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In this episode I talk about:

  • A single $69 sale of a stock image on Shutterstock
  • Sudden and anomalous sales of the stock images of a city
  • The success that the Unreal Engine 3D graphics software is having
  • Dropstock.io to understand the demand for content in microstocks
  • The best codecs for selling stock footage
  • The convenience of creating 8K time-lapses at 60 fps
  • Amazon publishing as an additional form of monetization for photographers

Making $69 on Shutterstock for a single sale of the photo of a buffalo

Hi, Daniele,

I am writing to tell you two things.

The first is that I had another record sale of a stock image for $69 on Shutterstock: an Italian Mediterranean buffalo that I have already sold 20 times for a total of $75.

Here is the photo that you can embed in the podcast text:

Abnormal sales of photos of Poznan images

The second thing that I wanted to tell you is that lately I've been selling a lot of photos on Shutterstock of a specific place: Poznan in Poland.

All the sales are 10 cents each and, as a quantity, they are about 70/80% of the total sales I have for my entire portfolio. About 4-5 photos are sold every 2 days.

I don't know if this is normal. It probably is, but I can't figure out why it happens. Has this or something similar ever happened to you?

The words with which I opened the episode are from a professional photographer and excellent producer of stock images that I have already spoken about several times in this podcast. His name is Giulio Martino, and I mentioned him because the topics he talks about are things that I would like to discuss with you.

I gladly quote this message from Giulio, both because it is always nice to hear how much commitment a professional photographer puts into the microstock business, and because it is interesting to analyze what happened to him to allow all of you listeners to create your own strategy and make more money.

Technically perfect photos and good subjects

I first talk about the buffalo, which is the subject of his $69 sale. A 69 dollar sale means that the customer paid about 200 dollars, considering how much Shutterstock pays the contributors. I think this success is both a matter of technique and subject.

The image is flawless from a technical point of view and portrays only the buffalo's head without any particular combinations with secondary subjects.

Don't get me wrong:

Giulio is a professional, and I know he knows how to take a picture, unlike social network photographers who feel like artists but don’t actually know what photography is.

Giulio was also good at using the few secondary elements of the picture, like the barbed wire and a wooden stake, without the animal being covered in any way, but it is interesting to see how such a simple subject has had success in an already highly saturated market like microstock is today.

Find niche subjects in your area

The Italian Mediterranean buffalo is a niche animal, which is successful on microstocks both because it is not easy to find around the world and because, from a commercial point of view, behind that animal, there is market with a lot of money to spend on communication, and Giulio was good at taking advantage of the opportunity to shoot that subject not too far from the place where he lives.

So he spent nothing to create the stock image of a subject that other contributors who live in different parts of the world would have spent a lot of money to shoot. That’s his simple secret: taking advantage of subjects you can shoot for free while other contributors have to pay to portray them.

I’m sure, kind listeners, that in your area there are a lot of subjects that you can shoot easily and that can give similar good sales results. Giulio and I live in Italy, where there is a subject related to food and beverage around every corner and a lot of companies willing to spend their money on footage and images that portray it.

I’m 100% sure that you can find something similar where you live: a beach, a mountain lake, an agricultural field, a shop, the assembly line of your friend. It can also be a person: like someone you know who owns a gym and allows you to shoot people who run on tapis roulants, your mom who likes cooking, or even yourself if you have a garden and simply cut the grass or cultivate plants, which can be great subjects for your stock footage.

Remember that the digital world is for people who have great ideas and the ability to work on them. Only merit counts, and for the best workers, there is always the possibility of making a lot of money. For the others who like to complain, I’m sure haters who live on Facebook should be the greatest role models for them.

The photos of Poznan

As for the second news, that is the large quantity of sales of photos of the city of Poznan. Honestly, I have never had a similar success for a stock image or for stock footage of a certain place. Not even in the first period of the microstock business, back 15 years ago—a time when there was much less competition.

I did a little research on Google News to understand if something is happening in Poznan, and it would seem that there are no events underway or in the launch phase. Nothing that justifies the purchase of so many photos of the city.

On Shutterstock, by the way, at the moment, there are more than 40 thousand photos of Poznan; therefore, I don't have a technical explanation for the extraordinary sales that Giulio is having.

I ask YOU, kind listeners:

Can you help us understand what happened?

In the next episode, maybe we will solve this mystery, and maybe we will use the solution to sell more in the future.

