I started this blog in 2015. I believe that at least 9 out of 10 stock image and footage producers I was talking to in that first year have now abandoned microstock.
This is how the web works: there are so many opportunities and distractions that it is very easy to lose enthusiasm for something and devote your time to something else.
On the other hand, there are professional photographers who, when I started to teach others all my secrets in this business, looked at me with anger, because to them, my teachings were responsible for the change for the worse that the professional photography business was going through. Today many of them have changed their minds, because they have realized that microstock has nothing to do with the fact that customers are less and less willing to buy images and videos.
If you approach the business with an up to date mindset, selling stock images and stock footage is one of those things that can allow professionals to make their work survive. Like Andrea Delbò did (read his interview). And like him, many others who, instead of complaining and blaming others for their problems, have rolled up their sleeves and have changed their business and live better.
The story I am telling you today is not that of a full-time photographer who at some point throws himself body and soul into microstock. It is that of one of those who started producing stock images and stock footage as a second job and at some point was almost forced to make it their main business.
A bit like what happened to me so many years ago. Now I'm at a more advanced stage of the business. But I will talk about this on other pages of this site.
Who wrote the introduction
My name is Daniele Carrer, and for several years I have taught photographers and video makers how to sell their photos and videos online in microstocks.
I do it thanks to my podcast, my course, my book and by telling the stories of some producers who have achieved impressive results by selling stock images and stock footage.
Who is the producer who tells his story
Marco Cirone is a photography and video shooting enthusiast who in recent years has started selling his images and videos online.
After losing his main job, he managed to make microstock a full-time profession, not just by producing content. The following is his story.
My name is Marco Cirone. For many years, I worked as a flight attendant for an airline that operated long-haul routes. Then it went out of business, and today I make a living from microstock.
The discovery of microstock
A few years ago I started to get passionate about video shooting: a world unknown until then and totally different from photography, which was another passion I had.
I was looking on the web for clear tutorials produced by people with a good reputation: the name of Daniele Carrer was recurring.
Thanks to him and his course (see what it is), I learned to:
- post produce
- sell my images and footage online
The initial difficulties
So in 2018, I entered the world of microstock, especially that of stock footage.
As Daniele had predicted, the first few months I sold nothing, suffering the frustration of the long wait for the first earnings. After about seven months, however, someone bought one of my videos on Storyblocks (read the agency profile).
Soon after, there was a second sale on Shutterstock (read the guide about the agency) and a few others in the following months on various microstocks, including Pond5 (read the guide about the agency).
In March 2019, my first year in the microstock world ended: 18 sales for a total income of about $300. Enough to understand that I liked that business and needed to sharpen the weapons I had thanks to data analyses and perseverance.
Losing a job and becoming a full-time microstock contributor
At that time, I was a flight attendant, but then things changed.
In 2020, the airline I worked for went into liquidation, and I lost my job, along with 1400 colleagues.
Before that moment, I was also working as a photographer for my airline; many of the images they used to advertise travel destinations were mine. I was proud of this, but when they closed, even that job ended, along with my hopes to continue being a flight attendant, after 25 years of an honorable career.
Microstock has therefore become my main activity.
I became a professional videographer:
- stock footage producer
- metadata keywording professional
I can say I’m a professional because I use the tools I learned on Daniele's course for my job:
- I search for new sources for learning constantly
- I try to understand new shooting techniques
- I use market analysis tools
- I make connections with people who do my same job and with whom I collaborate on video projects
But it wasn't enough for me. That's why, in the end, I also started to teach others what I learned through:
- a course
- a YouTube channel
- a blog
I invent and reinvent myself through all of this:
Microstock and stock footage were just a starting point for me.
The revolution in streaming platforms, due to technology and Covid-19, has made the sale of online video a business with enormous potential. Never before has there been so much demand for video content as in this period, and technology lets everyone sell their footage to those who need it for:
- TV series
- social networks (creating vertical format movies is imperative today)
I have become a stock footage professional, although I always feel like a newcomer.
After uploading my clips to various agencies for months, I began to tire of being at the mercy of their policies.
Writing descriptions and keywords had become a huge job. It took too much time from me.
The amount of microstock on which I used to sell was consistent since I was also using less important ones, such as the Japanese Pixta (visit their site).
Using BlackBox for microstock
At one point I pulled all my videos and photos from microstocks and started my career on Blackbox, a stock footage platform that allows producers, editors, and title and keyword writers to meet and split the earnings that the videos sold in microstocks generate.
