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Do you have your hard discs full of stock images and stock footage that you could make an income from, but you don't have the time and desire to describe them?

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In this episode I talk about:

  • a professional photographer that has become a stock footage contributor
  • iStockphoto and the kind of stock images that sells on it
  • EyeEm that reshapes the royalties it pays to photographers and video makers
  • a contributor who tried BlackBox as an editor
  • how to create model releases efficiently
  • why microstock is a passive income
  • when it's convenient to create stock footage with a fluid head tripod
  • how to shoot an Ironman event
  • why the photography business is changing
  • selling your photos directly on Arcadina

From professional photographer to microstock contributor

Hi, Daniele. After a long absence, I saw you published a new episode of the podcast, and I was very pleased to listen to your advice again.

I wanted to thank you because, despite not having bought your course, I found all your content to be very interesting.You opened my eyes to a world I did not know, that of stock images first and stock footage later.

I have always worked as a professional photographer in the journalistic and commercial field (I am an official Martini photographer in Milan) and have collaborated with press agencies in fashion, entertainment and television.

I would never have sold a photo for 0.10 dollars, having far better-paid job offers: at least that's what I thought until 5 years ago.

Then various things happened:

  • the progressive deterioration of the publishing business
  • he growth of social networks and bloggers
  • the desire to do new things such as creating video.

All this led me to reconsider my job and the possibilities that would have opened if I had tried to use my large photographic archive made over 15 years of work: Thousands of photos of famous people, from politics to sports and entertainment as well as a large archive of photos shot in my many travels around the world.

So I opened my Shutterstock profile, thanks to your advice. I have listened to many of your podcasts and learned a lot of information about this new world. Then I combined my new knowledge with the professionalism and experience I already had: as a journalist, I can read news and translate it into images.

The first three years, I only uploaded photos, reaching steady earnings of only 200 euros per month.

Then I moved on to the video, of which I was a newbie, despite having good knowledge of the photographic field.

$4200 earned with a single video

Thanks to the lockdown and an interesting subject like a child by my side, I started boosting my earnings, and I uploaded my work to various microstocks.

One video gave me great satisfaction, and having sold it right away gave me the enthusiasm to continue quickly towards the growth of my portfolio.

It is my son, and I filmed from inside the house, playing football on the balcony with a mask.

On Shutterstock alone, it has sold to date for 4200 € (I am attaching a screenshot).

It has been more than a year now that I have been focusing mainly on stock footage. I have only kept some of my previous work, and I dedicate a lot of my time to this new business with great enthusiasm. I really like being free to choose what to shoot and take the camera with me in the many situations I live in. It is becoming a continuous work, and I hope it will consolidate more and more.

A monument to the microstock business

We started with a microstock monument.

I don't comment that much, simply because Andrea Delbò:

the producer who wrote me the message, was very clear.

To the next skeptic contributor who writes to me saying that he does not earn anything with stock images and stock footage, I will answer:

Study, work hard, do not believe in magic formulas and read what Andrea wrote, because what he says includes all the elements that can convince photographers and video makers to start also selling their content online:

  1. The fact that Andrea—a male name in Italian—is a professional used to working on important sets and not someone who hopes to go viral

  2. The fact that he initially did not get excellent results until he figured out that he had to devote himself to footage

  3. The fact that it is crystal clear that one cannot hope to continue to be a photographer with the mindset he used even just 5 years ago

  4. The element that more than any other can convince people: 4200 dollars earned for a 8-second video shot on the terrace of his house

And now you argue, flat-earthers of microstock.

Andrea's story is so interesting that soon you will read an interview with him on my site, so I thank him for sharing his story and his advice to other producers.

In addition, I have to say a few more thanks, since the previous episode was that of the restart. I also want to thank all the listeners who wrote to me to testify that they were happy with my return.

iStockphoto and its detractors

About what also happened in the last episode: the most debated topic was the actual convenience of iStockphoto.

I have to start by mentioning that the positive comment on the sales generated by that agency was from an old friend of the Italian version of my podcast. His name is Francesco Carniani (read his guide on shooting models), who lives in one of the most beautiful cities in the world—Florence.

For those who missed it, he said that Istockphoto, an agency that many of us, including me, say is dead, actually sells.

The production of Francesco is focused on

  • time-lapses from night to day
  • lifestyle content

so I imagine that the reason for his appreciation is mainly linked to the fact that the sales results he obtains are because iStockphoto is an agency that sells high value content. This is one of the reasons why I don’t understand why it sells photos and videos for very cheap prices, thanks to its subscriptions.

