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In this episode I talk about:

  • A photography and video enthusiast who has just quit his job to open his own business
  • Some reasons other than money why producing microstock can change your life for the better
  • How much you earn from photo and video sales on iStockphoto
  • A contributor who grossed $55 from selling an image on Shutterstock
  • When you have to change your camera to earn more with microstock
  • Why agencies don't accept content created in Disney parks
  • Why it is not worth filming an event which has a registered trademark
  • How to take your video business to another level

From clerk to microstock producer

First of all, I want to tell you that I am delighted to have learned that you came back and sent us your fantastic and very useful contents regarding the world of microstock!

I am also writing to share my current situation with you.

After 14 years, I quit my job as a clerk and began my own business as a freelance photographer and video maker.

A few years ago, in one of the previous episodes of this podcast, I told you about my experience as an official photographer of the sports hall in my city. I asked you for advice about what was more convenient to produce in terms of content that could be uploaded to the various microstock agencies.

To date, my earnings are in excellent growth, having specialized in video production (as you suggested) and in advanced techniques of filming such as time-lapse and hyperlapse.

My freelance adventure started two months ago. Now I can devote much more time to planning the content to be created, and I must say that I am doing great.

Obviously, I want to clarify that I have achieved these results thanks to you and your course, and I wanted to send you this message to thank you.

Is it convenient to launch a business as a photographer and video maker?

Dear friends, we started this episode of the podcast with a message of hope and inspiration. It was written by Gianni Nitti, to whom all my support and admiration goes, because at a time when it seems to have become the rule to complain that things are bad and that no one helps us:

  1. he left his safe job
  2. he did what he liked

A very brave choice, because at the beginning, the work does not rain from the sky, and if the money does not come in at the end of the month, it becomes a big problem. But you only live once, and one cannot hope that tomorrow is always the perfect day to start working to achieve a better life.

You have to run toward what you want, and you have to do it now to avoid looking back one day and having only regrets.

So Gianni, you have all my support, and I'm also sure that of most of the listeners of this podcast as they didn't have the courage that you’ve had.

It would also be interesting to open a debate with you folks, starting with a trivial question:

Is it worthwhile to launch a business as a photographer or video maker today?

Let’s start with my answer: it depends on what you want to do, because the work of the photographer and video maker can be a thousand things. The more digital it is, the more opportunities you have to survive.

Microstock saves your life

Let me tell you something: If you start your own business today, microstock is useful, because when you start, the big problem is that you have no customers, and the problem of not having customers is not only about money. It is also about having nothing to keep your days busy. And you risk falling into the trap of doing useless things, starting with all the temptations of the internet.

Since microstock allows you to produce without a client, any photographer and video maker can commit his days full-time to produce stock images and stock footage from the first day of business, on the assumption that by doing so, the profits will arrive, even if not immediately.

And obviously, with microstock, you put your time into an activity which is the future, despite those who say that it is a dead business.

If you decide to sell stock images and stock footage online, you can learn all the things you need. Gianni is Italian like me, for example. In our country, we have the best food and wine products in the world, but we’re not good enough to sell them.

It’s not hard today to find customers by using the internet if you know what to do, thanks to the videos that you can publish on YouTube for free.

YouTube is a powerful tool to show how good your products are. Microstock can give you more opportunities to succeed with this strategy, because when I say "making videos on YouTube that explain the qualities of the food and wine products of Italy", I do not mean that you have to do local television-style commercials, something like in “Better Call Saul”:

  • the food is good
  • prices are cheap
  • the discount ends tomorrow

You have to create your videos starting from the searches that people make on Google. It is a complex matter, and I can't explain it in a podcast episode, but most of you can learn what to do and launch a project and make money.

I’ll talk about this at the end of the episode. Meanwhile, I really hope that my words can inspire you.

But remember this:

no tricks.

You need to study a lot, because your competitors are millions of people around the world. My podcast is here to teach you what to do. Even my course to tell, the truth, if want to invest a little money in your future.

How much do you earn for a sale on iStockphoto?

I close the trilogy of episodes on iStockhoto that began with the episode of my return with a message sent to me by Francesco Carniani, who is the contributor who inspired this unusual part of "Sell your photos and videos online", since iStockphoto has not been an agency worth focusing on for years as far as I'm concerned.

These are the words of Francesco:

In the last month, I haven't earned cents per sale as you suggested in the podcast, even with stock images.

Notice that I haven't uploaded any new content for 6 months and that I don't have a professional portfolio anyway, but iStock continues to give me a passive income.

Let's say that if I spend more time on microstock, it will be a completely different thing because my collection, at the moment, has the handbrake on. Those with high earnings in this business work every day on it without stopping, as I’m doing. Anyway, I repeat, if you are negative with Istock, you must be negative with Shutterstock and indeed with all agencies apart from Adobe Stock.