Unreal Engine and the success it is having

Now, dear friends, some updates on what I said in the last episode.

Let’s start with Unreal Engine (see the site), this fantastic software that can create people in real time with a photo-realistic quality, starting with models you can download. An old friend of the podcast whose name is Daniele Gay (read his story) wrote me to add more information about it:

I've listened to your podcast, and you mention Unreal Engine and Quixel's metahumans.

I use a similar software called Blender, which is more versatile, but more and more graphic designers are switching to Unreal Engine, because it has crazy realism!

How to sell more in microstocks

I take this opportunity to tell you how things are going as a contributor. While everyone complains that sales are falling, they do not understand that the reason why this happens is that they always try to sell the same kinds of photos of which there are millions already published.

Those who have the desire and passion, if they, for example, create 3D illustrations, will have more chances to sell a product with little competition but in great demand. I make many sales with the simple keyword "3D" combined with the required theme, such as "monster" or "fantasy".

I still sell aliens and UFOs but also a lot of Vikings and fantasy! All made in 3D (pay attention: if there’s a person, even if created in 3D, the microstocks want the property release). So basically microstock works well with illustrations!

With the money I earn from my growing sales, I pay the subscriptions to various sites from which I buy and download 3D models and textures. By doing so, I expand my archive with endless possibilities to create other salable images! Not only on microstocks!

Although I have uploaded very little this year on both Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, my sales have increased. I often sell single images for several dollars. My highest sale is a werewolf with a castle and a full moon in the forest: a single sale for $77. That month I hit $300 on Shutterstock.

Supply and demand in a business

Dear friends, I agree 100% with what the other Daniele says. He has my same name, and he was also born in my year: 1977.

I think we should focus on one aspect of his message. There’s a basic business rule, even in microstock. The most important law of any market is supply and demand. If you compete on content for which there is a lot of offer, it is very difficult to make money.

If, on the other hand, you publish different content, such as stock illustrations created in 3D graphics, you have a much better chance of selling, and Daniele proves it. That’s it. Less Eiffel Tower images and more werewolves!

I link to you in the text of the podcast his story, which is that of a full-time graphic designer who started from school and went through the creation of the covers of magazines, that he still does:

and dozens of other projects connected to his creativity, including microstock, which is still a side business for him.

I think you can learn many lessons from his experience to earn more.

I have one suggestion:

always try to learn from those who have achieved something. Forget those who are not even able to put their life in place but give advice to others.

Thank you for sharing this information, my friend with my same name.

Releases for people created in 3D

In the next episode, I should tell you what happened in 1977.

!In the next episode!, because now I only know that 1977 is the year the first episode of Star Wars was released. Unfortunately, in odd years, there are no Olympic Games or Football World Cup, so no great sport events.

Jimmy Carter was the President of the USA. Of course, in Italy that year we should have had at least 3 or 4 presidents, as presidents don’t last for long in Italy.

I’ll let you know.

Now I will still talk about Unreal Engine. Paola, a professional photographer, writes to me with some questions that I turn to the whole community, as apparently there is a niche of 3D graphics enthusiasts among you listeners:

I find the Unreal Engine software exceptional and would like to start studying and working on it. I am a photographer and with this tool I could approach stock footage, but I have questions:

Can I also create jpgs or just videos?

Can I also use this software for "Commercial Use"?

I have read the license and I think it can be done, but I would also like your confirmation.

Thanks for the question, Paola.

I will briefly answer what you are asking. I took just a quick look at the software, starting with the incredible video that the authors have posted on YouTube that shows people you may think are real, and you finally discover that they were created on the computer:

I remind those who missed the previous episode that Unreal Engine is free software, at least in its basic version, and it creates subjects in real time; therefore, without rendering.

I’m so sorry that I still haven't deepened my understanding of this software enough to answer Paola’s questions with full knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, I'm always used to thinking about solving problems right away. So, if there is no native image export function, you can always export the video and extract the frame with any editing software.

The 4K resolution is 8 megapixels, so it is above the minimum resolution accepted by microstocks, which usually starts at 2 megapixels.

As for commercial use, from what I have read, I also think that what you create with Unreal Engine can be sold for commercial use. About the release for microstocks, as Daniele Gay told us, I guess you have to declare that they are "digital" people created with Unreal Engine, and consequently you do not need a traditional release. Agencies know that such software exists and will consequently already have rules for it.