Suggestions on how to create trendy stock footage

Then our friend gave us some ideas for some interesting subjects, particularly of the professions that, according to him, will go more and more online. He mentioned:

  • doctors
  • cooks
  • hairdressers

but it would be interesting not to stop there, since the world is going that way.

As contributors, you must remember that by anticipating the trends with your stock images and stock footage, you could win the lottery of microstock.

Nothing can stop what is happening. Think about it:

what's the point of going to a lawyer in person? If I have to get advice from a professional why do I have to limit myself to choosing him in the area where I live?

If we forget:

  • to go to the bank to withdraw money
  • to go to the post office to send a package or pay the bills

almost everything will eventually be able to be accomplished online.

As producers, we should find a creative way to identify the professions when we produce, because an important thing about microstock is that whoever looks at the photo or video must understand in an instant the concept we want to represent.

It’s not like in art where you have to think what the artist wants to express:

you need to be very clear.

EyeEm reshapes the percentages to contributors

A listener tells me that EyeEm, a Berlin agency that sells photos (I should say a FEW photos) has reshaped the royalties it pays by introducing a tiered system, not very different from that of Shutterstock.

If you are watching me on YouTube, you are watching these new percentages.

If you are just listening to me on the podcast, know that they range from 25% for those who have grossed $300 in the previous 12 months to 55% for those who have grossed more than $7,000.

You can find the link to the page where they show this new structure in the text of the podcast, also because it is a bit digged on the EyeEm site (guess why … ):


My comment is that, although the percentages are much better than those of other agencies, cashing in over $300 on EyeEm is like cashing in over $20,000 on Shutterstock. So be careful to evaluate the thing by contextualizing it to the market, because there are:

  • microstocks that sell well
  • microstocks that sell 10 times less
  • microstocks that sell nothing.

There are also microstocks that allow you to earn 100% of what customers pay. Their business plan is asking photographers for a subscription of $100 a year to essentially create your own agency. The problem is that customers will never learn about that agency of yours, so you would not sell anything, for a simple mathematical rule:

a number multiplied by zero is always zero.

Thanks to the listener who told me about the new EyeEm royalty system and thanks to all those who report interesting news from the world of microstock.

BlackBox describes your content: Is it worth it?

Speaking of stories that people have sent me in recent months—I have selected one from another listener of my podcast in Italian. His name is Alessandro Mancuso, and he is a non-professional Tuscan photographer and video maker.

I mention his story because it tells us about a service used by many microstock producers called BlackBox. This service allows those who do not have the time and desire to describe their videos to sell them anyway.

We’ll talk about it in depth after his message. Meanwhile, here’s what Alessandro says:

I wanted to write to you about a "new" project that I decided to run: being a curator on BlackBox.

I know you don’t think anything good about that service or Uncle Pat.

For me, it is a parallel activity to that of direct contributor to agencies. It intrigues me a lot because I am seeing that many people have remarkable earnings already after a month; at least, they say so. Since I have learned how to describe content, thanks to you, now I want to try doing it on BlackBox for 2-3 months and see how it goes. I take it as a way to diversify and find new motivation for my personal production.

I wouldn't have sold 37 videos (and about 220 stock images) in less than a year if I hadn't been able to put your teachings into practice.

Surely, those who give their content to BlackBox are better ranked by placing it in a portfolio that has almost 2 million clips online. A really annoying thing about this platform is not being able to have control over the clips, nor edit / delete them after they go online.

Through their marketplace, you can also find users looking for a curator. Presenting myself with the results I have obtained in recent months, I have already found two people who have entrusted me with almost 150 clips.

I even invested in a new camera body with a lens for a friend who has been trying to be an actor / director here in Florence and who can access and shoot.

This friend of mine had work problems during the pandemic, and he is still struggling to find a new job. I offered him this opportunity, and he jumped in. Fortunately, there are still people who want to do and learn.

He sends me the clips online. I edit and and describe them through Blackbox, and if we sell, we split the earnings.

For him, it's a good way to start with microstock, and for me, it’s a way to diversify and practice with SEO (search engine optimization).

I've already told him that when he gains some experience with stock footage, he'll want to become a direct contributor to agencies.

Thanks, Alessandro.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who spend their time on social networks and those who work hard to change their life. Alessandro and his friend do not lack the desire to improve every single day. So guys, always count on my help if you need advice.

That said, BlackBox is an online service that basically works this way. If you have shot videos and you don't want to transform them into stock footage with editing software, and you don’t like to write their titles and keywords, you can find someone on BlackBox who does it for you.

