Italian restaurant.


Finally, you pay for unique images when you commission work. However,  there are times where uniqueness is not necessary to your objectives. Additionally, the chances that repeated footage will be noticed are slim to none with the sheer quantity of stock images, combined with the saturation levels of visual media in modern society. Instead of wasting money on things you do not need divert it to growing your operation.


Commissioned works certainly have their place There are some niches that stock footage cannot fill. Using stock footage appropriately can free up time and money to make sure that you are getting the most out of the works that you do commission. Despite this, stock footage continues to have value. Stock footage helps you to deliver the best product possible by saving time and money while meeting the highest standards of quality. Do not wonder what could have been. Make it happen with stock footage.