3 Tips to Use Stock Footage More Effectively in Your Videos

Filmmaking July 9, 2019 7 min read

As video creators, many of us prefer to use our own footage (or our client’s footage) and tended to avoid stock video. But over the past five years or so, the old idea that using stock video makes your production less valuable has been shifting. Instead, creatives realize that there are plenty of powerful ways to use stock footage effectively in your projects. 

It’s not as simple as just picking a video file and sticking it in the middle of your edit, though! There are many factors you should be aware of when incorporating stock video and others to avoid. We’ll be going through some tips and tricks to help you use stock video to its maximum potential. Let’s get started! 

Practical Tips for Using Stock Footage

Here are our three tips for making life easier when using stock footage in your edits. 

1. Match Elements When Selecting Stock Footage 

Imagine grabbing an awesome piece of stock video, placing it on your timeline, and realizing it looks quite different from the rest of your video. How do you make it work with your other shots? 

There are quite a few different ways to go about making it match. We’re going to blaze through a few qualities that you should be looking at when it comes to matching stock footage to your own. 

Color 

If color is the biggest difference in the footage, you can easily make adjustments within the Lumetri Color panel. One of the easiest ways is to use the color matching feature from the April 2018 Premiere Pro update.  

  1. Go to the Lumetri Color section. 
  2. Go down to Color Wheels & Match. 
  3. Make sure Comparison View is clicked.  

A box will pop up at this point where you can see the differences between your reference clip and the one you want to change. 

  1. Select your reference clip by moving the slider directly under your reference image. 
  2. On your timeline, make sure the clip that you want to change is selected and the playhead is over it.  
  3. If you have people in your shot and want to match skin tones, make sure that Face Detection is checked! 
  4. Click on Apply Match.  

You’ll see the color of your stock clip change automatically. This is a shortcut to getting your color as close as possible to the rest of the video footage. From here, you can play around with white balance, saturation, and tint to get it even closer. 

There may be cases where you notice that there’s a color being presented more vibrantly, but you can’t get it to match up with the green in your reference shot. There’s one more solution for you to try. Go down to the HLS Secondary selection, and you can use this tool to select specific colors. Once you’ve got your color selected, you can change the hue of that specific color only, allowing you to achieve a very accurate match. 

Luminance 

Luminance refers to how bright your clip is, which is very easy to match. Use the exposure to bring everything up or down and then use your whites, highlights, shadows, and blacks to dial in each specific section. 

You’ll want to watch out for your blacks specifically, as they can be tricky. Does your footage have a bit more of a muddy feel like with raw footage, or does it have intense, rich blacks? This is a pretty easy way to make your footage look out of place if you don’t make these match up, so see how close you can get it. 

Resolution 

If you picked up a 4K shot to put on your 1080 timeline, you’ll probably end up with your clip zoomed in way too much. So what’s the solution? 

  • Go to your Effects Control section and scale your clip down to fit.

OR

  • Right-click the clip on your timeline and hit Set To Frame Size (not Scale to Frame Size).  

Frame Rate 

This is a tricky one, mainly because different frame rates work for different situations. If you’re looking for a quick solution, it would be easiest to set your composition to 24fps, or whatever the lowest frame rate of footage you have to work with. To do this, simply: 

  1. Go to Sequence in your main menu. 
  2. Click on Sequence Settings. 
  3. In the Timebase dropdown menu, select 24fps (or lower). 

If any pieces of footage you bring in are at a higher frame rate, a quick fix is to add a Posterize Time effect. Set it under your Effect Controls to look as if it’s playing back at 24 frames per second. The results can be surprisingly effective. To the professionally trained eye, it might not come across as flawless depending on your situation, but chances are this quick fix can get you by in a pinch. 

Lessening the Footage Quality 

Every so often, you might find yourself in a situation where the stock footage looks better than the stuff you shot yourself. Whoops… It happens to us all, though! In this case, you’ll want to lessen the quality of the stock footage to match yours. Depending on what your other footage looks like, this shouldn’t be too hard. 

