Let’s be real. If someone sets out to make stock video footage, they’re probably not doing it just for fun. They’re doing it to make cash. But just how much cash they end up making largely depends on a few keys factors.
Well, lucky for all you future stock video virtuosos, we have all them right here!
Find A Niche
Ask any freelancer and they’ll tell you: the more specialized your craft, the more money you’ll make. This golden rule applies to all creative fields, including videography, so when you’re starting out, make sure you spend some time experimenting with different subjects and working out which one you’d like to adopt as your niche.
Ideally, you’ll want to be creating content on a consist and ongoing basis, so try to opt for something that incorporates the locations and tools to which you’ll have regular access. For example, if you live in a big city, maybe you could make sidewalk traffic or skyscraper footage your thing. Or perhaps own a drone—why not invest some time in honing your aerial shot skills?
Quality is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, factors that divide stock footage that sells from stock footage that sits there languishing on page 199 of 200 in the ‘Miscellaneous’ section. To ensure your content falls squarely into the former, there are three basic rules to follow:
- Always shoot outdoors in natural light—or at least until you have a handle on how to light a set
- Keep your resolution to a full HD minimum. Anything lower than 1920×1080 and you’ll have a hard time getting your work accepted by an agency
- Don’t stay in automatic mode. Do a crash course on how to wield that camera of yours and, at bare minimum, make sure you’re familiar with how to use shutter speed, frame rate, ISO, aperture, and white balance to suit your subject
Include People In Your Footage
As a general rule, stock footage containing people sells better than stock footage containing inanimate objects. So where possible, get some actors or some uninhibited friends to star in your shoots. Also be sure to mix it up with a combination of shots where your actors’ faces are revealed, along with some shots where they’re cropped or concealed as some agencies have a preference for one or the other.
IMPORTANT: If your actors faces are easily recognizable, you’ll need to have them sign a release form to accompany any work you later submit to an agency.
Another thing stock agencies and buyers prefer is footage that’s free of any discernable branding. This means making sure your actors wear generic, logo-free clothing, and that any street or skyline shots you take exclude any ostentatiously branded billboards or signage.
Upload Upload Upload
Once you’re done shooting and editing, it’s time to upload your footage to a stock agency website. Since most agencies take days, if not weeks, to review and accept your content, it’s a good idea to submit your work to multiple different agencies at a time, ideally opting for agencies that don’t impose exclusive membership restrictions.
It’s also important to note that each agency remunerates its contributors differently so be sure to familiarize yourself with the different payment models and work out which ones works for you. If you’re just starting out, Motion Array is probably your best bet. Unlike the majority of other agencies which give contributors a percentage of their individual sales, Motion Array provides a profit share of the company’s total earnings each month to all of its contributors.
Flaunt Your Work
Once you have your work uploaded to a handful of marketplaces, it’s time to give it the exposure it deserves. Upload some samples or a sizzler reel to as many video hosting sites as humanly possible (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) along with all the information your prospective buyers need to find and purchase your footage.
Work Out What Sells
Once you’ve gotten a handle on the technical and business sides of stock video production, it’s time to start digging deeper and working out exactly what kinds of footage sells. While you might think you have a good idea of what buyers want, the truth is trends are changing all the time and even the most seasoned videographers can’t predict which items of their work will or won’t sell.
To get a sense of what’s hot and what’s not, regularly search the ‘Popular’ or ‘Top Seller’ pages of your go-to stock footage websites, looking specifically at what comes up under the keywords related to your niche. Better yet, if you have access to your own personal sales analytics (a feature offered by some marketplaces) keep a close eye on them to see which of your clips may be worth replicating or enhancing in the future.
Don’t Expect Overnight Success
We’ve all heard tales of superstar videographers who make $20K a month shooting stock footage. And while no one is saying this can’t be you, the reality is, it probably won’t be—not for the first couple of years anyway. When it comes to making stock footage, the main things to remember (along with the 7 handy tips above) is to start slow, manage your expectations, and gradually work your way up. Oh, and of course…HAVE FUN!