How to Select the Right Stock Footage Clips

Stock footage is a must for any serious video producer. Unfortunately, much of the footage currently available online is, well, a bit too “stocky.”

In other words, it looks terribly unnatural. And if you’re trying to make a connection with your audience, stuffy, generic and obviously staged footage isn’t the answer.

So, what’s the solution? Believe it or not, finding the right stock footage isn’t so much about where to look as it is about how. And that’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this lesson, so let’s get started.

Be as precise as possible.

You probably already have an image in mind for what you want your footage to look like. The challenge is transferring that image into a search term that will actually help you find what you’re looking for.

Here’s what I recommend: be as exact as you possibly can. This will save you a ton of time and give you the best chance of finding the closest match to the ideal footage you’ve got in your head.

For example, let’s say you’re making a video with people sitting in an office. When you’re searching for stock footage, don’t just use a generic term, like “office people.” Instead, try something more specific, like “diverse team sitting at a conference table drinking coffee.”

You’ll get fewer results, but chances are they’ll be much more relevant.

Use your storytelling prowess.

Another effective strategy for finding the perfect stock footage is to do a little thinking outside the box.

In these instances, generalizing the topic and looking for common associations might make more sense. It all depends on the situation.

For instance, let’s say you’re making a video about a new product idea. Instead of focusing on the product itself, you could use stock footage of a light bulb to illustrate the idea.

Other examples of this might include using a heart to represent love or the sun to represent summer. Icons like this can be a powerful form of visual communication, and are relatively easy to find.

Get creative.

As if finding the best stock footage wasn’t challenging enough. There’s also the added challenge of finding visuals that no one else has used before.

If you want your video to stand out and make a powerful impression, you can’t fill it with footage that’s already been used by everyone else.

To avoid this, you may need to get a little creative.

For example, if you want to incorporate footage of a city in your video, try searching for footage of a less-popular city, like Berlin or Perth, rather than New York or Chicago. This way, you’ll avoid getting the same results as everyone else who searches for generic “city” footage.

Leverage filters.

Most of the main stock footage providers, like Getty Images and Adobe, feature filters which allow you to customize your search even more. Play around with the various filters to see how the results differ.

I recommend using as many filters as possible. This will give you the best chance at finding exactly the footage you’re looking for.

Look for the same, but different.

What I mean by this is, oftentimes you can find clips of the same video footage shot from different angles. This can be a great addition to your film and really help to pull everything together.

Using compound search terms or phrases will typically produce results that feature multiple video clips from the same filming.

Bonus Tips: Recommended Search Terms

A strategic search can work wonders, saving you time and helping you hone in on the exact footage you’re looking for. Having been in the industry for many years, I’ve conducted more of these searches than I can even count. Here are the words, terms and phrases I’ve had the most luck with:

  • POV (Point of View)

  • Aerial or Bird’s Eye View - View from up above.

  • Worm’s Eye View - View from down below.

  • Close Up

  • Extreme Close Up

  • Landscape - Wide format.

  • Full Shot - A person standing at full height.

  • Over The Shoulder - Shot from behind a person’s back.

  • Cut Out - A person or object shown on a plain background.

  • Copy Space - Section of the video is free of any objects. This is great for placing text on video.

  • Blur - Also great for placing text on video.

Stock footage is an essential part of many film projects. Hopefully the guidelines provided in this lesson will make finding the perfect clips as easy and straightforward as possible.

See you in the next lesson!

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