How I started to create stock images and stock footage
My name is Marco Lazzarini and I live in Veneto, Northeastern Italy.
I started uploading stock images and stock footage last year, after taking Daniele Carrer's course (learn more about Daniele's course).
The biggest difficulties I had at the beginning concern one of the main topics of the course: finding the best subjects to sell.
The equipment I use to shoot photos and videos
I immediately understood that to make money I had to focus on footage rather than images. It was not that easy for me, because I didn't have all the equipment I needed to create videos.
As a tripod, for example, I used a Manfrotto with a ball head, typically used for static photography (a non-professional model without the bubble and not that robust) along with a small pocket tripod.
I did not have a gimbal which, as Daniele says in his course, is essential to differentiate from competition in a market, the microstock, where there are hundreds of thousands of contributors.
I knew it was better to start shooting 4K videos, but the problem was that my old Nikon D7200 only recorded in Full HD resolution.
So, I made a lot of mistakes when I started.
How I plan my shots (by analizing the market)
Talking about profitable subjects for microstock, during the course I learned that to start in the right way I had to find something that was:
- easy for me to shoot,
- requested by the market.
My research was done with:
- Pond5 search engine (learn more about Pond5)
- the Keyword research tool of dropstock.io.
It did not give me the answers I wanted, either because I discovered that it was already publishing a lot of content similar to what I had in my mind or because the ideas I had for subjects seemed to not be very marketable.
That said, I started by shooting videos and taking pictures of situations that I had easy access to, using what were basically free sets for me.
As a photography and video making enthusiast, I would have never portrayed most of the subjects I shot without the need to sell those images and footage in microstocks. That's why I was quite sure that they were the kind of subjects that could allow me to beat the competition.
For example, I could have used a strip of LEDs that turned on and off.
There were not many (985) videos that contained that query, led strip, on Pond5. At the same time, however, the video rating shown by the dropstock.io tool was very high (around 40).
So it was the typical situation that a good producer of stock images and stock footage who wants to make money must exploit.
Always by analysing the information of the Pond5 search engine and the keyword research tool of dropstock.io, I had seen good ratings on the research related to the power saving query.
Consequently I thought about making videos about traditional and LED light bulbs.
This was my strategy: LED bulbs and strips... the typical subjects you find on social networks (kidding!).
My first month as a producer: social icons and future mothers
Among the first subjects I shot was my 4-year-old daughter playing with the smartphone: some shots of icons and her hand scrolling through the apps.
There were many similar stock images published, but, despite this, keywords such as Facebook and app had very high ratings on dropstock.io (over 200).
At the time my wife was pregnant, so I made some belly videos, sometimes inserting the smartphone as a secondary subject, because you have to combine subjects properly to differentiate yourself from competitors.
In addition, given the proximity, I also wanted to use the city of Venice as a background for some other stock images.
Actually Venice, as all major tourist destinations, didn't make me earn much, but thanks to it, I started to seriously create stock images and I overcame the obstacle of starting to produce.
The first sale of stock footage
During my first month of production I sold my first video: a close-up of the smartphone that opens the Gmail app (watch it on Shutterstock) sold with the editorial use only license (learn more about the editorial license):
What I didn't understand about that sale, was that I was only credited with $8.74: the sale price for HD footage was supposed to be $79 and Shutterstock, at that time, paid 30% to all the producers. Then I found out what clip packs are and that Shutterstock still sells standard definition video at lower prices.
When I sold that video, I only had 35 clips for sale. The mistake I made in trying to put them online was one of the most typical of beginners: underestimating the importance of knowing how licenses work.
Five clips, in fact, had been rejected because they violated the intellectual property rights. The stock footage portrayed the hands of my daughter while she was drawing. It was not possible to sell that video with the commercial use license, without a release, because of the intellectual property of the drawing.
Shutterstock, if the photo or video is licensed for editorial use only, also asks you to change the title according to very specific guidelines. And if you don't do it, it does not allow you to simply edit the information and upload the release. It forces you to re-upload the content and describe it again from scratch, wasting a lot of time.
After uploading my 40th video, my balance on Shutterstock was:
- 28 acceptances
- 12 rejections.
On Pond5, it was:
- 35 acceptances,
- 5 rejections (for some generic reason: Your uploaded releases does not meet our acceptance criteria)
At the time Storyblocks hadn't yet decided to sell only subscriptions, so I also uploaded on that agency. I had:
- 27 acceptances,
- 8 rejections (poor post-production).
Diary: The third and fourth month of productions
Like all contributors who use microstock as a second job, or a paid hobby, I had a lot of ideas in my head but little time to achieve them.
I therefore tried to organise myself this way:
- Every time something came to mind, I took note
- A few days later I cross-referenced the data of Pond5 and Shutterstock with those of dropstock.io, and I drew up a ranking of the most profitable ideas I had.
In any case, one of the best strategies (as Daniele suggests in the course) is to create a different version of the most sold subjects of the clips online. Especially when that footage is in HD and you decide to shoot in 4K.
My biggest regret of the first months of production was not having immediately focused on 4K videos, wasting time producing Full HD footage and thinking:
If only I had bought a 4K camera...
Investing in new equipment to earn more
For this reason, after the first sales, I decided to invest and buy:
- a Sony Alpha 7R III,
- a 24-105 f.4 lens
- a 90mm macro lens
And a gimbal, the ZHIYUN Crane 2.
I know, it seems crazy to spend that much but I had carefully evaluated the expenses, given the prices, and I realised that actually it was not an expense, but an investment.
The tools that make the difference in sales
One app that makes the difference in the sales of microstock producers is dropstock.io.