However, I ask all of you, kind listeners, to confirm what Paola asked. So, community of contributors: let’s work together!

We are a group of photographers and video makers who do not like war, but work to do better and better by sharing our knowledge.

The questions of the listeners

In the last episode, I only aired two questions because I spent a lot of time talking about other important topics, so today I would like to give you more answers than usual.

I start with one of those technical questions that I like more.

Dropstock.io to understand if a subject is worth it

I just bought your course.

I was studying the Dropstock.io keyword tool, and your explanations are very clear. There is one thing, however, that I don’t understand.

I simulated a search based on the main keyword "coffee" combined with the secondary keyword "breakfast", and it seemed to be a good subject to produce new stock footage.

But when I type "coffee breakfast" on the Pond5 search engine, I get 90,000 results, which I think means too much competition to be worth it.

What should we do in these cases? Give it up and move on to something else or try it all the same?

The results of an agency like Pond5 are rising. They now have 30 million videos for sale.

Ninety thousand results for those two keywords together are a lot. I also checked the single words “coffee” and “breakfast”, and they both have more than 300 thousand hits.

But try to consider one important thing: dropstock.io measures supply and demand together; it is the only tool on the market that does this. So when you get a high dropstock.io rating and a lot of supply, it means that there is also a lot of demand.

If I were you, I would try to create something on those subjects, but first find a good idea if you want to earn. Combine those subjects with people, because when there is a lot of competition, using people gives you something more.

So, let's get to the point: recruit a family member / a friend of yours and have them simulate a breakfast situation. Light up the scene and, before shooting, write down a plan with 20-30 situations related to breakfast and coffee, like:

  • the person who drinks coffee normally
  • drinking coffee fast while eating something, maybe while standing up
  • the coffee spilling on the table for a distraction
  • the person checking the laptop and smartphone while drinking coffee

The limit is your creativity, and that's what we all love about microstock. Being free to produce what we decide and knowing that sales depend only on how good we have been.

Coming to your other question: it is difficult to come up with a number of Pond5 results that suggest that the subject is not worth it. Indeed, it is wrong to do it, in my opinion, because you always have to measure supply and demand together. So if there is a lot of supply, but there is also a lot of demand, it can still be worth it.

The favorable relationship between supply and demand is told only by dropstock.io.

There are some subjects that have very few results in agencies, but they are not convenient to shoot, because only a few buyers want them. If I typed in the name of the small town where I live today on Pond5, I don't think any results would show. But I'm not interested in shooting it, even if it’s outside my door, because there aren't any buyers looking for images or footage of the city where I live.

Pond5 and the sale of stock images

Pond5 is not worth uploading stock images, is it?

That's right. I can tell you that mages don't sell on Pond5, even if the agency sells them. So it's best to avoid wasting your time on uploading photos there.

Remember that you can’t consider free something just because you don’t pay to do it. I imagine that you already sell the stock images you now want to sell on Pond5 on other agencies, but even if it is free to upload content on Pond5, as they don't ask contributors for money to sell their content, you will spend your precious time doing it, even if you use software like Stocksubmitter or Microstock Plus.

This means losing money, because at the same time, you can do something that can give you an income instead, like producing new content.

Consequently, the agencies where you sell your content must be carefully selected, and Pond5 is not worth selling anything other than stock footage.

The best codec for selling stock footage

The videos that my Canon Eos M50 creates are mp4 files that are not so heavy. I edit them with Adobe After Effects and export them as Apple ProRes 422 HQ. By doing so, they become too heavy: a 150 Mb video becomes 5 times heavier.

If I export on Apple ProRes 422 (but not HQ), do you think it will be ok for stock footage?

This is a question for those who produce stock footage, so I will answer quickly before the listeners run away, as I know most of you are photographers, who do not like shooting videos. Please, change your mind.

My friend, you can safely use the non-HQ Apple ProRes 422, which weighs slightly less, but don't expect to produce half-size files. Unfortunately, professional formats are large.

To change something, you should switch to H.264 codec, but many editors still don’t like it, because in color correction operations, it creates images with more artifacts compared to less compressed formats such as the Apple ProRes or Photo Jpeg,.

Time-lapse 8K at 60 fps

I am in love with time-lapses. I would like to produce something in Rome in 8K, 60fps.

Do you think I have a few competitors in today's market?

Could it be attractive for those who buy content for producing documentaries or feature films?

