Did you know that writing titles and keywords by following SEO guidelines is crucial to making more money with your photos and videos?

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?

I know who can do the job you need very well. Find out more

In this episode I talk about:

  • A free software that generates photo-realistic people and objects
  • Why outsourcing titles and keywords can increase your earnings
  • How long it takes to sell a newly published video
  • Shutterstock's increasingly insane policies
  • How to make money by exploiting the shortage of supply for content
  • Depositphotos changes ownership and business model
  • Professional photographers’ faults

Photographing and filming people without people

Hi, Daniele,

You talked about a software that could generate human faces.

I found a similar tool, and I want to link you a YouTube video that shows the level they are reaching:

Unreal Engine can create people in real time with photo realistic quality. The result is stunning, considering that everything happens without rendering.

This software was born for the creation of video games, and now it can create 3D projects of people, architecture, automotives and special effects.

I tried it out by creating two videos that Shutterstock accepted and that I link to you to share in the podcast:



It allows you to export images or videos in real time, a fraction of the time it takes for other similar software (Maya, 3D Studio, Blender, etc).

The other nice thing is that the basic version is free.

I thank the friend who sent me this link to this software and video. I cannot mention his name simply because I do not remember if he has authorized me to do so.

Watch the video of the podcast on my YouTube channel where you can also watch the stock footage for sale on Shutterstock that our friend created for free with Unreal Engine.

I would be so happy if some of you can make money with such a tool, since with this kind of software the limit is not your budget, but your creativity. It’s a kind of digital democracy, and I like it, because the best way to make a better world is to give everyone the same opportunities.

If you have to create stock footage in the traditional way, you will have to hire the actors, which is expensive. Or if you have an idea about a location, you have to travel to shoot or you have to create a set, which is expensive in the same way. With Unreal Engine, it's all inside your computer, so basically, we’re all the same; it’s just a matter of creativity.

I watched the video on YouTube about the potential of Unreal Engine, and I am very impressed. Not just for the production of stock footage.

When I was young, I wanted to be a director, and I was a self-produced short film director. In the 90s, it was difficult to find actors, and this limited me very much while writing scripts. Knowing that today you can generate actors inside your computer makes me regret that technology didn't arrive 20 years earlier.

I also saw our friend's two videos for sale on Shutterstock. He created an avocado that I would never have distinguished from a real one.

Dear friend, let me give you a couple of suggestions. Once you have mastered the software, as soon as possible, flood the market with content made with it, because many other competitors will soon begin to use it.

By the way, thank you for sharing the information.

Outsource titles and keywords to freelancers

After this new way of making money, let's talk about a fundamental principle in digital business: scalability.

I have a title and keyword writing service, which relies on freelancers with a lot of experience on search engine optimization (SEO), which is the key to success, not only on microstock but on any internet business. These freelancers watch your photos and videos, write the title and keywords, and you can just focus on the production. In other words: the dream of every contributor.


Implementing such a service in your workflow can change everything. Before, it took you, let’s say, an hour to shoot and edit photos, and then you had to spend two hours to describe them. By using this service, you can triple your production, using the three total hours of your time only on content creation, with the wonderful side effect of getting rid of an activity, writing titles and keywords, that none of us love.

Of course, if you produce unsaleable images and footage—and, therefore, you do not earn from them—you will lose money by outsourcing to other titles and keywords.

If, on the other hand, you produce content that portrays subjects that have a commercial value, then your earnings not only triple by tripling the production, but increase much more, because the algorithms that rank the photos and videos that show up to buyers looking for content in microstocks reward producers who have a consistent portfolio and a good average of sales per file.

Having said these boring but useful concepts, I quote a message that one of the customers of my service wrote to me, because my answer can teach something to all of you listeners:

Some stock images I sent you to be described with titles and keywords have actually already been uploaded to Adobe Stock. In the past, they gave me good earnings (in total about 200 sales), but:

  • For at least a couple of years, I have not sold them anymore.