I have been using this service for 3 years now. BlackBox is the best platform of its kind, although there are others. Some are even quite innovative, such as wirestock.io, which uses artificial intelligence for keyword analysis. But Blackbox is bigger and better.
How BlackBox works
I pay the platform 15% of the gross of each sale, but what I get back in return is far greater. First of all, I have become part of their community on Facebook, made of thousands of professionals in the business of:
- video productions
I established collaborations with some of them, not only in the stock footage industry.
On BlackBox, I have the chance to work as a metadata curator (a person who writes titles and keywords) for other producers.
Actually, I am lucky enough to have a wife who is a keywording consultant. Her name is Alessandra Agri (email@example.com) and I owe my current skills to her.
The analysis and research of keywords comes from a set of knowledge that is acquired over time, like the use of complex and little known tools for search engine optimization (SEO). It’s not easy: some strategies involve the use of misspelled, grammatically incorrect words.
Keywording is a job requiring a lot of patience. It's not a copy and paste job, which is the shortest way to end up on the last page of results. For stock footage, if you want to make money, you will need to appear at the top of searches, and the strategy to do so requires study and work.
The cons of BlackBox
To tell the truth, the first experience I had with BlackBox was quite bad. I had found several inconsistencies and things that bothered me, such as:
- not being able to change your keywords once uploaded
- the ban on deleting a video unless previously allowed
BlackBox was something potentially useful, perhaps the solution I was looking for, but I really couldn't stand many things, and therefore, I had abandoned the idea of being part of their community.
Months later, I reconsidered it and, tired of wasting so much time with agencies, I decided to use BlackBox.
Thanks to BlackBox, today I can say that:
- Some of my clips were used in an American movie that will be out shortly
- I have met people who share my passion for filming from all over the world
- I have had the opportunity to work with videographers in the fashion industry.
BlackBox allows uploading to 4 agencies (Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5 and Vimeo Stock) in a single click. You pay 15 percent gross of each sale, but through BlackBox, we sell something almost every day: myself as a content creator and my wife as a keyworder.
I also give her a hand with keywords when there is a lot of work. Sometimes it happens to have hundreds of videos queued. But she is now a metadata machine: she produces keywords even when she talks to people. Once in front of a wonderful view here on Lake Maggiore, she looks at me and says:
Marco, what do you think of stock footage of this panorama with that sailing boat in vertical format for social media?
BlackBox opens up many possibilities for those who want to do things right and seriously.
The results achieved on BlackBox
Today on BlackBox we have reached 14,000 clips. We ask for 25% on each sale (the standard rate provided by BlackBox is 20%, but by being part of a list of recommended curators we can ask for more).
Whoever entrusts us with their stock footage must give us high quality videos:
- fluid movements
- perfect editing
Otherwise, it's just a waste of time.
We earn $5 or $6 net for each sale, more for extended licenses.
Thanks to the experience gained with BlackBox, we are working on the description of content even outside the platform. We ask for 2 euros per clip, because professionalism should be paid a fair price.
Our keywording work involves writing at least 49 keywords. We use tools that scan the market and find the most trendy keywords, and the results are sometimes surprising.
We have discovered that in the last few months, there are a lot of customers looking for the keyword "horizontal". This is because there is awareness among those who buy that the vertical footage is in great demand and consequently it is ranked high in the results shown by the agencies. So customers sometimes decide to see (or not to see) vertical clips among the results that they want to see.
This is my job today. I am no longer a flight attendant and have become a content creator for the stock footage industry. I write keywords for others, and I am a videographer. With this, I support my family.
From producer to teacher
Daniele Carrer has been my mentor and guide, helping me to become a contributor in the microstock business, and I will never stop thanking him. Whenever I can, I tell people who may be interested in selling stock images and stock footage to go buy his course.
I too have created a course on Skillshare, a platform that gives access to various types of lessons. The course is called Stock Footage From Learning To Earning. It explains what to do to sell more, including how to be part of BlackBox, to which 4 of the 24 lessons are dedicated.
I also founded a blog. Between my course, writing keywords, producing new stock footage and videos for my YouTube channel, at a certain point I didn't have time to live peacefully. So, instead of selling the course directly, I published it on Skillshare to save time: I gave up on some earnings, but that's okay for now.
Marco Cirone - firstname.lastname@example.org