Photographer Simone Scalise while taking pictures from a boat in the sea

My name's Simone Scalise. I'm 37 and I live in Genoa, Northwestern Italy. I have a website that talks about photography:

Fotografare per stupire

and, on this page, I want to tell you about how I became a stock image and stock footage producer.

I have had a permanent job for 15 years, but I'm constantly searching for a further income.

I started with a crafting business. First, I learned to sew to create bags and skirts, and then I created jewelry in wood and metal.

After 4 years spent on flea markets, I stopped because of low profits and started trying to find something else.

In that moment, I discovered the microstock business. I started selling stock images, and then stock footage, as I have always loved traveling and photography.

Photographer Simone Scalise while shooting a coyote with his camera

The diary: I spent my first three years producing stock images

Three years ago, I uploaded my first photos on:

In two years, by working hard, I created a portfolio of more than a thousand stock images on each website. Unfortunately, the earnings were different from what I was hoping for. I was trying to get a second income on top of my monthly salary, but I was aware that I had to be patient to see the results, so I had given myself a two-year limit to see if microstock was worth it.

After that period, and after:

  • thousands of rejections for what I thought were perfect photos
  • hundreds of hours of work.

I cashed only 20 euros a year.

I realized that my strategy was not the right one, probably because the stock images market was already too competitive to achieve good results.

Starting to produce stock footage (after being disappointed with stock images)

Given the lack of results, I remembered a website I had visited. On that site, there was a course to learn how to create and sell photos and videos online (learn more about the course), but I had left it aside, both because I didn't have the right equipment and because I thought the price was a little high for my pockets.

The time had come, however, to give it a try:

  • I bought a Nikon D7200 (learn more on Nikon's website)
  • I bought the course, which I finished in less than a month
  • I discovered a new world – that of time-lapse footage

I started by creating footage of my city, Genoa.

Following Daniele Carrer's advice, I took advantage of my terrace, shooting an original view of the port, the fulcrum and symbol of the city. Then I moved to the coastline, shooting places famous around the world, like:

  • Camogli
  • Portofino

On bad days, I started shooting at home with a small lightbox, and even at the bar where I usually have breakfast.

In four months, in my spare time, I created and uploaded about 200 clips. The agencies I chose were those recommended during the course:

  • Shutterstock
  • Pond5

Photographer Simone Scalise while hitch hiking

I was excited by the discovery of shooting time-lapses, so I decided it was time to combine business with pleasure. I took 4 months of leave from my job to travel, make videos and then try to sell them on microstocks.

Traveling to South America to produce time-lapses

I backpacked and left with my girlfriend to go to South America. In 116 days, I visited some of the most beautiful places in the world, like the wild Patagonia and the mysterious Machu Picchu. I took 1200 shots in:

  • Peru
  • Chile
  • Bolivia
  • Argentina

and made a hundred time-lapses and hyper-lapses.

A month after leaving, dust got into the sensor of my camera and, unfortunately, I didn't have a cleaning kit. I was in a very remote area where there weren't any decent photo shops, so, to avoid losing precious days by not filming, I shot with:

  • a polarized,
  • an ND 64 filter,

to be able to use wide open aperture to solve the problem. In most cases, it worked.

Six months with stock footage (the first sales)

When I came back home, I found that during my travel I sold 5 videos:

  • 2 on Shutterstock
  • 3 on Pond 5

It happened only six months after I started this business.

I sold:

  • 3 time-lapses of the port of Genoa (watch the video on Shutterstock)
  • 1 piece of real-time footage shot from the terrace of my house
  • 1 piece of real-time footage of two cappuccinos decorated with smiling faces

Preview frame of the stock footage of a capuccino on Pond5

Preview frame of the stock footage of Genoa on Pond5

Preview frame of the stock footage of Genoa's port on Pond5

After eight months, I have sold 2 other videos, earning 3 times what I earned in two years selling stock images.

Surely, they are not big figures, as is normal in the beginning. But, considering that I have uploaded less than 200 clips, they are not that bad.

I hope that Daniele is wrong when he says that South America is not a good destination for creating content to be sold on microstocks. But whatever happens, even if you stay at home, you can create something to sell, if you have a good idea.

I'm satisfied with what I'm doing as a producer. Thanks to the help of the course, and the dozens of emails I wrote to Daniele Carrer, I learned:

  • how the microstock business works
  • how to create time-lapse and hyper-lapse sequences
  • how to edit real-time footage
  • how to quickly write titles and descriptions

I also learned how to use common software such as:

  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Premiere

13 months after

Photographer Simone Scalise while shooting the beach of Genoa

It has now been 13 months since I entered the world of stock footage as a contributor.

