Blend royalty-free clips into your self-shot footage, while maintaining the integrity of your project, with these helpful tips.

Stock footage is everywhere. Ads, movies, TV shows, web videos — all loaded with stock video that’s hiding in plain sight. Producers and editors turn to stock clips because they’re a fast, easy-to-use, budget-friendly solution, especially with a footage subscription that keeps them at your fingertips for a lower price. 

Why hire a crew, chase down permits, and pay for travel accommodations just to capture a brief time-lapse sequence of the sun setting behind the Eiffel Tower, when high-quality clips of exactly that are only a couple clicks away? Sure, not every project calls for an expensive shot of an iconic building, but even the simplest of shots aren’t easy to DIY without expensive equipment, a few actors, a two+ person crew, and of course, some camera know-how.

Naturally, you’ve got to be able to blend your stock videos into your edit to maintain the visual integrity of your project. With that in mind, check out these helpful tips for hiding royalty-free clips in your self-shot footage.


Manipulate Colors in Your NLE

There are plenty of reasons why you might need to change the colors in your footage. 

For instance, you discover you’re missing a shot of a coffee cup that’s vital to your edit. So, you find a stock clip of a coffee cup, and it’s perfect — well, except for the color of the coffee cup. Or, maybe you’re working with a client on a thirty-second spot. You’ve nailed the requested vibe with some excellent stock neon-blue vaporwave graphics, so you turn in your edit for feedback. 

“We love it. But, we think neon-pink is more on-brand.”

All is not lost. By changing individual colors within your clips, you can make your stock footage meet the demands of any situation. Premiere Pro’s “Change to Color” effect makes it a breeze to manipulate footage while seamlessly blending stock clips into your edit. Changing the color of objects in Final Cut Pro X is just as easy.


Search for Ungraded Clips

As previously mentioned: Stock footage makes things fast, easy, and affordable. Here’s where the “easy” part really comes into play when thinking about how to hide stock clips in your edit.

Much to the surprise of many video editors, you can actually search Shutterstock’s footage library for ungraded clips — and ungraded clips are workflow magic.  There’s simply no better way to get footage to meet your specific demands than color grading that footage yourself so that it properly blends in with other shots.

How to Blend Stock Footage into Your Video Projects — Tip: Search for Ungraded Clips
Ungraded clips for the search term “city.”

If you’ve got to get closer than “close enough,” and you need an exact color match, you can search the clip library for the picture profile your footage was shot in. You might already know that info — if you don’t, the DP or director does. If they shot in S-Log2, just search for “S-Log2” in the library to find clips that are still in their flat, ungraded format. 


Match Colors in Post 

If you’re using footage from more than one camera in your edit, you’re likely going to have some issues with colors. Fortunately, it’s an issue that can be fixed in post.

If cameras aren’t the problem, and you’ve got stock clips that stand out because they don’t match the color profile of your project, all of the major NLEs offer ways to ensure a consistent look across your edit.  

Premiere Pro, Resolve, and FCPX all include a Comparison View feature that lets you pull up two shots together for closer scrutiny and color tweaking. The layout enables you to keep an eye on your own footage while you edit the colors of your stock clip. Nailing an exact match won’t always be easy, but the ability to spend time fine-tuning the look of your stock clips is beneficial nonetheless. 


Zoom in on 4K Clips 

While a lot of our tips have focused on using color changes to hide stock footage, this (admittedly) obscure approach takes advantage of the high-resolution benefits of 4K stock clips. 

For the most part, stock footage doesn’t have a “look.” At the end of the day, it’s just footage, and our contributors use the same gear and have the same workflow as the people that buy their clips. Nonetheless, if you’re concerned about a clip looking too “stocky” because of the way it was shot, zooming in on a 4K clip basically lets you “change” the shot to meet your demands. 

For instance, if you’re editing a video to be exported at 1080, you can take your 4K time-lapse shot of a sunset behind the Eiffel Tower and zoom in on the top portion of the image. You’ve still got your sunset and your Eiffel Tower, but you’ve removed the streets, the buildings, and anything else that you don’t like about the image. 

You’ve essentially created a new shot that’s composed differently than the original. Thanks to 4K, the quality will still be great, but you won’t have to worry about using an overused stock clip that stands out to viewers.


Add Overlays and Presets

Now that you’ve chosen the clips you’d like to use, you’ve color graded them to match your own footage and have a consistent look, and you’ve cropped in on a 4K clip … what else is left? Overlays, presets, and transitions are a one-step process for immediately changing the look of your clip — a simple, accessible solution for quickly stylizing any clip, including stock footage. Browse through the overlays, lens flares, and transitions — as well as VFX — available on Shutterstock Elements to see how these simple effects can change the feel of any stock clip and elevate your video as a whole.

Maybe you want to add a bit of cinematic flare to the shot? Lens flares, light leaks, and fog overlays can be resized, rotated, flipped horizontally, and reduced in intensity to match whatever shot you’re working with. For example, if you’re using a stock clip of a setting sun, or a person walking down the street at golden hour, throw in a warm light leak to give it the same style and feel of the overall project. 

We have free lens flares and light leaks for you to try out in your next project:

Camera shake presets are another brilliant way to seamlessly blend your footage together into one cohesive vision. If you’re working with handheld footage (that you or a videographer shot) of a person walking and you need to cut to a clip of the city skyline or a building around them, throw on a camera shake preset. This gives the stock clip the same quality as the original, and the cut from handheld to stock clip won’t be jarring for your audience. 

You can download our free pack of camera shake presets with instructions on how to use them.


Cover image via Suradech Prapairat.

Learn more about video production and stock footage — and find more free resources — here: