Creating Stock Video vs Photos: 5 Reasons Why It’s Easier Than You Think (Including Higher Royalties)

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Photography and video are two different sides of the same coin, each with their own challenges as well as opportunities when it comes to earning money as stock. If you're already an experienced stock photographer, there's no reason why you shouldn't already be dipping your toes in video.

In this post I'll be discussing 5 key reasons why you would be wise to be thinking about making the logical addition from stock photography to stock footage.

Reason Number 5: Your gear can already shoot clips

Making the logical transition is relatively easy since your DSLR most likely already records in at least Full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution), which is an excellent start. To get started, purchasing additional basic equipment isn't prohibitively expensive. It's recommended to have a tripod / gorillapod and Neutral Density (ND) filter, especially if you plan on shooting during the day (more on this later)

In some occasions, you may even get away with shooting hand-held and being able to (hopefully) stabilise later in post-processing using Adobe Premiere, for instance.

My gear

My gear includes two DSLRS (Nikon D7000 and D8000), a gorillapod, normal carbon tripod and 8-stop ND filter with a beautiful fingerprint

However, I've recently upgraded to a Panasonic Lumix GH7, which is able to shoot 4K clips, and made it my exclusive video recorder:

Carefully wrapped my gorilla-pod on a ledge while capturing a timelapse overlooking Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Reason Number 4: Higher royalties than photos

  • Royalties from footage are, on average, generally 25x higher than what you'd expect to receive from images (average of 70cents/download, in my case) in the case of HD sales. If you shoot in 4K and a buyer in fact purchases the 4K version, then royalties can be more than 50x what you would expect to earn on average from sales of your photos. Be warned that you may earn a dreadful <$2 sale from SS and/or Getty, but thankfully these are rare and of limited web-usage. Here's some of my latest 4K clips on Pond5:

Latest clips on Pond5 licensed as 4K for $130 each. A 4K sale would earn me 40% of this price ($52 net)

However, let's not get carried too away with the potentially large royalties since volumes are generally much lower than you would expect from stills.

Reason Number 3: Footage market is generally less saturated 

Taking a simple comparison, the number of images on Shutterstock today is at just over 260million, while clips are at a relatively few 14million. In other words, for every 5 images accepted, there should be 1 clip accepted.

The reasons for these massive volume discrepancy are mainly down to:

  • Newbies generally start out by uploading photos before considering videos. In my case, I was exclusivity a photographer for four years before uploading my first videos only two years ago;
  • Investment in equipment: As mentioned earlier, video requires some investment in equipment, such as: ND Filter, tripod at minimum and eventually sliders, gimbal, drone, etc;
  • Investment in new software & learning curve: There will be a steep learning on using these programs and thankfully, there are numerous YouTube tutorials. Aperture, Adobe Premiere and Da Vinci Resolve are the recommended footage software.

Still trying to understand what most of these dials do on Da Vinci Resolve!

  • New technical skills required, such as understanding frames per second, correct shutter speeds, focus considerations, sound and colour-grading / correcting. See example below of a clip of the April 25 bridge in Lisbon, Portugal, which was colour-graded:

  • Footage just takes longer to both capture and to post-process, which creates a barrier for the more casual contributors who, for instance, are on a family holiday and rather shoot stills. Timelapses and hyperlapses for example can be extremely time-consuming to capture and then later to post-process and upload;
  • Files sizes are huge (especially 4K) and some contributors with limited upload speeds, especially those based in developing countries, won't have the patience to upload such clips. For instance, a 15-second 4K clip may easily be over 300MB. To process and export such large files you may need a computer with enough processing power to handle this extra file size;
  • Videos just take longer to sell: Many contributors starting out can become frustrated at just how long it takes for videos to start selling compared to stills. I can imagine that this is a major reason on why many don't stay the course, which is also evident with stills.

Gaps in the market

The good news is that since high-quality and trending videos are generally much less competitive than the same in stills, there are potentially significant gaps in the market for some niches (niches are beyond the scope of this article). In other words, if you're already successfully exploiting a niche within photography with success, you may have even greater financial success exploiting the same niche in videos. If you add model-released lifestyle type scenes and at 4K resolution, you may be able to ask for much more per sale.

In addition, exploiting these gaps would make it potentially easier to achieve the top rankings of certain keywords, especially if you venture into more advanced types of footage, such as hyperlapse, timelapse and slow-motion.

