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Do you have your hard discs full of stock images and stock footage that you could make an income from, but you don't have the time and desire to describe them?

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Why you don't have to upload to Pexels and Unsplash.

I don't know how people decide to spend their money. Everyone pays 10 dollars to go watch a movie at the cinema. But if for watching the same movie, a few months later, there is a website that asks for $5, many consider it unacceptable, probably because they illegally download content for the last 15 years, and they believe that everything on the internet must be free.

I will always ask for money for the job I do. Sometimes someone who watches my stock footage collections on YouTube contacts me, saying something like:

Why did you put the watermark in the middle of the video? I wanted to use your footage to edit my movie and it does not look good with the watermark.

In other words, it has become normal to steal the work of others, or talking about videos or photos, to think that giving credit to someone who works for you is enough for him to be paid.

As you know, this is a podcast that talks about microstock, so it sounds like I am digressing, but what I just said is an example for telling you that, in my opinion, you should not upload on those sites that give away photos, such as:

Some time ago on my blog I said that the quality of the photos that were published there was poor, so they were not a threat to us producers of stock images. Today, unfortunately, I do not think so, unless your project is to create the homepage for the website of a multinational company, but in that case, I don’t think you couldn't spend a few dozen dollars on Shutterstock to buy what you need.

Unfortunately, we stock image producers have killed the job of many traditional photographers, so we don't have the right to complain about other photographers who are now doing something bad for our business, like those who publish on Pexels and Unsplash. Everyone can do what he wants with the content he produces, if he respects the rules. Of course, I still do not understand why those photographers do so, both because they work for free and because they do not even ask for a quote of their name in the projects in which they participate.

Working for free means first not being free, because if you do not get paid, it means that you cannot do what you love for the time you want. Secondly, it destroys the professionalism of those who ask for money when they work, and that are faced with customers who want everything for free.

What? But a friend of my son does that job for 20 euros! Why should I pay more?

It's like with the movies on the internet that I mentioned earlier:

  • for 15 years everyone downloaded them for free and today people think they have the right to watch them without paying, even if they download the movie from a pirate sites and risk taking a virus.

Maybe they even watch the version of the movie recorded in a theater with a smartphone; that is perfect to hear the comments of people sitting next to the guy that created the pirated copy.

To make money you need a strategy

To find the time to create the content published on my website, I had to re-invent my own business:

  1. I have studied more efficient production workflows, which today may allow me to do work in one hour what I used to do in two hours.
  2. I started learning and using digital tools that could increase my sales.
  3. I found the niche of historical films, where I became one of the most important producers in the world.

Nothing falls from heaven in the meritocratic world of the internet. To create a business in that niche:

  1. I invested 5 thousand dollars in a scanner that digitizes films with great quality.
    And by doing this, I already got rid of 99% of producers who complain that they do not bring money home with microstock.
  2. I created a strategy.

Arc de triomphe in Paris at night

Many years ago, I earned thousands of euros in one evening by shooting the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. But to shoot the Arc de Triomphe and sell the content on the microstock agencies, I only needed to:

  • buy the ticket of a low-cost flight
  • work with equipment that cost only 1500 euros.


Screenshot of total earnings of a time-lapse of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Pond5

Total earnings on Pond5 for one of the two time-lapses I shot that night (my share is $965).Screenshot of total earnings of a time-lapse of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Shutterstock

My earnings on Shutterstock for one of the two time-lapses I shot that night.


When it comes to making money, information runs very quickly on the internet. After me, thousands of photographers and video makers did the same thing, hoping to get the same earnings.
Now I'm saying that I'm making money with historical films, but I'm not afraid of competition, even if each one of you can be my competitor. For a simple reason. Not all of you:

Microstock is the triumph of:

  • merit
  • studying
  • getting up early in the morning and starting to work with passion.

The rules are these:

  1. Learn
  2. work hard

If you do this, nobody will stop your project, and you'll become a successful entrepreneur.

The release of Pond5

When I upload content to Pond5 they ask me the release, what is it?

The release is a disclaimer that Pond5 asks you in case you want to sell content with logos or recognizable people to sell it with the commercial use license. If you have worked with a model, which in microstock is usually a friend or a parent that pretends to talk on the phone or to cook something illuminated by artificial lights, that person must sign a document in which he authorizes you to use its image for commercial purposes.

If instead you shoot a street with dozens of people walking:

  • select the editorial use only license

Screenshot of Curator Notes for stock footage on Pond5

by writing editorial use only on the Curator Notes of Pond5.

Analog cameras

Can I send photos made with analog cameras and then scanned?

Yes, you can sell the photos you want, even analog ones acquired with a scanner, as long as they comply with the guidelines of the agencies in terms of resolution.

