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Using Stock Media in Your Projects

Using Stock Media in Your Projects

So you want to put together a movie or photo story, but you don't have all the photos or sounds you need to fill out the project. Enter stock media.

Using stock media can be a great way to add a finished, refined edge to your projects. Adding photos of landmarks and scenery can help set the ambience and tone of your project. The addition of a professionally produced music overlay and sound effects can add more drama and interest for your viewers. Let's take a look at what you need to know about finding and using stock media.

Sources and Prices

Stock Photos and Illustrations
Stock photo companies are popping up all over the web. These companies, often referred to as Microstock or Micropayment sites allow you to purchase (license) individual stock images for your projects. Prices range from $1 to $10 per image, based on the resolution of the image. Images are categorized by subject and are searchable by keyword. Some of the larger stock image companies have millions of images, so you are likely to find a quality photo that fits your needs.

Here are some sources to buy stock photos for your project.

Stock Sounds and MusicOjoo logo
Stock music and sounds effects can also be found all over the Internet. Like stock photos, sounds can be had from $1 for sound effects to $30 for music overlays. Discounts can be had by purchasing a complete library or collection. However, there are some good free resources for sounds. We've found some good stuff at

There are two pricing models or categories of stock media - free and licensed. For our purposes, we will discuss the licensed model. Many of the so-called free resources found on the Web are collections of unknown origin. Even for personal use, it is important to know the source and acceptable uses of the media assets you use (we'll discuss copyright issues a bit later).

All stock media is released with certain usage restrictions called "licenses". The most common form of license is "Royalty Free". Royalty free basically means that once purchased you can use the media without further costs or royalties. While royalty free is not 'free', it does offer very liberal uses. Most RF licenses allow you to use the media for almost any purpose, as long as it is not illegal, immoral, and does not present the model(s) in a defamatory way.

Why bother with licensed media?
Copyright Concerns - All photos, videos, and music are automatically copyrighted by the artist who created it (unless otherwise specified in a contract, etc.). This means that the artist has the legal right to decide how and when their materials can be used (and they can sue when their copyrighted works are used without their permission). Opposite to popular belief, media posted on the Internet is NOT public domain and copyright free.
Model Releases - In the US and other countries, there are laws in place that protect people's right to privacy. Any time you want to use a person's likeness (as in a photo or video), you must obtain that person's written permission (called a Model Release). Licensed stock media outlets will have the proper releases for their media on file.

Remember, you are responsible for anything you create and post in a public setting (including places like YouTube). Be sure you know where your media comes from and have permission to use it.

Article by Chad Lockwood. More detailed information about stock media licensing issues can be found on the author's website

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