I bought my first camera in 1995 after a summer of hard work as a carpenter during school vacations. I was 18 years old, and everything started there: a noisy factory where I sweat to earn money to buy what I needed to make my dreams come true and become a film director.
This is me in 1998 while I was shooting a short film in my hometown.
I’ve always loved to travel. Since 2006 stock images and stock footage have become the perfect way to film and visit places. There are two ways to do that:
- Shoot like a tourist
- Travel like a filmmaker/photographer
In the first scenario, you can do whatever you want to, and that’s what most camera owners you meet around cities landmarks do. There are no rules to follow:
- No plans
- no techniques
- no tripods
- wake up late
- leave the camera in the hotel at night….
I love to be a tourist, but that freedom does not pay my bills (and nor my flight tickets).
The second scenario is what I need to be a professional producer for microstock agencies, as I am today.
Like Dexter, I have a code.
That’s why I have to work with rules. When I film a city I’m far from my home, and probably I spent a lot of money to be there, so I don’t have to waste my time. I just have to create the most profitable stock images and stock footage I can. To do that, I’ll tell you
the six secrets you don’t know to produce stock images and stock footage in cities.
Of course, there are a lot of other rules to follow, because being a professional producer for microstock means having the chance to make a lot of money, and all the people in the world want to make money. There’s a lot of competition. If it was easy, everyone would do it. I spent few lessons of my course to teach what I’ve learned in all these years, but now just focus on six simple suggestions, you probably don’t already know.
Everything that goes beyond those recommendations depends:
- (mainly) your ability to know what the market wants
- (secondary) your technical quality.
These two things require months of study, and it would be hypocritical for me to teach them in a few paragraphs (at the most you can get familiar with certain rules through the exclusive content that I send to those who sign up to my newsletter).
RULE 1: tripod is not allowed as a handbag during your flight, at least in Europe. If you travel with low-cost airlines, like Ryanair or Easyjet, you need to pay an extra fee for it. A lot of airports are not so strict, but my suggestion is to avoid starting the trip with the anger resulting from an argument with the security guard, and with the concern of wasting time to buy another one once you arrive at your destination.
RULE 2: book a hotel downtown, even if it is more expensive. To reach touristic places, which are the most profitable to film, you need to be fast, and you can’t lose hours of your precious time inside the underground because that means you won’t be able to shoot subjects which can pay you the price you paid for the hotel.
RULE 3: in tourist guides, it is hard to find certain information, but there is a reason why hotels are cheaper in Paris near the Gare du Nord, as well as in Paddington in London or Anderlecht in Brussels. To understand the quality of the place, you will stay I recommend using the reviews found on Booking, which is more reliable compared to Tripadvisor, because to leave feedback there you must indeed have been in the place, not just declare that you have.
RULE 4: book your flight two days in advance: there are no reliable weather forecasts for more than five days in advance. This will make you spend much more, but filming with the sun produces royalties, filming with the rain produces headaches and anger.
RULE 5: always buy a one-day ticket for public transportation, which will save you a lot of money, since to make profitable stock images and stock footage you need just:
- three shots per subject
- move to the next stop!
Remember: working is not like being a tourist!
RULE 6: create a schedule at home, something like:
- 8:00 Brandenburg Gate
- 9:00 Gendarmenmarkt
- 9:45 Potsdamer Platz.
Adapt yourself to unexpected events using your brain. React to sudden rain finding indoors places that are interesting to shoot to make money:
- A mall
- a museum
- a place full of people.
Do not just find a porch and wait for the sun to return. Every hour you spend in the city costs you money, you need to find the best way to get that money back.
Now you’re ready to book. In more than ten years of production, I made so many mistakes that, if I just followed these six simple tips, I would earn a lot more money today. In the beginning, it was a completely different market since we were just a few contributors and many mistakes were forgiven by an industry where buyers grew faster than producers (good old days!). Today, stock footage and stock images must be perfect to sell; otherwise, you will not earn money, so you’d better visit the city like a tourist.
I know how you feel now. You’re sorry because you never thought about what I told you before leaving for your trips. Maybe stock images and stock footage were just something you heard about, but you never focused on them. You’re wondering how better your life could be if you started producing stunning content for microstock many years ago. Ok, this is the past, and nobody can change it. Now, think about your future:
Start being a producer today: follow the temptations that an article like this gives you because if you do not, you will risk to stay home and have a quiet life instead of living.