Thanks to Francesco, who also sent me his sales reports. I don’t publish it to protect his privacy. What I can make public is the most interesting information, which somewhat answers the question I asked myself last episode:

In the case of Francesco, the stock images range from 0.10 to 1.25 dollars per sale. For stock footage, from 0.15 to 6.18. In his case, his royalties range between 15% and 20%.

Another interesting fact is that in the sales reports, iStock also mentions the country of origin of the customer, which is an important piece of data for understanding the kind of photos to be produced in order to sell more.

Last month, Francesco sold in:

  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Japan
  • Brazil
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Canada
  • Louisiana, USA

That’s why I like microstock:

knowing that my photos and videos are used in Japan or Brazil gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Thanks, Francesco, for sharing this information.

Sell a photo for $50 on Shutterstock

The professional photographer Giulio Martino then writes to me. My quotes are usually from Italian contributors because the Italian version of this podcast has more listeners at the moment.

This is his message:

I am continuing to upload and sell on Shutterstock, and I occasionally have some major sales as well.

The last 10 sales on Shutterstock have had the following earnings:

  • 10.90
  • 0.11
  • 0.13
  • 55.94
  • 0.12
  • 0.38
  • 0.38
  • 2.60
  • 0.91
  • 0.91

I'll tell you the story of the sale of the $55.94 photo. A month ago, the Shutterstock staff contacted me and wrote that a customer had asked for the location of the photo in question. I replied by sending the coordinates using Google Maps.

After a month or so comes a sale of about $13, and a few days ago this one of $ 55.94. I don't know if it's connected; maybe I'll never know, but I really think it is.

Thanks, Giulio. Like Julius Caesar, that in Italy we call Giulio Cesare. Italian is a Latin language, but the original name was Julius Caesar in ancient Rome, so you’re right and we are wrong.

By the way, this is the photo:

You can also watch it on my YouTube Channel, if you decide to watch the video version. It’s a great photo of a frozen lake in the Alps.

Yes, I also believe that the Shutterstock contact is related to the $55 sale, because Shutterstock does a personalized search service for their best customers who used to buy extended licenses.

I happened to hear a similar story from another contributor who earned $750 with a single photo sale on Shutterstock (read this story), confirming that in the long run, if the photographer or video maker knows how to do their job, selling stock images and stock footage always pays.

Dear friends, if you have other stories like this, please send them to me, so you can help spread knowledge and give new ideas to other producers who, in a huge market like microstock, you should not consider your competitors, but simply actors of a business that together we can help grow for the well-being of ourselves and of the world.

Questions from listeners

Do you think the Fuji XT2 is more suitable for video than the Canon Eos 5D Mark IV that I have? Having only the 23 mm lens, should I also buy a 16-55, which is more versatile?

When it is convenient to change cameras to produce microstock

I do not like answering questions about equipment, because I believe a new camera will never make you turn in sales. This is a bit like what I say in my course, which, as frequently happens to me, I was just updating before going on the air with the podcast.

Updates are always free for those who bought it in the past, buy it today or buy it in the future.

That said, the reason I want to share this question in the podcast is that the Fuji XT2 has the great advantage of shooting footage in 4K. Today, there is less competition with 4K video, and the individual clips are paid much more than Full HD, so it is worthwhile to ride the wave.

If, as I understand, dear friend, you only have a 23mm lens, it actually becomes too limiting when framing and you should switch to a zoom.

I also work with an APS-c sensor camera. I have a 17-40 mm lens, and I am fine with it. So the 16-55 you are suggesting is a solution that gives you versatility when framing.

The release for people you shoot on the street

Hi, Daniele. I started a couple of months ago with microstock, but until now I have only been uploading a few photos to some sites. After finding your website, I have decided that I want to try to make videos too, even if I still don't understand how to do it!

However, that's not what I wanted to ask you.

Among the photos I sent to microstocks, many were rejected for the "missing release". I also ask you this question because, with videos, it is very difficult not to shoot someone recognizable, and asking for releases to strangers seems impossible to me.

How do you upload stock footage without the releases? Should they be marked as editorials? Do you have any method to ensure that brands and faces are not portrayed?

I have tons of Disneyland images: Is there any agency that accepts them?

Thank you so much for your help!

I go step by step: Yes, you have to upload the videos as editorial if there are any recognizable brands or people.

I have already talked about this many times; you can find an in-depth guide linked in the text of the podcast.

It is not worth it to digitally delete elements that are protected by copyright or recognizable people, because with videos it is very complicated to do so and you can ruin the footage.

As for the Disney Parks, Shutterstock will surely reject your content, even if you upload it as editorials. Same thing goes for Adobe Stock, which currently does not accept editorial photos and videos from regular contributors.

As for the other microstocks you have to try from agency to agency. With my historical stock footage set there, Pond5 didn't give me any problems.