  • The first time I entered a bad description and very few keywords.

If I were to delete the currently published photos before uploading their duplicates with the new keywords, do I get any damage in terms of the algorithm?

The key to earnings

Dear friends, I’m sure you all love to shoot. If you also love to earn, this is one of the key questions in the microstock business, and for this reason, I would like to share my answer with you.

By focusing on these aspects of production, you make money. If you don't care about earning, you will certainly have a lot of fun with microstock, but the money at the end of the month does not come as much as it could.

On microstock forums or Facebook groups, people just talk about sales and agencies. They don’t even know what search engine optimization is. As a result, they earn nothing and say that microstock is dead and those who run agencies are stupid. Actually, their problem is that they don’t understand how this business works.

The software that doesn't allow double uploads

To answer our friend’s question, let’s start from the beginning. Most agencies have software that recognizes double uploads. So if you upload a photo or a video that you already have for sale, Pond5, for example, understands it and won't even let you upload it. I believe Adobe Stock does the same.

So the first scenario—you upload duplicate photos in addition to the original photos uploaded years ago—it's not even technically possible. Even if it was, it would be a bad strategy not to erase those unsold photos, because if you get rid from your portfolio of old photos that haven't generated income, you're just doing yourself a favor in terms of ranking.

The real question could be whether to keep your best sellers online or not, because it is a good thing to have photos in your collection that have generated royalties for you and the agency, even if the algorithm no longer shows them to customers and they do not sell anymore.

From a technical point of view, I am not aware of any agencies that have software that can track content that was previously present in the collection and that you later removed.

Analyse data to make more money

So my advice is: delete all the photos that have sold less than 20 times and upload them again. Before doing it, try to understand why those photos have not sold:

if it is a matter of SEO or of subject?

One of the advantages of digital over the analog world is that there is an enormous amount of data that you can analyze to get useful elements to improve your production.

If, on the other hand, dear friend, you have photos that made at least 100 sales, you can keep them there, and therefore, you will not be able to upload them again.

Actually, I am about to do something very similar, so I answer you after having already thought about it. I now only produce historical stock footage. The first archive videos I uploaded 8 years ago were poor in quality. And I hadn't even written good titles and keywords, because at the time I knew almost nothing about SEO.

So the decision I made regarding my portfolio is to redo the videos: delete the old ones with few sales among those already uploaded, keeping only the ones that have made me more than 500 dollars on Pond5, and then upload them again with new titles and keywords written by the freelancer that I have selected for the service that I also sell to the other contributors.

In this way, I can stay focused on the production, and I am sure that I can pay the freelancer with what I will earn by selling more. Last but not least, I can raise the quality level of my collection, which also helps me to get a better ranking and sell all the stock footage I will produce in the future more easily.

Given the concept of scalability, it won’t be, let’s say, 20% more earnings; it can be 3/5/10 times more.

So, think about this strategy, dear listeners. You’re in the right place to learn how to make money. In this podcast, we talk about business. We don’t talk about "those idiots of that microstock who rejected my photo” or something like “those of Pond5 would sell more if they did so”. If you like to talk about nothing, this is not the right place for you. Please, go to Facebook groups, and you will have a lot of fun.

So to our friend who asked the question, I say:

Analyze your earnings after using the strategy I told you.

If you think you can make more money in the long run than what you spend, reload your entire portfolio. But first: test sales. Mine is not a winning strategy in 100% of cases; it depends on the type of content you produce.

Magic formula does not exist

What I explained of course is not a magic formula. Magic formulas do not exist in business, even in digital business. When it comes to doing something to earn money, entrepreneurial risk is always there, because making money is the purpose of the entire world, and there is a lot of competition to succeed. It can’t be easy.

By the way, when I said "in an hour you produce photos which you then take two hours to describe", did you ask yourself something like:

Is he crazy? It takes me 5 minutes to describe the photos I create in an hour.

