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What’s the Difference Between Editorial and Commercial Stock Footage?

To build a sustainable business in the stock footage market, and start making some real money, it helps to know how your clips can be used once they are accepted and sold at the various stock video sites. It should be no surprise, but there are rules around usage—especially when it comes to people’s faces, properties, and recognizable artwork (including tattoos!).

Not knowing these rules can be frustrating and might even cost you time and sales opportunities. So to help you get started, let’s dig into the definitions of editorial and commercial footage.

Editorial Stock Footage

Editorial stock footage is usually sold to news outlets, broadcasters, or individual bloggers and journalists. Editorial is typically used to educate an audience or document a newsworthy story. It often involves no staging or direction from the videographer and should not be altered in post-production (beyond what’s technically necessary for the edit, like basic color correction or resizing) to adhere to visual journalistic standards.

For example, if there is a protest march, the videographer should capture what they see without interfering with or staging the action. The footage might be rough (someone bumps the camera), and that’s okay—it documents the event.

Editorial footage can also illustrate a particular concept with some direction or staging by the videographer. For example, financial news is big business. A videographer might capture a company’s product in action, logos and all, to illustrate its use. This still counts as editorial and would be sold as such.

When shooting editorial footage, you should always keep track of:

  • where you were

  • when you were there

  • why you were there

  • what was happening

  • who else was present

  • any additional details that someone with the above information would need to identify anything important

This information is very important because it will be used to caption the final clip. The title and caption help determine if the clip is indeed editorial-worthy on the sites (not to mention helping it rise in search results which correspond with increased sales).

Commercial Stock Footage

Meanwhile, commercial stock footage is used to monetize, sell, or advertise a particular product, business, person, or service. In most cases, you’ll find this kind of footage in feature films, online ads, marketing videos, websites, or television commercials.

However, for any footage to qualify for commercial use, it must meet the following requirements:

  • Every person in the footage will have to sign a valid model release form, allowing the end-user of the footage to license it commercially.

  • Any private property, artwork, graffiti, or tattoos featured in the footage requires signed and valid property release forms.

  • There can be no visible trademarks, logos, or company names present unless they also have releases (property releases).

When shooting in public: if you have paid to enter an event or location, there are probably restrictions around your shooting and using that footage, especially at a sporting event or concert (just think of the logos and music rights!). So beware. If it is a public place that you have not paid to enter, you would still need releases for any people or properties, as described above, but chances are you could use it as editorial if there is a genuine story there.

So, How Does This Affect You?

There is a huge market for editorial footage, but commercial footage typically sells for a lot more than editorial, so get releases when you can. Many videographers hire actors or use family and friends in their scenes for commercial usage. If you are a more spontaneous shooter, always keep release forms in your bag. Or, better yet, download a release generator app just in case.

The differences between editorial and commercial can be confusing at first. Follow the rules above, and you will shoot with confidence.

Still have questions? Clippn contributors get feedback on every upload, providing them guidance and ideas before they shoot. A team of professional curators, editors, and taggers take your raw footage, curate it (including determining whether it’s editorial or commercial), edit it into ready-for-sale clips, and submit them to the world’s top distributors. That helps you do more of what you love—shoot amazing footage.


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