Here I was filming one of the few time-lapses I created with a Canon G10.
I love to film nature. I live in Italy where there are beautiful mountains and beautiful seas. Filming landscapes give me peace.
Over the years I have specialized in stock footage of European cities, so a lot of times it happened something like this:
- I mount my tripod on the street, and 10 seconds later there’s always a pedestrian annoyed by the camera or a policeman that arrives and says that I need a proper authorization to film with a tripod.
In those situations, the best thing to do is to apologize and think about the next shot.
In a mountain forest you don’t need permission to film with a tripod (I made a video about this), or at least nobody will ever ask it to you.
I’m sure you dream to spend a week on the beach and get all the holiday paid by your sales of stock images and stock footage of waves and people walking on the shore. Back in 2008, the golden age of microstock, this happened to me during a week I spent in Sardinia because I was one of the first video makers who realized how easy it was making money with Istockphoto.
I shot this time-lapse on my last day of work in a department store in October 2009.
Until 2009, I was a clerk selling cameras and computers in a department store, and until 2007 in my spare time, I produced short films. At that time, I spent all my money on the dream of becoming a professional director. I won festivals in Italy, and National TV aired me, but it has always been just a very expensive dream, not a job for me.
September 9, 2007, was the day of my 30th birthday. The day I stopped being a dreamer and started thinking about being a businessman. That’s why I joined the microstock world. I spent all the hours I had outside my main job in the production of stock images and stock footage, because I was sure that one day that effort would be rewarded.
Just to let you understand the situation: in 2008, I produced only time-lapse with a pocket tripod, since low-cost reflex cameras that recorded video in real time did not exist. The quality of my content was bad compared to what I create today, but there was no competition, so at that time things for me were much easier than they are today for a microstock contributor who starts producing.
Now on Pond5, there are millions of clips for sale, at least ten times more than those that were there when I started. That’s why I created this blog:
I want to give the opportunity to sell to anyone thanks to my ten years of experience, even in times of strong competition.
When I was a 15-year-old boy, I dreamt of working in the film industry. I’m sure that today many teenagers have that same dream. Real life is different. To become a professional director, you need to study until you’re 25 years old. Then you need to work hard, maybe earning less than a fast food clerk. Probably even when you are 40 years old, you’ll share your
flat with someone you don’t know, because you won’t have the money for your own house. Let me tell you:
- You will never be the new Quentin Tarantino.
- You’ll be Mister Nobody without a family and a job, but with a lot of broken dreams.
Is that what you want? Do you think you’re better than the thousands of people who tried to be film directors and never made a real movie?
Producing microstock is the business of the future for those who love film.
With that, you can earn six-figures, or you can simply be a loser, as it happens in every business.
I am not talking only to teenagers who started taking pictures yesterday. I’m sure many old photographers can make a lot of money thanks to microstock. But there’s a common mistake they used to make: they think creating stock images is like creating other kinds of images for business. I know what happens:
- You searched something on Google.
- You clicked on one of my posts.
- You realize that my technique is worse than yours (and it’s true, believe me!).
- You found a screenshot of my earnings like this:
You feel excited, and you think:
Wow, I can make a lot of money with microstock if that dummy did it!
Sorry, my friend, let me tell you something you don’t want to hear:
You won’t make money; you’ll lose a lot of time.
I know it is not easy, but as a photographer with 20 years of shooting behind you, the best thing to do if you want to make money with your stock images is pressing Control-Alt-Delete.
Walking with the camera around your neck on a mountain trail and waiting for the right light combined with your excellent technique is useless in microstock because the goal of microstock is making money and there are no buyers who want to spend their budget on stock images of mountains. I say this with a heavy heart because I love to spend my days surrounded by silence and healthy air when I go on holiday. Probably I still can sell some image or footage of mountains, but I’m a businessman and I have to pay for travel expenses, for my equipment and for my time and $50 is not enough for a day of shooting.
Not all my readers are microstock newbies. Among those who already use microstock as a second job, some people say that they earn on selling landscapes on Shutterstock and other agencies. I’m sure they’re telling the truth, but the point is that I have to play the part of Donald Trump on “The Apprentice”, because:
I don’t want to sell you a dream.
If you put the money on the table and do the cost/benefit calculation, you’ll end up like a talented musician who plays guitar in front of the subway entrance all day, and maybe bring home ten euros coins still believing that he earned a living with dignity.
Just after I bought the Canon EOS 550d/Rebel T2i in 2010, I spent our filming flowers with a macro lens 100 meters from my house, just to understand the device and lens performances. Those videos are not perfect because perfection was not what I was looking for, but they were enough good to be accepted by the agencies and sell (short). I’m talking about $50 for:
- one hour of shooting
- one hour of editing
- one hour of keywording.
It is a figure that can make someone happy, whether it is a boy who is still living at home with his parents or a photographer with a store that over time has seen his work become a desert with no rain on the horizon. If you live those three hours the same way you live three hours walk or a bicycle ride on Sunday morning, happiness may be there. But if you are talking about business, those $50 are a failure.
If you test on the Pond5 search engine the words:
A lot of simple clips that have earned thousands of dollars appear. But it’s like the beautiful story of the child who kicked a ball in the playground and then one day will play in the Champions League. And you’ve got one more problem. The success of a clip over another one depends on:
- Buyers demand that subject (you can learn how to understand what it is in my course).
- The technical quality of filming.
- Agencies search engine (It’s ten years I’m studying how it works because it’s a secret).
Making money it’s not only about creativity, but it’s also more about math.
I shot this video in San Martino di Castrozza in 2010
In Italy, we have probably the best mountains and seas in the world. I filmed them many times when I started producing, but with a single “Arc de Triomphe” clip I’ve earned a lot more money.
My nature content didn’t sell simply because buyers don’t want to spend on that subject. Now I have a question for you:
Why are you filming microstock? Are you looking for a reason to go out of the home and you don’t care about money?
Then go and plan a trip to Thailand or the Rocky Mountains, but believe me you won’t even pay a single flight ticket with the royalties you’ll get. If photography and video making are a pleasure, like they are for me when I’m on holiday, go there and use your camera as a hobbyist who’s enjoying his time, not as a microstock producer that has to work 16 hours a day when filming far from home.
I am not saying that a single HD stock footage sale ($23.90 for the producer) on Shutterstock is impossible. I got a lot more money filming my cat in the basement of my house. But this is not the business you need. We are not YouTube partners who spend their days for making $50 a month. We are not kids celebrating for earning $10 with Google Adsense. We are Microstock producers, so we are entrepreneurs.