The secrets of microstock algorithms

Thank you for the lesson of your course on agency search engines; it was very useful. But who can know the secrets of algorithms? They can be deduced empirically, but also by making big blunders.

Shutterstock has two categories. Didn't you say that over time, the categories would be removed? This is not a criticism but only to say that "who knows what games they play?"

Search engine algorithms are secret, starting with Google's. But tens of thousands of SEO, or search engine optimization, experts work to study them.

Many of these professionals are, let’s say, wise guys who only try to make money. But others do their job and produce real earnings for those who hire them.

Being on top of the rankings for keywords searched by thousands of people means making a lot of money, whether it's Google or a microstock agency.

Thinking that the ranking is only a matter of luck is just an excuse for those who do not understand the subject and therefore say it’s all luck and conspiracy theories. You don’t want to be like that.

As for Shutterstock, it's true: it keeps categories alive. Other agencies, such as Pond5, haven't had them for some time.

I confirm that, in my opinion, they are not a fundamental element in ranking; at least they are less important than titles and keywords.

Try to test how difficult it is for a potential customer to search by categories on Shutterstock itself. As it’s almost impossible, it means that the agency gives less and less importance to this type of search and consequently fewer and fewer sales are affected by it.

How difficult it is to film a copyrighted event

A clarification regarding the last episode, especially on the Ironman, an event we talked about in relation to a listener's question. I start with another listener's message and then open an argument that I would like to share with you, dear friends who are always looking for new opportunities.

Mirko Votta wrote:

Filming the Ironman

Hi, Daniele. I was listening to your latest podcast. As a triathlete, I confirm that Ironman is a registered brand (multimillionaire with over 55 events organized around the world) that was purchased a few years ago by a group called Advance.

In triathlon events (even non-Ironman branded), there are always professional photographers who purchase the rights to use images of the athletes (In the days after the race, we are always sent an email with the possibility of purchasing one or more photos).

Thanks to Mirko for writing. I wanted to quote this message for 3 reasons.

The first is precisely to thank all those who send these kinds of emails to me, because I strongly believe in sharing.

The second is that what Mirko says confirms for us that creating stock images and stock footage of such events is a problem, because brands are legally protected and agencies tend to discard the contents created in those contexts to avoid being sued.

Ironman is an important and powerful event. But by analogy, some agencies also reject stock images and stock footage created at small country festivals: this is a quote of a real fact reported to me by a listener some time ago.

In other words, look for different situations to produce.

Why microstock must be your starting point

Thirdly, and here I open the reasoning that I told you, yes, we’re about to talk about money.

Like Mirko said, the Ironman brand is worth millions of euros, and it must be a good reason for you to launch your products, make them grow thanks to the production of photos and, above all, videos, because today you can do it without the need for very high budgets. So everyone can.

Think about what I do, for example. With this podcast, I try to prove my competence in a specific field—that is, microstock. I do it not only with this show, but also with the videos I publish on my YouTube channel and with the guides on my microstockguru.com.

To make money with my project, I have paid products on the same topic: microstock. I sell:

  • my course
  • my book
  • the service I launched for the description with titles and keywords of the stock images and the stock footage of other contributors

Your product, if you don't already have it in your mind, can simply be your expertise in a particular sector, be that a hobby or a business.

The best way to prove how good you are is to start with free disclosure, whether it’s through a podcast, a YouTube channel or a website. After having achieved a base of people who understand that you know what you teach, you have to sell the best part of your expertise through courses, books or consultancy.

There are people who do it for all kinds of skills:

  • fitness
  • tax advice
  • bonsai care
  • diets
  • manga
  • gardening

In any sector, there are people ready to pay to find someone who explains things to them.

Or if you don't want to sell your knowledge, you can sell a physical product, either something that you own or that of someone who has it and whom you trust. Or you can sell, like the creators of Ironman did, an idea—in that case, an event.

With the internet, you can start by spending less than a month’s rent for a physical shop: a good web host costs you 150 euros a year, the YouTube channel is free, and the equipment and software to broadcast a podcast costs two hundred euros. If you are good and you want to invest your time in your idea, you can grow it slowly and then live by doing what you like. This way, you might one day earn a lot of money. And your starting point will be creating photos and videos, just like what you do with microstock.

Take this opportunity as soon as possible; otherwise, you will always postpone things.

Study what the great entrepreneurs of this era did: Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk.

Read books like 48-Hour Start-up. Listen to business podcasts. Take an online course on Udemy.

Do not waste your time on online news and stop being disturbed by push notifications from Whatsapp, social networks and the weather.

In a year, I hope that some of you, a bit like the listener I mentioned at the beginning, will write to me to say thank you for having given you some good ideas to change and improve your life.

Having said this little big thing, dear friends, even the 16th episode of “Sell Your Photos and Videos Online” ends here, and I remind you that in life, the important thing is not to have fun, but to be happy.