Before sending 1000 images in one night, I think you should test with individual agencies, because they can reject your content not for the guidelines, but because they don't like it.
Today, there are not many people who upload scans. Sometimes vintage content can be a good niche for selling more. If you decide to go on with that idea, please tell us if it was worth it.

An alternative to After Effects

I earn less than $50 a month with stock images. I am a contributor in 6 agencies and I shoot with a Nikon D750. I've just started uploading stock footage thanks to your suggestions.
I thought about starting to shoot real time footage because it seems easier, and then move to time-lapses. You suggest using Adobe After Effects, whose subscription is very expensive. The question is: is it really necessary? Is there any free software I can use to make stock footage?

After Effects is good only for creating time-lapses, because it is the software that has the best image stabilizer. As you can see in a few lessons of my course, it is essential to stabilize the time-lapse if you want to sell it.

Since I think you will not produce time-lapses every day, if you want to save, you should buy the monthly subscription, which you will renew only when you need it.

As you said, there are also free programs, like VirtualDub, but Virtual Dub is quite complicated to learn. I can't recommend it because today I only use After Effects, and I have not tested other software in the last 5 years.
About editing software for real time footage. If you work on Windows, the best solution is Adobe Premiere, because it allows you to be faster. However, if you opt for a different software solution, even it is free, the export quality is always the same. So, it's not a matter of quality, it's just a matter of time.

50 fps or 25 fps?

I bought a Nikon D5500 and I shot my first videos. I worked at 50 fps (frames per second) and uploaded the footage as it was (50fps), with Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec. Now I wonder: if a buyer needs a video with a different frame rate, he can edit the movie to his liking, right? If I work at 25fps, don't I lose the chance to sell to buyers who need higher fps?

Let me start with an explanation, because in this podcast it's me, you, and hundreds of listeners:

  • in Italy and in most of Europe the videos are shot at 25 frames per second.
  • In the United States, Japan and other Countries at 29.97.

Talking about fps, let me give you an example that you may have in your mind:

have you seen those music videos where the singer sings in sync with the song but moves slowly, as well as everything around him?

They are shot this way:

  • you put the song at twice the speed while shooting
  • you ask the singer to stay on synch.

So, the song goes at twice the speed. However, the video is shot at 50 fps instead of 25 fps, which is the standard. So, when you edit your 50 fps footage in a timeline of 25 fps, what happens?

  • You can slow down over 2 seconds what in real life lasts just 1 second.

That's why the rest of the world is slow while the lip sync is ok.
In the microstock market, if the buyer is a professional editor, the best option for him will be to have the footage at 50 fps, because in this way he will have the option to work with 3 different timelines:

  1. at 25fps with the smooth slow-motion effect
  2. at 25 fps with normal speed
  3. at 50 fps with normal speed.

If instead the buyer is a less professional editor, or maybe someone who uses the footage in a different kind of software, like Power Point, the best option for him will be to have normal footage:

  • no slow motion
  • no 50 fps

because he's not skilled enough to change video settings.

Is the buyer of your stock footage a professional editor or just someone who needs a video to insert in his Power Point file?

I don't really know. It depends on the kind of video you created. You have to bet, like in a casino.

Uploading without editing

If my videos are good, could I upload them without editing or do I always have to use Adobe Premiere? Second part of the question: when I export with Apple Pro Res codec after shooting with h264, the files are 10 times bigger: is it normal?

You must always edit your videos, because at least you have to remove the first 2 seconds of the shot, along with the last 2, where you see the camera's vibration due to pressing the REC button.

As for the codec, Apple Pro Res is 10 times bigger, but agencies today accept the H264 codec files, so if you work with Adobe Premiere you can export with that codec, while instead with Final Cut it's more difficult because H264 timelines in Final Cut can give issues.

Shutterstock frame rate issue

Given your experience with videos, I wanted to know your opinion about the footage I sent to Shutterstock.

I created night stock footage with my Nikon D7100. I sent it to Shutterstock. It looks nice to me, but Shutterstock rejected it for this reason:

Frame Rate / Shutter Speed ---- Clip exhibits issues related to frame rate or shutter speed.

Long ago I had sent some more stock footage that seemed worse to me and every agency accepted it: did I do something wrong in your opinion?

Let me tell you what I think it happened:

I think you shot, let's say, at 25 frames per second, then edited in a 29.97 fps timeline, or maybe you finally exported at 29.97. Regardless of using 25 or 29.97, in the three steps of the creation of stock footage:

  1. Shooting
  2. Editing
  3. Exporting

You have to use the same number of frames per second. This was probably your mistake.

