Now, this is an email subject line I can get excited about!
With technology what it is today, allowing us to capture and store thousands upon thousands of images with ease, it is hard to believe there would ever be a shot we didn't have, right? Well, no, of course not. The world is a big place, and daily lives are packed full of activity and events. Enter stock media libraries. No longer are the image banks a surplus of cliche depictions. They are black holes of inspiring photos, videos, illustrations, and even sound clips. Be sure to feed the dog first and tether yourself to a safety line -- minutes begat hours begat days.
Stock images these days are commonly used by ad agencies, news outlets, bloggers, designers. It is quite acceptable to see these media clips routinely along with your dosage of daily news, brochures, blog posts, commercials, and so much more. And, why not. The availability of high-quality images is staggering. The world wide web has ensnared a vast array of great photographers, videographers, and illustrators -- all now at our beck and call. And, in turn, more outlets are available for the creative works of those artists. Heck, be both a consumer and a contributor. Submit your own original work to the stock sites for consideration -- especially those beautiful camera crane and camera dolly shots, that not everyone can do on their own.
When to use stock images? Cutaways! Stock videos make for excellent transitions or to help build tension, for example. Think about TV shows that you watch, and the rule of threes: Shot of thunderous storm clouds to city traffic snarl to exterior of a hospital with ambulance pulling up to your subject ER room action. Depending on the nature of your video piece, you can even utilize still photography, and use editing motion techniques to create a sense of movement. Think documentaries.
My advice is to take advantage; they mean for you to! Subscribe to their e-newsletters to know precisely when content is available. Most importantly, honor your fellow artists. Only download (whether free or purchased) from reputable media banks, for example iStock.com or other repositories where the images are vetted to better control copyright issues.
Often, videographers will make a collection of their own works available for free download, and often post about it on the various filmmaker forums. You can browse Vimeo for images tagged as "free stock footage" (not the same as "royalty free") or under Creative Commons use.
Always give credit where credit is due, as best you can. This is extremely easy to do on the Web. At least use the TITLE attribute (part of a P, DIV, SPAN tag) to provide a photo credit when the HTML tag is moused over.
Methodically build your own stock library so that the next time you are editing and think: "Dang! If only I had video of chimpanzees dressed in suits spinning atop file boxes."...BOOM! you do -- in both photo, video, and sound.
Any stock media sites that you particularly like?