The stock images or stock footage will be uploaded to the BlackBox account in the various microstocks. When that stock footage is sold, there is:

  • a percentage that remains with the agency
  • a percentage that goes to BlackBox
  • a percentage that goes to whoever did the editing
  • a percentage to whoever described the content
  • a percentage that goes to you who shot the video.

Normally, on Shutterstock, with the stock footage that you have entirely created and described, you earn from 15 to 40% of the price paid by the customer; the rest goes to Shutterstock. With BlackBox, these percentages are lowered a lot.

Of course, BlackBox has a portfolio of 2 million contents, so it is very likely that the percentage from which you start calculating the part that belongs to you on Shutterstock is more towards 40% of the selling price than 15%.

In short, dear friends, there is plenty to reflect on. Even if you are not a producer, you can make money with Black Box by proposing yourself as an editor or as someone who writes titles and keywords.

Make your choices and thank Alessandro, who gave you a lot of interesting ideas.

The listeners' questions

Hi, Daniele. I bought your course a few weeks ago, and I’m focusing on shooting photos and videos of people. In the course, you don’t talk much about releases. Each site has its own. Do you have any suggestions to save time?

How to fill model releases of photos more efficiently

You are right, but I am working to fill this gap as soon as possible, and I will probably make a new lesson about it even before the episode is published.

Working with people today is the best way to earn in microstock, because, as I say in my course, there is less competition, and if you know how to create content in line with what the market wants, it will be easier to start earning.

I am aware that filling out releases is a big hassle and a big waste of time, and using apps like Easy Release is the best way to be more efficient, I say this for those who do not know: Easy Release is used to fill in a single release that is then accepted by all microstocks.

I will take this opportunity to tell you something that you cannot find written anywhere and it must be said in a low voice: I have a friend who creates content in different contexts. Most agencies, as you know, ask you for a small description of the clip in the release. This friend of mine has noticed that if he always keeps the same description, even if the subject does very different things, the agencies do not give him any problems.

With this, I do not want to tell you to do like him, but you should consider that the model release is a small formality that agencies ask you for legal reasons, but many reviewers, once verified that it is there and that it is signed, do not even look at it.

So even if you were not 100% accurate in filling it, you should not have any change on the acceptance rate.

The passive income and the sale of stock images and stock footage

You have said several times that a passive income can last for life. So does this mean that selling a single video to a single person brings income constantly or does it mean that to have a constant passive income you have to be able to sell the video endless times to endless different people?

The microstock earnings are a passive income. If you stop producing, you still make money, but not forever, because earnings decline if you don’t publish new content. You can sell the same stock images or the same stock footage to different customers over time.

So the secret of this passive income is not to sell the same video to the same customer multiple times (which does not happen since you sell to that customer once a license that allows a very wide use), but to sell that same video or photo to many customers.

Shooting static or dynamic videos with a fluid head?

I saw that in all the examples you brought, the videos are static. Does this mean that the camera movements, even if well done with a tripod and fluid head, are not salable?

My friend, I too have a fluid head for my tripod. When I was producing contemporary footage, there was a time when I was focusing on panoramic shots. Then I gave up, because being that head was a light head, there were imperfections that in some cases forced me to delete the video.

At that point, I had two possible choices:

  1. The first option was to buy a better head. But it was not just a matter of money, as the real problem was that it was heavier.
  2. The second option was to set aside the idea of creating panoramic shots.

I opted for the second one, because if I had worked with a heavier head, having specialized in the shooting of European capitals, I would have had to produce less, since that head is more difficult to carry.

For my working method and for the type of subjects I wanted, I opted to abandon panoramic shots, and the sales confirmed that I was right.

You may not believe it, but microstock is often a matter of quantity, not of quality.

Filming an Ironman event to shoot stock images and stock footage

In order to produce content for microstock I would like to take advantage of an event to be held shortly in the city where I live.

It's a so-called Ironman: a competition where people run, swim and ride a bicycle.

In your opinion, can the event be a good situation for creating stock images? If so, what approach should I take to shoot salable photos? Could the event brand be a problem?

I broaden the vision a bit.

If you want to go there to practice because you’re a newbie of microstock, the person who runs can be a good subject if you shoot him or her with the microstock producer mindset, not like photojournalists do.

So, it’s better if you don't shoot people in the face. Focus on details, and work with a wide-open aperture to avoid problems with the releases.