Exclusive contracts

Can I upload content to multiple agencies? Are there non-exclusive contracts?

You can upload your content to any agency you want. Today in microstock, there are only two exclusive contracts. One on iStockphoto and the other one on Pond5, but in both cases, when you sign up or when you submit your content, you can select that your footage or image are not exclusive.

If you want my suggestion: don't ever sign an exclusive contract.

VIP person image

I have a doubt. If you publish an image portraying a VIP person, and you select the editorial license, can these images be protected by extra copyrights?

The collections of the agencies are full of VIP images, so I think there are no problems. It's always difficult to talk about copyright of stock images and stock footage:

  1. because there are dozens of Laws around the world, and microstock is a global market.
  2. because Agencies have different policies.

Disney parks content cannot be sold on Shutterstock, even with editorial use only license, unlike what happens on Pond5 and Videoblocks. If you want to be sure, my friend, ask a lawyer.

Minimum price on Pond5

Pond5 tells me to give a minimum $50 price for 4k footage. On Shutterstock my same content is for sale at $149 for 4k resolution and $79 for Full HD. Since I do not think I'm a great director, why Shutterstock chose such a high price?

The reason why Shutterstock and Storyblocks have higher prices for 4k footage, compared to the price they sell Full HD footage, is one:

  • the market.

In 2 or 3 years, 4k will be probably a world standard, and stock footage prices for that resolution will be under $100, as it happened when we switched from standard definition to HD.
Pond5 gives you a minimum price, and then you can use the price you want. Right now, it's:

  • $50 for 4k
  • $25 for HD.

By the way, my suggestion is to use 99 dollars for 4k. My friend, join the party before it becomes too crowded.

What to do with stock footage audio

I started to produce a few days ago with a Nikon D5300 and soon I will try to upload the first clips, hoping to be selected. I would like to ask you: if the audio is a background noise, should I delete it?

The advice I give you is to remove the audio 90% of times. At least when the sound has nothing to do with the subject, like it happens when you shoot a building and there's a street with traffic at your back, or even when it is not perfect for the wind.

If you don't remove it, you will risk a rejection. If you remove it, you won't lose sales.

I have a Nikon d7100. In the Shutterstock guidelines, I find that all the footage should be prepared with Quicktime .mov. I have Pinnacle 14: where is Quicktime? I'm a photographer and it's very difficult to set the software correctly.

Settings for the videos, at least for those who come from photography, are not easy. I agree with you. For this reason, I created a whole lesson of my course about settings. The Nikon D7100 is ok as a camera for producing stock footage. I have created most of my collection with a CANON EOS 550d and lately with an EOS 700d, which are very similar to D7100. The important thing is working with a good lens.

To export the stock footage, you can use Pinnacle. If in the export options you do not find the .mov, which is a format accepted by all the agencies, just download Quicktime free version from the Apple website.

I apologize if I'm not accurate talking about Pinnacle, but unfortunately, I have not used it for some years now. If you still do not find Quicktime among the export options, download MPEG Streamclip, which is a free software that converts from .avi to .mov.

I thank all those listeners who left a comment, which is sometimes a

great man, go on this way!

and sometimes it is a question. I know that probably, you listeners, yes, I'm talking to you, are photographers, and I know that today I've talked too much about stock footage, but guys:

  • from an entrepreneur point of view, if you don't start producing stock footage you're making a big mistake (you can find an exclusive video on how to do it if you subscribe to my newsletter).

I stopped producing stock images 10 years ago, when competition was not as strong as is today, but already at that time earnings with photos were not what a professional photographer wanted.

If you're skeptical about getting started with videos and want a nice tip, go to Storyblocks, and see how much they pay for stock footage:

  • $ 199 for 4k.

And you get 100% commission in that agency. A single sale of 4k stock footage on Storyblocks pays like hundreds of photo sales. Even Shutterstock today pays about $1 per photo sale.

I started the episode talking about Pexels and Unsplash that give away your content, but microstock agencies pay coins today. This 2018 not 2006. We're older and the market is different.


In this episode you've learned:

  • Why you don't have to upload to Pexels and Unsplash.
  • Why you need a strategy to make more money.
  • What the release of Pond5 is.
  • If agencies accept films scanned files.
  • The name of a software that can be used as an alternative to After Effects.
  • If it is better to export at 50 fps or 25 fps?
  • If it's possible to upload stock footage without editing.
  • What can be the reason for a Shutterstock frame rate issue.
  • If it is worth so sign an exclusive contract with Istockphoto.
  • If VIP person images have extra copyrights.
  • What the minimum price of stock footage on Pond5 is.
  • Why you have to cut the audio from stock footage.

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