Search Engine Case Study – Copacabana Beach

Below is a clip I captured a few weeks ago in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Shutterstock currently boasts 12,838 matches for “Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro” on stills versus just 192 matches for “Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, timelapse”. If you filter even further for 4K, there's only 122 matches! If you look closely within the last link, two of my clips are on the very first row for this result!

Reason Number 2: You're already (generally) familiar with technical settings

  • Day-time shutter speeds to capture footage need to be considerably lower than hand-held stills. For instance, if you're used to shooting at 1/200seconds, such speeds will make the clip looks robotic and strange. Aim to shoot at double the frames per second (fps) you select, known as the 180 degree rule. For example if you shoot at 25fps, then aim to shoot at maximum 1/50seconds to ensure a more natural smooth movement, which may mean using the proper gear, such as a slider, a gimbal, or a video tripod.
  • Clip duration: Agencies recommend shooting between 10 and 20 seconds, although depends entirely on the story you're communicating;
  • As with stills, identifiable people and/property will require releases, with the option to upload as editorials. In the following example, shot myself on a tripod and submitted a model-release so the clip can be licensed commercially:

  • Keep in mind that footage is all about movement. Some scenes with little to no movement are better off captured as stills. In fact, some agencies will go as far as reject clips with little movement. Adding movement, both while shooting and digitally, is a complex subject and beyond the scope of this post, although many tutorials are available on YouTube.

Reason Number 1: Storytelling!

Clips present much more flexibility when it comes to storytelling than photos. Clips should have a beginning, middle and end and each part should work together to create an interesting story. This is particularly relevant if you work with models and helps if you create a storyboard beforehand.

Creating clips is time-consuming which means shooting for minutes at a time, which may be trimmed down to most interesting 10-20 seconds to be used.

Consider the differences between the following clip vs the photo of the same scene:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 23, 2019: Homeless young man sleeping rough while pedestrians walk next to him on busy pedestrian sidewalk in the wealthy neighbourhood of Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Analysis of the clip

Within the above editorial clip, there's much more information available to tell the story than on the still, including the emotion from the tall woman with a cigarette. She notices the young man lying in the middle of the sidewalk, shakes her, gives a negative expression and walks away. Towards the end of the clip, another woman nearly literally steps on the homeless person while busy texting on her phone (gives away no expression). There's a general mood of apathy and helplessness that is more common in the developing world.

The still, on the other hand, gives away a similar mood of indifference but since the pedestrians are turned away, they give away no expressions, which leaves much more room for subjective interpretation / fine art.

Another example of storytelling

Here's another example of storytelling when I captured the camaraderie between the bracelet “sellers” at Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy on a cold November day. I added a small digital zoom in to focus on the interaction between these two friends.

Working with clients

Adding footage to your repertoire may prove valuable if you plan to work directly with clients as a photographer / videographer. Capturing footage is a skill that I have pitched to clients, on top of my bread and butter photography, when offering my services. My latest gig was at a poker tournament in Rio and previously one in Portugal:

At another gig, for a NGO, I captured some ladies busy at work in a laboratory with a timelapse:

As you've probably gathered by now, I really enjoy capturing timelapses and it's sort of become my niche within videos. Since timelapses are in fact combined still images, I take advantage to grab the best stills to upload as stock – see a tutorial on the Brutally Honest Microstock blog.

Which Agencies would I recommend to upload clips

I would recommend to upload your clips to the following agencies:

  • Shutterstock
  • Pond5
  • Storyblocks
  • Videohive
  • Dissolve
  • Blackbox

Action time!

Speaking practically, the best way to get started is simply to start shooting clips and learn from your mistakes, which are common with photographers making the transition. Trust me I've made tons and continue to make them!

If you're already a photographer, in my opinion, you're halfway there, since it's a natural step since the basic rules of light and composition are the same. The rest of the technical skills, at a basic level, can be picked up in a few weeks. The 25x+ you'd earn in royalties, plus the challenge of learning a new skill-set, should be enough motivation.

Please let me know how you get on and look forward to responding to your comments below.

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About Author

Alexandre Rotenberg is an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images and increasingly footage. He's determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and he has devoted six years to 'making it' both as a travel photographer and photojournalist. He's based near Lisbon, Portugal and regularly travels around Europe and Brazil. In 2017, he published the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography which is available on his Brutally Honest Microstock Blog, as well as on Amazon Kindle (rated 4.6/5).

5 Comments

  1. Hi Alex,
    thanks for good an informative articel.
    One question concerning agencis:
    You upload to SS, P5, SB and Blackbox.
    I thought, by uploading to Blackbox the 3 other agencies will also get the clip?
    Or do you deliver it double?
    Thank you
    Frank

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