There are still a few competitors on 8K today, especially at 60 fps. The problem is that currently there is also little demand from buyers, and nobody knows whether 8K will actually replace 4K within a few years or not.

However, the downscale from 8K to 4K is in the same aspect ratio. As a result, if you upload in 8K, the customer can buy 4K as it would have if you uploaded directly at that resolution.

The only problem for you is that the render times are much longer, because the resolution is 4 times greater.

The sale of fractals as stock images

Hi, Daniele,

Thank you very much for all the advice you give us.

I have a question related to the world of microstock (in which I am planning to start selling). Do agencies accept abstract images like fractals created from photos shot by me?

Agencies accept abstract photos, but in the example you make, fractals, the saleability is very poor. So you risk wasting time to earn nothing.

Again: read the story of Daniele Gay, the contributor I mentioned earlier in this same episode: he has always been a photographer too, but he found a good niche on 3D graphics.

You could try to do like him, taking inspiration from his story.

Photographers who want to sell books on Amazon

In this last part of the podcast, I would like to talk about a topic that always concerns photography and digital business for photographers and video makers, but not directly microstock.

I do this by quoting one of the countless messages that come to me, usually in Italian and sometimes in English, in the two weeks that separate the release of episodes. I say usually in Italian because the podcast is first released in that language (see the show on Apple Podcast). And the Italian version is also an older show with more listeners: 106 episodes, while this is only the 18th episode in English.

I wanted your opinion on a small book that I self-published on Amazon: it is an autobiography of my career as a photographer.

I don't know if I did something wrong, but after months in the Amazon reports, there have been no sales, which seems strange to me.

Since you also have some experience in publications, if you have any information to give me, I would appreciate it.

So, listeners, let's talk about another form of monetization for you as photographers. The friend mentions a written book, something that you can publish too. If you don’t like to write, remember that you can publish your photo books on Amazon and sell them all over the world.

Let’s say you have 1000 good images. With them, you can publish, and therefore monetize, at least 10 books. But it's not all that simple, and let me tell you why.

As I said, our friend’s question has little to do with microstock, but I am happy to quote it because I would like this podcast to also talk about other digital businesses that can be done with photos and videos, and therefore, I gladly share my answer.

The flaw of selling books on Amazon is also the platform's greatest asset: everyone can publish, consequently, the buyer has so many choices that the chances of selling your book are low unless you can do something to show your product to potential customers. Just like what happens with stock images in microstocks.

I have a book for sale on Amazon. It is called Selling Your Photos and Videos Online. I have thousands of people who visit my site and who often appreciate what I teach, which is the same as my book: how to make money with microstock.

I also have thousands of subscribers to my newsletters.

Despite this, I have sold only a few hundred copies of the book. If I hadn't had a website, I would have sold only dozens of them at most, since the subject of the book is interesting, considering that I teach people how to earn.

If I had instead published an autobiographical book, I would not have sold even a copy, because no one admires me to the point of buying a book where I tell my story. this is the reason why no one would buy it, not because Amazon is conspiring against you. As I told you, it would be the same if it were me or any other person with our same history as little-known artists.

Amazon's only purpose is to make money, and you’re not able to help them with your product.

With Amazon publishing, all paradigms change compared to traditional publishing. If you needed a publisher for your book, you would have had to wander around for years looking for it and you would have earned 10% of the cover price. You would probably have sold more copies than those you sell with Amazon.

But Amazon publishes you with no selection and gives you more than 50% of what customers pay.

In short, traditional publishing and self-publishing are two different worlds.

Conspiracy theories and business

Please: when something makes you angry, try seriously to understand why it happens; do not always blame the Rothschilds, Freemasonry, Bill Gates or the Illuminati. At least do this if you want to live well.

If you want to live full of sorrows and lose your nights chasing the fake news that tells you that your problems are generated by someone else, then I'm sure you will find a lot of opportunities on social networks. But is that really what you want?

Well, guys, I think what you just heard is the 18th episode of Sell Your Photos and Videos Online, which, by the way, is also the title of my book you can find on Amazon.

At this point, a good podcaster should remind you to share the link on Facebook, subscribe to the show on Apple Podcast and buy my course. I probably won't do this just because I'm not a good podcaster, and actually, for now, I don’t mind not being one.

Thank you for listening and let me remind you that the important thing in life is not to have fun but to be happy.