Actually, the magic formula to boost your earnings in this case exists:

try to describe your photos and your videos well.

Dear friends, you have some stuff to think about, and as far as my service is concerned, if you want to buy it, don't do it yet. Write me a message, because the amount of good freelancers I have selected to date is still small, as my quality standards are very high.

How long does it take to sell newly released content?

Then my friend from beautiful Florence, Alessandro Mancuso, writes to me with an update on his career as a producer and asks about a little question he has.

Hi Daniele,

I wanted to ask you if you ever happened to sell content shortly after publication.

When I saw the Shutterstock sale notification regarding a video I had recently uploaded, I looked at the upload date and, in fact, it was only two weeks ago.

I sold a very simple clip in which my partner pretends to meditate in the kitchen. While we were shooting those clips quickly, because we had to take our little girl to bed after lunch, my partner could not "act" (she is not an actress, of course) and laughed all the time, claiming that no one would buy that kind of video.

Also, I had a sale on Adobe Stock for over 50 euros. It is the same clip I told you about in a previous update which depicts me reading a book (I shot it during the first lockdown in March 2020). I think it's a sale in 4k. If so, it would be the first one for me.

Thanks, Alessandro, I like how you take advantage of situations within everyone's reach to create footage that sells.

In the past, I have sold videos in the first week after the upload, but rarely. First sales usually happen no earlier than 2 or 3 months after the upload. Except at the time of the first lockdown, where if you had a good idea and shot a video portraying someone with a mask, two weeks later you were already almost rich.

I know that when you have a quick sale, the excitement is so high, but I can tell you that the sales will probably normalize and you will get good results from that clip, but not great.

Congratulations also on the 51 euros sale on Adobe Stock, which I’m quite sure is a 4k video. Actually, it can also be a Full HD extended license. When you get sales like this, you understand how good it is to produce stock footage for those who love to shoot.

Shutterstock is going crazy

Then I quote an old message from my friend Ruggero Piccoli because he also wrote to me about a very similar topic:

You usually say it takes months before the first sale of images and footage you publish, but last week Shutterstock approved my video of a helicopter:

and the next day I sold it in the United States:

This has never happened to me before.

I had to delete the earnings from the screenshot so that you can post on the site because I discovered, thanks to Stock Coalition, that the agreement with Shutterstock requires that no sales data be disclosed.

Shutterstock is becoming a waste of time for me. The approval criteria are becoming random. They depend on who you find as a reviewer. For example, look at these two files of which I am attaching the screenshot:

Same subject (North American P-51D Mustang shot in Mollis) on 4 video files and virtually identical description. The first accepted and the others rejected for non-compliance with the guidelines on editorial content titles.

Since this is one of countless cases I have recently come across on Shutterstock, I think that they are going crazy.

Many of you will find yourselves in this message.

Since Shutterstock started rejecting the releases of my historical films, I have given up uploading new footage there.

They continue to sell my videos, but they don't pay me: we are talking about a few thousand dollars regularly earned by me but which remain in my Shutterstock account, waiting for me to get an insurance that will respond in case of copyright issues but which is almost impossible for me to find.

Knowing that these kinds of things can always happen in the microstock business, I have been working for years to find new ways to make money with my stock footage. The main one is to sell my historical videos directly through my site that gets traffic from my YouTube channel that gets hundreds of thousands of views every month and earns from advertising.

The monthly maximum earnings with the YouTube partnership for now is 1500 euros:

With my site, it's more.

I agree with Ruggero when he says Shutterstock is going crazy. Especially for the fact that they no longer even allow you to say how much you earn. They want you to be like a CIA agent. Maybe soon they will use that Man in Black tool to erase your memories, but actually they remind me of iStockphoto 10 years ago, and I’m not sure this is a good thing for them.

Your questions

Hi, Daniele,

I bought your course a few days ago.

