Looking to finish out a your film or video project? Let royalty-free footage save you time and money.

Dealing with royalty-free footage can be one of the most frustrating, mindless steps in the production process. I’ve often found myself staring at the screen, scrolling and scrolling through worthless clips and shots that don’t come remotely close to the tone of my project. However, I found that the majority of the time I wasn’t sure what type of footage I was looking for — or which kinds worked best for my video. If you’re in the business of nonfiction storytelling or corporate video production, we got you covered. Consider these situations and moments in your project to incorporate a few of these collections and shots organically.


Image by Connel.

If you’re working on a feature-length documentary, gathering enough footage to complete and sustain a feature-length runtime is almost impossible if you’re working with a tight budget. However, there is often an ill-conceived notion that the footage in-between the interviews and reenactments has to be visually stunning. It doesn’t — at all.

Also, you can save a good bit of time and frustration by nixing the shoots that force you out on the street entirely — specifically capturing people on the move and living their lives, whether that is at subway stations, in taxis, or on a plane. Filming these scenes yourself without somebody looking at your camera might be impossible. Further, capturing rapid commuters and travelers in their natural habitat is just plain hard to capture organically.

Corporate Work

Image via shigemi okano.

Whether you’re working directly with the creative team of a business or an outsourcing company, you’re going to receive a list of demands and requirements that your videos need to meet. These rules, restrictions, and guidelines will provide a basis for what your video can include and what it cannot. Don’t be afraid to take chances by adding more or tightening your edit with a quick cut. Time-lapse videography doesn’t have to look stunning with sunset shots and insane aerial work. Incorporating everyday life into your footage (even if it’s just people walking on a street) can look like original footage shot on your camera.

The biggest takeaway here is that corporate clients will almost inevitably ask you to include stock footage, especially if you’ll be doing contract work remotely for businesses and companies that are overseas. So don’t aim for flash with your images; aim for practical and appropriate — and most importantly, listen to the needs of your client and take time to figure out what their brand needs.

Television and Film

Image via Predrag Sepelj.

Television shows and their creators are adept at using footage in clever ways. Take movies like The Big Shortwhich includes royalty-free footage — almost more than original video. These shots can be anything from time-lapses to aerial to macro photography. Television shows have done this since the beginning, offering B-roll and intercut footage within the narrative right before the audience’s eyes.

These shots are not meant to impress, and they’re certainly not meant to be showy examples of the future of photography. These clips serve a variety of straightforward purposes in the narrative. Whether it’s transitional, establishing, or a title sequence, stock footage can extend your running time, getting you that 81-minute feature length you need. Much like a good edit, the footage should go unnoticed to your audience. It’s about finding the same type of footage you shot with and keeping a consistent visual tone throughout your project. (But always color grade across your entire project.)

It’s important to storyboard your project so that going into your shoot, you won’t have to deal with unnecessary B-roll shots that waste the talent and crew’s time. Knowing which shots you can use stock footage for will give you a better idea of budgetary limitations — as well as a more accurate location scout for the shoot as a whole. Also, keep in mind that if your entire project is shot in a specific frame rate, it’s important to find footage shot in the same frame rate — or, at least, footage you can change to the original rate.

If you’re interested in transportation-based, B-roll-style footage for their next project, check out our curated selection of clips here.

Top image via Shutterstock.