There are two main things that you should look at editing: noise and highlights. Both are easy to fix, though. If you notice a lot of noise in your reference shot, just add some noise to your stock video. There’s an effect for that which you can apply directly to your clip and adjust the amount. If you notice that the highlights in your clips are blown out a bit, blow out your stock footage. You can up the general exposure or the highlights to get this effect. 

This can seem counter-productive, but it’s better to down the quality of one piece of footage to give a sense of consistency, rather than to have one randomly amazing quality piece of video in amongst the rest. 

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Play Around With Your Stock Footage

Not all stock footage should just be taken as is, and just plopped into your video project. Some pieces of footage require additions to be complete, like screen replacement clips, for example. This is when you see your piece of video playing on a phone or computer screen. Clips like these are intended for you to do a lot of work before it would fit with your finished video.

When you realize that you’re not bound to use that piece of stock footage exactly as it is, a whole world of possibilities opens up to you! You can speed things up, slow them down, or play them backward if they would suit your project better. Some people have even composited elements that weren’t in the shot to begin with!

The more you see stock footage as a piece of a puzzle and less of a finished product on its own, the more flexibility and creativity you’ll have to enhance your larger project. The bottom line is that really nothing is out of the question to make the footage better and work within your video. 

3. Choose Believable Stock Footage

Even if you match color temperature, frame rates, resolution, and composite a bunch of things into it, there’s a chance that the footage might still not be believable in the greater context of your project. 

Figuring out whether or not your selected stock footage is relevant comes down to one question. What are you trying to achieve with the stock footage that you’re using? The answer is likely to be different from project to project. It can be something like: 

  • An establishing shot for an area you don’t have access to. 
  • An important shot that drives forward your story. 
  • A filler shot (because you’ve run out of shots to layer over a narration, for example). 

By believable, we mean: does your viewer believe that you took that shot with a similar camera to use it in the same project? If someone was casually viewing your finished video, would the stock footage stick out like a sore thumb among the other footage? 

Ambiguity 

Another tip that can help is to make sure nothing stands out in the stock footage as “not belonging” with the other shots. This is where choosing videos with a degree of ambiguity can be helpful. 

Let’s take some driving shots as an example. Imagine a snowy clip of a single car driving down the road. It’s a great shot that sets the scene in terms of being in a cold, snow-packed place, but it’s also ambiguous enough to be Whistler, Canada, Colorado, USA, or any other wintery location. There’s nothing to give it away as being a specific place, which means you can use it no matter where your freezing video destination is. 

This is why aerial establishing shots are very popular stock footage options. Unless the viewer has been to this specific hillside, forest, or winding road, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s not in the same area as this next shot. Generally, the viewer is going to believe that they belong together. 

Of course, there will be moments where you need to be specific. If your project is referencing the President of the United States, it’s pretty hard to be ambiguous when showing the White House. If you want to show the interior rooms of the White House, for instance, the ambiguity will come into play a little more. 

It’s all about knowing your project and what you need. Ask yourself critically whether or not what you’ve chosen will mesh with what you’ve already got. 

Bonus Tip: Save Your Favorite Clips

One of the worst parts of working with stock video is just trying to find the right clip to begin with.  It can be incredibly frustrating to wade through everything just to find the right one. 

It’s a great idea to create a document or a spreadsheet of stock footage URLs for quick reference. That way, if you come across something you really like and think you may use later, you can save it. Instead of searching again later, simply go straight to the footage from your document. 

Here at Motion Array, we’ve given you the tools to easily do that. If you ever come across a piece of stock footage, music, or anything that you like, and want to save to come back to later, you can click the Add To Collection button to add it to your own personal collection. Name it whatever you want, and create multiple collections for different cases. If you have a project where you can use that piece of footage, it’s right there waiting for you! 


Stock footage is a fantastic tool to help you solve gaps in your footage or download clips you wouldn’t be able to shoot yourself. We hope you enjoyed these tips on how to use stock video more effectively. You should now understand how to make stock clips fit right into your project and looks like it was shot using your camera!