I already have something to ask you. It's about the case study you showed in one of the lessons: the photo that frames the foot of a child with dermatitis.

Was the sale success of that photo a stroke of luck?

Or was it an intuition of the producer after a targeted market research in which he found that very few contributors produced photos of that subject?

I ask you because I would like to understand how convenient it is to gamble the risk of going so specifically in the production of production ideas I have without filling up my portfolio with contents which would remain unsold and damage my ranking.

How to take advantage of the shortage of supply

Wonderful question, my dear student.

Speaking of that photo, I meant that the contributor’s strength was photographing a subject which no photographer likes to shoot.

Microstocks are filled with photos of typical amateur photographers: landscapes, postcard views of tourist cities, flowers. Subjects that do not sell much and that, being already very present in the collections, give few opportunities to sell to those who today have the bad idea of portraying them.

The greatest weakness of your competitors is that they do not understand that the images that are pleasant to take are almost never the ones that also sell. The point is not that there are many buyers who want photos of children's feet with redness. The contributor I talk about in my course sold it because the offer of that kind of photo is low as no photographer likes that subject.

But please: don’t ever consider the notion of luck, because it does not exist in business.

Thank you for purchasing my course.

You don't sell without knowing the basics of the market

Now I mention a second question, which is perhaps the last one for today. I do it not only for the quality of the question but also because it is the first one that was sent to me thanks to this English version of the podcast.

It was written by illustrator Martina Ledermann (visit her website) from Frankfurt, Germany.

I am an Adobe Creative Suite CC user and would like to know how I can upload mock-ups to Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and Pond5.

Unfortunately, we have never sold anything on Pond5, even though we have been registered for about three years. I think Pond5 only sells cloud videos or traffic time-lapses.

We want to create illustrations, because we are unable to take good photographs. On Dreamstime, we have 500 illustrations online. We have a 35 cent sale three or four times a month.

I would be very happy if you could give me some good advice. Which illustrations sell best? I create them with a software called Dimensions.

Dear Martina, from the city with the most American skyline of our old but beautiful Europe.

I will not answer your questions directly, because there is an error in what I think you think.

Selling stock illustrations is not a matter of art—it's a matter of subject. You need to submit illustrations of something that buyers want.

You are making the typical mistake of someone who has not understood how microstock business works, because you do not consider that it is a market, with its rules due to supply and demand.

For example: you're wondering why you don't sell on Pond5. The answer is simple: Pond5 only sells stock footage, not images or illustrations. So if you have the same file on Pond5 and Shutterstock, if it’s an illustration, you will sell it only on Shutterstock, even if it's the same file in both agencies. Just because Pond5 is an agency that doesn’t have customers who buy stock images and stock illustrations.

A good idea to boost your earnings might be not selling illustrations, but trying to create stock footage by animating them with Adobe After Effects, since you are subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Then, again, you have to do a good job with titles and keywords to rank your content in a market with millions of competitors.

Good luck from Southern Europe.

The interview with the VIP photographer

In the last part of the podcast, there is some news that I would like to give you. Let's start from my site.

You will remember that a couple of episodes ago, I talked about a professional photographer called Andrea Delbò who had started producing stock footage, despite the fact that he never shot videos before discovering microstock.

If you don't remember him, I'll tell you something that might remind you about the episode:

He earned $4200 dollars with a single 8-second video shot on the terrace of his house.

Does it sound familiar now?

I interviewed Andrea on the site. He—Andrea is a male name in Italy—has a lot of stories to tell that make us understand how the field of photography is changing.

His career is made up of many moments: photography school, his initial job as an assistant in a Milan studio, working for newspapers, reporting for the Weekly, working in the fashion industry, working for important companies and so on.

At a certain point, the market changed due to the digital revolution, and he decided to find new businesses. I won't tell you more because Andrea explains it much better than I can in the interview.

Depositphotos was acquired

The other news is basically two stories, and I am quoting them because they don’t seem to be so interesting, but actually they are.