On its keyword research tool:
- enter a keyword,
- read a rating that let you know how profitable that subject is
It can figure this out by analysing:
- the sales history of some agency,
- the list of content already published.
By matching that information with the SERP (search engine ranking page) of microstocks, you can get precious information to sell more.
Talking about keywords: to find more terms for the stock images and stock footage I'm about to upload, I have a technique.
In addition to dropstock.io and the Everypixel aestetics tool:
- I search for content similar to what I want to upload on the most important agencies.
- I open one of the first videos on the list that appears and check what keywords his creator have inserted.
If it looks good to me, I copy and paste it to mine.
Thanks to these strategies, after a while I sold other videos on Shutterstock:again the finger that clicks the Gmail icon and a finger swiping between apps.
At that point I thought I'd have to do similar videos, using the 20 most popular social networks icons, especially those that teenagers frequent(I had no idea there were so many).
To understand on which to choose:
- I tried to enter the name of some of these in the search term field of dropstock.io,
- I selected videos as a content
Eventually I discovered that many were unexplored in terms of content already online.
Even if I did not know for sure if there was any demand of that kind of subject, as I already had good sales of something similar, I considered the creation of that kind of stock footage as an investment to be made soon.
In the same period, I also sold my first video on Pond5: a Facebook like icon that rotates with the alpha channel that I created with Cinema 4D software.
Diary: The fourth and fifth month of production
Talking about the subjects I had in mind (someone interacting with the smartphone showing the icons of the main social networks), that project went on and, along with stock footage, I also started making stock images. In my first week of production I got 7 photo sales on Shutterstock.
Even if I knew that to make money I had to focus mostly on stock footage, my passion for photography was too strong not to try my luck.
My main problem was the same as most producers: the lack of time, because of my work and my young family.
After five months I had online:
- 130 photos and 108 videos on Shutterstock
- 173 photos and 155 videos on Pond5
Pond5 was less selective than Shutterstock in accepting my footage and photos. In that period I also started thinking about uploading to:
I had a lot of pending videos and photos on my list of what to shoot, but I couldn't shorten it because I still had to work on my smartphone apps idea.
In parallel I was creating videos of:
- stickers for decorations and car wrapping
- coloured plexiglas
Given the encouraging sales I was having, I had another idea I wanted to pursue: creating 3D footage with Cinema 4D software, as did another producer Daniele talked about (read her story)
I had some many things in my pot, as it always happens when you find something that inspires you.
Diary: From the sixth to the eleventh month of production
A lot of things have happened to me in the last few months:
- My second baby was born.
- I spent two months in an online project with a friend who hasn't even started.
- I've decided to change my job.
My new job as a photographer and graphic designer
A few months ago I started sending CVs to companies, and two months later I found a new job. Now I am a graphic designer and a photographer.
Before hiring me, the new company had never focused on photographic services, while in my first two months there, I have already done four services.
I keep uploading stock images and stock footage to:
I have abandoned Storyblocks; after it started selling only subscription based plans.
My earnings with microstock
I sold, among other kinds of photos:
- a video of the clouds taken from my balcony during a thunderstorm, 15 times (watch it on Shutterstock)
- 3 videos of the Italian flag waving
- 7 videos of fingers clicking on apps
- a video of the hair falling on the sink
- a video of hands handling coloured plexiglass
- a video made with the drone of a ski slope from above
- a 3d video of the Facebook like icon that rotates on itself
- several macro photos of apps on smartphones
These are the screenshots of my Shutterstock and Pond5 earnings:
The last month was a little worse than the others, probably because sales in microstock are seasonal:
Unfortunately I still have little content on my portfolio, only:
- 200 videos
- 200 photos
With all my commitments (job and family) in the last two months I could not upload stock images and stock footage. But I do not want to give up.
My goals for the next few months are:
- create content using the home environment (to save time)
- create 3D content with Cinema 4D
- continue to create app and smartphone content
- upload, upload, upload
The video of the clouds I shot from my balcony surprised me. I did it only because the storm was unusual for the place I live in and fascinating, even if I was aware that there were already thousands of similar and better videos than mine. I can't explain why I sold it 15 times in a few months.
Certainly, given the results, I will try to make similar ones and see what happens.
Diary: The twelfth month of production
The cloud video strikes again!
I had three sales this month alone, including one, geolocated by Shutterstock in Brooklyn, New York, that made me earn $81.
Just that video segment (shot without even leaving my house) grossed a total of $873.51, as shown in the screenshots below:
18 sales only on Shutterstock.
Last weekend, I managed to make other videos and photos from home. The subjects were:
- cellulose fibre for attic insulation
- me with a surgical mask
Plus, after planning it for months, without having the chance to find the time to do it, I've started uploading to Adobe Stock as well.
Searching for the change, but not at all costs
After telling you my story, I want to thank Daniele Carrer from the heart because:
- reading the pages of his website
- taking his lessons
- reading his book
it gave me the energy to change my job and believing more in myself. All this goes beyond just wanting to be a photographer or trying to make money with microstock.
I was aware that things were not going well at work and I started looking for a thousand alternatives, without completing one.
About the production of stock images and stock footage, in the first months I was stressed out because I was unable to produce and upload the content I planned. Now I have found a balance and realised that selling content online, may not be my number one priority, but it is still a goal.
I just need to have patience and constancy, and not give up. But getting angry or stressed if I can't do it is even worst.
It is okay to try to change and improve, but if that complicates your life, maybe it's better to:
- stop a moment,
- shuffle the cards,
- give yourself priorities,
- take them one step at a time.