How To Buy Photos For Videos

Buying images for video.

Often we need to purchase stock photos for use in video productions. Luckily there are tons of quality photos available on the web that are royalty-free.  Royalty-free means you pay a small fee to purchase the photo. You can normally use the photo in as many productions  you wish, over and over again.  Rather than ‘borrowing’ photos off Google images, the proper and ethical method is to acquire the image legally.

There are several websites I use for photo purchase but the main ones are,, and These sites are supplied by professional photographers and chances are  you will find the perfect photo you need at a affordable price.

I use most often due to the low cost and great quality.  If you have a higher budget there are several high-end sites with amazing photos. Oftentimes they are priced out of reach for many customers but the photos are outstanding.

When you perform a search in a photo site such as you are faced with several size choices in different price ranges.  Which do you choose?  Most websites give you a hint by listing a blog size, web size, print and ultra high resolution size.  There is no sense purchasing a photo larger than you need but how do you determine what you need?

To answer this question you look at the frame size of your video. Most standard definition videos are 720 x 480 pixels. However, practically all video today is shot in HD (high definition). HD video can be 720p or 1080i or 1080p.  The ‘p’ or ‘i’ stands for progressive or interlaced and doesn’t really factor into the frame size. The important criteria is the ‘720’ or ‘1080’.  This is the number of vertical pixels of the frame.  Typically 720 video is 720 x 1280 pixels and 1080 video is 1080 x 1920 pixels.

For instance, if I wanted the cloud background photo above for my 720p video I would pick the web size (1805 x 1203). This is large enough to fill the video frame size of 720 x 1280 pixels and would only cost me $2.00.  You always want to have the photo brought in at 100% scale to maintain quality.  If I purchased the blog size (902 x 601) it would be a bit small on the vertical side i.e. it’s only 601 pixels high and my frame is 720 pixels tall in my example. Scaling up over 100% in video makes the photo look pixelated- not a good idea.

One further note, if your video editor wishes to pan-around the photo  in the video (like the Ken Burns effect) or even animate the clouds so they are slowly drifting by you may wish to opt for the print size or larger. This gives extra pixels to play with and allow movement within the video frame.

Always keep in mind the frame size of  your video when buying photos so you don’t ‘over’ or ‘under’ purchase.


About Ken

Ken Hook is a Partner with 45 Degrees Latitude Digital Filming & Production Co. He is a Videographer and an Apple Certified Professional Video Editor, FCPX. Versed in website development and SEO, Ken helps businesses combine video with the web.
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