Depositphotos has been acquired, and Storyblocks has published another 33 thousand videos.

At first glance, who cares about it?

Actually, we all have to, and I’m telling you why.

Depositphotos (read the news) was not bought for 85 million dollars along with Crello, which is an online software for creating graphics, from the usual fund of rich people who want to make even more money.

Depositphotos was bought by Vistaprint, a site where you can print photos, calendars, mugs, and so on.

This makes us understand that the microstock market is already largely saturated from the point of view of the agencies. The only way to make money with a microstock today is to partner with projects in the graphic or video field.

Let me explain by talking about what Adobe did many years ago on a much larger scale. They did not buy the agency called Fotolia to exploit it as it was. They did it because Adobe already had thousands of customers among photographers, graphic designers and videomakers, given that they already sold software to them. By including a microstock on their offer, they could make money by selling stock images and stock footage to their existing customers, which is much easier and cheaper than finding new customers.

Or to customers of Fotolia that then merged into Adobe Stock, Adobe could have a much better chance of selling them the Creative Suite software which has huge development costs, but costs very close to zero to produce copies for buyers.

I hope this helps you to better understand what market you are selling your content in and how to evolve your strategy to make a lot more money, as I teach in my podcast and also in my course.

Storyblocks sells 587,000 videos for $199

The second apparently useless news is about Storyblocks. It also shows you the direction in which the microstock is going. Storyblocks adds 33,000 more videos to its collection, for a total of 587,000.

How much do these 587,000 videos cost a customer?

199 dollars a year.

So, do the math or ask your voice assistants: what is 199 divided by 587,000?

I can tell you: very little money.

Don't get angry about it, because getting angry is inefficient. My suggestion is to understand how the market where you sell your content is and find a way to take advantage of microstock to earn in the digital world, just like Storyblocks does.

Why many photographers deserve extinction

Talking about how to make business, let me tell you a little about the backstage of my interview with Andrea Delbò.

The interview is done by email, so I send the questions and then, based on the answers I receive, I try to deepen the things I find more interesting. But it also happens that I ask the wrong things.

Among the things that I finally deleted was an experiment that I had done and that had made me understand interesting things about the average photographer who is always focused on problems, but never on solutions.

I went to Apple Podcast Italy to look for podcasts that talked about photography. Only 7 of them had episodes published in the last month. We’re a 60 million people country. Despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of photography professionals and millions of people interested in listening to something on the subject, there were only 7 podcasts recently updated.

More than that, in my opinion, those who talk about photography online are very good at communication, but do not understand much of what they teach.

Not to talk about the typical photographer's website: the last update was usually done more than 5 years ago, because photographers only love social networks.

There are plenty of them in Mark Zuckerberg's backyard, and they are all complaining about the microstock that pays 50 cents per sale, Shutterstock that rejected their photos and customers who don't understand anything. They like to complain for two reasons:

  • making Mark Zuckerberg richer, as if he doesn't have enough money
  • demotivating whoever reads and writes

If, on the other hand, you can create your own project in a personal space such as your website with the aim of improving the world by teaching things and finding a modern way to make money, their answer is always:

  • No, it's too difficult.
  • Not now because I have an important job to finish; maybe in the next few months.
  • Well, the site costs 10 euros a month and I have a lot of other expenses.

You know what, dear photographers?

I’m not the one who tells you that you are right!

I tell you: You deserve the extinction.

You have all the tools you need to change, and you continue to cry. You can’t get rid of social networks. Do this test tomorrow: don't open Instagram or Facebook. Can you?

With this challenge that I’m actually sure how it will end, I declare the 17th episode of “Sell Your Photos and Videos Online” concluded.

To be produced, it took me less than the time I saved by not visiting social networks, and believe me, it was worth it. Also, for this reason, I remind you that the important thing in life is not to have fun but to be happy. Bye!