The microstock buyer doesn’t want the photo of that event, in that place, that day. He wants a photo of someone who runs and keeps fit. So, it’s easy to have copyright problems if you don’t pay attention, even by selecting the editorial license.

By not paying attention, you can easily frame the logo of the shoes or the sponsor of the event. Remember that even a person shot from behind can be easily considered identifiable by the reviewers. So let’s say you can go there to take some tests and practice.

Let me give you some advice. Why don’t you find a friend who likes to run?

Hire him for a couple of hours and record videos (rather than photos) while he’s doing activities. You would be much more successful in sales, and if you get the release signed, you would have no problem with licensing.

One more thing about the message I read at the beginning, which is a message of hope.

On the contrary, the professional photography business is experiencing a bad moment. Most of the dialogues I have had in recent months, thanks to microstockguru.com, have been with professionals who are very worried about what has happened and, more than that, what will happen. I wanted to share with you an opinion about the business of the photographer or video producer today.

The problem of many professionals who approach microstock is that they apply the mindset of offline work to a digital business. As a result, they do nothing and start thinking that digital business is a scam.

You must always look at things from a broader perspective. Being a microstock producer has a lot of advantages, and not just economical. It’s not just a matter of money. It’s very important to keep yourself busy when other work is slow.

With the lockdown, many photographers have come to the brink of bankruptcy, like those specializing in weddings. However, as we leave the virus behind us, don’t ever think that things will return to 2019. Forget about it.

The biggest problem, in addition to the lack of work and income, is also linked to the fact that when you have to fill your working days because you have no customers, you have two options:

  1. The most difficult—You start studying to understand how to get out of it, and maybe at the same time, you start digital businesses like microstock, where to produce, you don't need a customer to commission your work.
  2. The easiest—You go on social networks in search of someone with your own problems, and you find a scapegoat: taxes, the government, multinational companies, Amazon, your neighbor.

The problem most of the time is YOU, not them.

What I can tell you, dear friends, is that if you take the path of hating someone, regardless of whether you are right or not, because I also know that there are people who have so many faults in this world, you will get just more angry and sad without solving any of your problems.

Remember this when you see a social network icon on your smartphone.

Selling stock images on Arcadina

I continue this last part of the podcast with a question / report that a listener sent me about a site we have never talked about before: arcadina.com.

This is his message:

I wanted to ask you for advice. I would like to open my site on Arcadina.

Do you know it?

There is the opportunity to sell your photos as digital files. I have strong doubts about how to manage my portfolio, into how many and which categories.

What would you advise me to do?

I gladly answer the listener's question, but I do it by going beyond what he asks me, because I believe that many photographers get their evaluations wrong on this matter, again for the same reason, that is, they mistake the internet business for traditional business. All the opportunities of this era are lost on this mistake.

I did not know Arcadina. After our friend's question, I went to see what they do and I found nothing new. You can go to Arcadina and create your own site, maybe to sell photos.

Dear listener, thanks for writing, but there’s something I think you have not considered. The moment you put your photos on a microstock, like Shutterstock, you find buyers, first of all, because that agency worked and spent resources to find buyers. And they are much better than you or than a small project like Arcadina.

If you or I publish a site of our own, whether it is created in WordPress at a low cost or we use platforms where everything is already done, the problem is that people do not come to that site. So you end up not having customers.

It's not like in the 70s when it was enough to open a shop on the street and people would come in anyway. There are billions of websites, and when we surf the internet, we are one click away from them and therefore will never arrive on your site.

Etsy is better than Arcadina

Etsy is a project similar to Arcadina, but far better.

By the way, I told the story of a producer friend of mine who sells on Etsy:


As you can read in his guide, of course, there is no guaranteed formula for earning. Only a lot of effort. I know the main reason why people fail:

because most of those who find a new project start with a lot of enthusiasm, and after a month, they stop updating their content when they discover that making money is not easy, so they don't sell and give up everything.

On Etsy, you can also take the photos of your trips and sell them in the form of paintings, finding someone who prints the images and delivers them to your customers for you. So it’s more than just selling stock images.

Ladies and gents:

we all hate microstocks when they keep most of what customers pay to buy our photos and videos, but they're the best way to sell because they already have their customers.

Do you agree with me? Let me know about it by using the contact form of microstockguru.com.

Well, in this 15th episode of “Sell your photos and videos online”, we were able to talk about microstock in a broader perspective. It would seem that the listeners like it, but you will let me know if it is true or not, again, by writing to me with your feedback.

This episode ends here. I thank you for listening to me, and I remind you that the important thing in life is not to have fun, but to be happy. Ciao.

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