The beauty behind a great edit is that sometimes the magic goes unnoticed. Using a library shot is one of those techniques that editors use that, when done correctly, slips past the audience entirely and they stay locked into the story. Library shots can save a budget, save a schedule, and quite possibly save a project. What is a library shot and how do you find the best ones? We’ll answer both of those questions and more in this article. 

Types of shots in film

First, let’s define library shot

The term library shot sounds like it might simply be a shot taken in a library, but it's actually a shot pulled from a library of footage. To better understand library shots and how they differ from other types of shots in film, let’s take a look at the library shot definition. 


What is a library shot?

A library shot is a term that refers to any shot that is pulled from a pre-existing “library” of previously captured shots. Library camera shots, also called stock shots, are typically generic shots that are not shot specifically for the production it is being used in. A common library shot can be an aerial shot of the New York skyline, a time lapse of cars in traffic, or other commonplace, generic shots. 

What is a library shot used for?

  • To save time and money
  • To increase the production value
  • As transitions or cutaway shots

Types of shots in film

What is a library shot used for?

Since library camera shots have been previously shot and are readily available, they can save two valuable resources: money and time. Pulling a library shot means that you or your production will not have to pay for capturing the shot you need or spend valuable time getting that shot.

For example, rather than renting a drone and an operator to capture a shot of the city skyline, you can just use stock footage instead. 

These shots are even used in Hollywood documentary films. Take for example, the trailer for the Netflix documentary Minimalism. Given the subject of the film, the library shots are utilized to tell a non-fictional story.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Sometimes, library aerial shots can be used as an establishing shot in a film. Take this one from Kong: Skull Island from our establishing shots video. Keep in mind, while this beautiful shot of the island is not a library shot, it is an example of how one can be used.

Establishing Shots  •  Library Shots  •  Subscribe on YouTube

If you search some of the web's best stock footage libraries, odds are you will find a library shot or two that will fit your needs. While you might have to pay for some high quality shots, they can often save money and time in the end. 

In fact, the editor of the video below made an entire ad only using library shots from the website Filmpac. Take a look at the video to get an idea of the quality of library shots you can find online. 

Commercial made ENTIRELY using a stock shot library

While the video above is a great experiment showing the lengths at which library camera shots can be used, they are not meant to be the only footage in your video. 

Types of shots in film

Integrating library shots

Library shots should be used in a balance with the footage you actually shoot. When they are used correctly and effectively, a viewer should not be able to notice the difference between the stock footage and shot footage. This video covers a few tips on how to integrate these shots into your video seamlessly. 

How to SEAMLESSLY use Stock Footage in your Project

If using library camera shots seems like something that will help you and your projects, it is definitely worth checking out library camera shots from the best stock video sites online.

Here’s a video with a few of the best free stock footage sites. 

Top FREE Stock shot library

Sometimes library shots can get a bad rap for being uncreative or lazy. But the truth is, library shots and stock footage can definitely save the day. It can save you time, money, and possibly your project when used effectively.


How Stock Footage Can Save the Day

Stock footage can be a great resource for filmmakers on a budget or freelance editors and creators. Why? We lay out the best reasons to use stock footage and why it is worth thinking about using in your next project.

Up Next: Stock Footage Tips →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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