These are my numbers.

The agencies I upload my footage to are:

  • Storyblocks (1200 videos selected)
  • Pond5 (1290 videos selected)
  • Shutterstock (1100 videos selected)

My sales and net earnings on Storyblocks are:

Screenshot of earnings on Storyblocks

Unfortunately, on that agency, I have had just a single sale and I don't think it is worth it anymore.

Shutterstock

Screenshot of earnings on Shutterstock

During this year, as a contributor on Shutterstock, I made $193.85:

  • $16 with stock images
  • $177 with stock footage

Pond5

Screenshot of earnings on Pond5

With this agency I have earned $366.01, thanks to 21 downloads of stock footage.

So, my total income on all agencies this year was $652.19.

Considerations on sales

$652.19 in a year is not much.

There are Shutterstock contributors who earn that amount of money in less than a month, but I can tell you why it is not so bad. With this money, even with ten times as much, I know that you can't live in a Western European country, and that's why I have a stable job that allows me to live.

You don't have to focus on the amount earned, but on its potential. In the microstock business, you need to sacrifice and have patience to achieve good earnings – at least two years of work.

Let's take Pond5 as an example, which is the agency that has always provided most of the earnings for video makers who create stock footage.

My 1200 videos were uploaded in two batches:

  • 200 videos the first two months
  • 1000 videos when I came back from South America, 6 months after I started uploading

Of course, it didn't take me a year to create my portfolio, only a few months. Much of my collection has only been online for a few months, or even a few weeks.

The graphs

An interesting fact is that, in the last few months, I have always sold at least one video per month:

Screenshot of Pond5 statistics

And, although not being very important, even the graphs of visits to both the videos and my contributor page are increasing continuously:

Screenshot of Pond5 statistics Screenshot of Pond5 statistics

But what kind of content is better to sell?

To understand, you have to use the fantastic tool that Daniele explains on his course, along with your intuition.

As far as I'm concerned, with great joy, I've sold several videos of my trip to South America. But you don't need to go on the other side of the world to sell some videos.

Shooting videos of your cat

Among my best selling pieces of stock footage are videos I made at a friend's house of his Maine Coon cat, a very particular breed of cats of which there is not much content online.

Photographer Simone ScaliseBy the way, by clicking here you can see my portfolio on Pond5.

Obviously, producing 1200 videos online in such a short time was not easy. You need:

  • a method (which I learned thanks to Daniele Carrer)
  • sacrifice

It means spending all your free time producing videos. This is the hardest part of the job, especially when you already work eight hours a day.

How to find the time to produce stock footage and stock images

To become a successful producer, I cut all the distractions from my life:

  • I deleted my Facebook account (and let me tell you how cool it is!)
  • I reduced the time I spend on the news (ten minutes a day, and always in moments such as when I'm on the bus or during work breaks)
  • I reduced the time I spend on Netflix (now I only use it to get inspiration to produce, thanks to the documentaries they have)
  • I stopped playing online games

Now, my days are definitely better, even though it's not easy to go home after work and go directly in front of the PC to edit videos or type keywords.

Keywords

To insert keywords, I use free online tools such as:

so I can always create an accurate description of the scene with the right quantity of information.

I use Tripadvisor because I sometimes find more detailed descriptions there than on Wikipedia.

Final tools and advice

This year, I used a camera body and a lens:

  • Nikon D7200
  • Nikkor 35mm

As there are already a thousand reviews on the web, I won't go into details. I’ll simply tell you two features of it that I liked:

  • Excellent battery life
  • double memory card slot

Thanks to this second feature, I can separate videos from the photos for time-lapses to speed up the editing process.

55 thousand photos shot in a year

In this year of production, I took 55,204 photos, almost all of which were part of time-lapse sequences.

For this reason, last month:

  • I put the camera up for sale,
  • I sold it for 630 euros (200 euros less than what I paid it).

Then, I added 105 euros and I bought a new one with a two-year warranty.

All of this is to tell you that the initial investment needed for this business, if you are smart and know how to move, is small, but becoming a serious contributor on Shutterstock and Pond5 can really improve your life.

Simone Scalise

 

This story was originally published on the Italian microstock blog of Daniele Carrer.

Do you want to sell your photos and videos online?

Please, start from here:

Watch 4 free videos that teach you how to start making money.

At what email address can I send you the links?

Read the privacy policy.