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 contributor who earns 1000 euros a month by selling historical stock footage
- A tool that tells which keywords buyers of a stock image have entered
- Why the same buyer should buy photos of a specific contributor multiple times
- How to go from being a contributor to being an entrepreneur
- The best software and marketplaces for 3D graphics
- Why agencies are selling new content faster
- How to shoot a hyperlapse properly
- A good DSLR for shooting 8K stock footage
- The new iStockphoto API key for Microstock Plus
- Why can't you upload stolen videos to YouTube
Earning by selling historical films on microstocks
Hi, Daniele. I am writing to you because I want to thank you for the tips you gave me some time ago on historical stock footage.
Since then, I have purchased 8mm and super 8 films, and digitized and restored them with a workflow that I created using Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro and various plugins.
The final quality is good, considering that I use a cheap scanner for digitizing. Thanks to this project, I now earn almost 1000 euros a month on the various microstock agencies (Shutterstock, Getty, Pond5 and Dreamstime).
I also often watch your videos on your YouTube channel, and I was surprised by the image quality of the latest scans you uploaded.
How do you achieve this quality?
Are they 8 or 16mm films?
How do you find all that good material?
I always check Ebay, but I seldom find interesting reels, and this forces me to stop producing.
Thank you for your advice, podcasts and everything you publish: they are very useful for those who want to make money.
This message was written to me by Filippo Carlot, a listener of the Italian version of the podcast.
His story tells us one important thing: we can no longer expect to make money with microstock without a method or without having the mindset of an entrepreneur.
Filippo wrote to me a year ago, inspired by what I'm doing with historical films, and he now earns 1000 euros a month, proving that creating niche content with powerful workflows always pays.
I am already in a later stage of the business. This year I invested a lot of money in a professional scanner to digitize films, and I worked hard to optimize my production workflows.
The last videos I published on YouTube are 8 mm and super 8 films. If you click on the link of the description of the episode, you’ll get to a page where you’ll find the text of the podcast, links and also an incredible home movie set in New York in 1970 that I restored.
It looks like Mean Streets of Martin Scorsesse, but it’s real life, not fiction.
Restoring this kind of film is not just a matter of earnings on microstocks. Knowing that I have saved a piece of history that would otherwise have been lost is a great satisfaction for me.
Answering our friend’s questions: to sell that kind of footage I make agreements with the filmmaker, or most often, with their heirs. You can find all these films thanks to my digitization service, at thetelecinema.com or, thanks to my YouTube channel, which is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people every month.
Buying home movies on Ebay, my friend, can be very dangerous for copyright reasons, so I don't recommend it.
Entrepreneurs who share their secrets with others
Many of you may wonder why I help the business of one of my competitors. I do this basically for two reasons.
The first is that sharing information can improve the world, and this world is the only world we have and in which I too live.
The second is that I’m quite sure that I can be a better entrepreneur than my competitors, since my project involves:
- knowledge of SEO
- knowledge of film restoration techniques
- entrepreneurial skills
And more! So you have to be good in more than one thing to be better than me.
Speaking of entrepreneurial skills, my opinion is that if you want to be more than average, unfortunately, the only way to do it is to invest money, which is very risky. But if you have a good project, it is almost always worth it.
That's why you can see that fantastic film scanner I was talking about in the background if you’re watching me on YouTube. It cost me years of debt, but it was certainly worth it; otherwise, I would still be floating here in the limbo of mediocre producers of stock footage.
When stock images of only one city are sold
Talking about the last episode, there are some updates and corrections I have to make.
If you remember, I asked you for help on some questions that some of you were asking.
Let's start with what happened to Giulio, who had experienced anomalous sales relating to a subject: the city of Poznan in Poland.
Giulio was selling 5 images every two days shot in Poznan, and I asked what you thought.
My friend Ruggero Piccoli came to our help.
According to me, agencies first show the stock images with the most sales in descending order. Then the newest content. If there are no sales and you are the last one who uploaded something, they rank you first.
So it could be that our friend is the last one who has published photos of Poznan. Then his content begins to appear on top and then the more you sell the more you will sell, because you stay on top of the rankings.
Or maybe he is selling the photos for generic keywords, not for the keyword Poznan.
A tool that helps to understand for what keyword you sold
Ruggero then linked me to a stock image that introduced a tool that I had never mentioned in this podcast and that could be a nice turning point for many of you in the analysis of sales and therefore in the revenues that your own images generate:
This is a photo shot in Belgrade, Serbia. It portrays an anti-terrorism simulation where fake hostages kneel on the runway of the airport with fake terrorists threatening them.
The tool lists the keywords searched by the customers who then bought that image:
- terrorism 23.1%
- hijacking 23.1%
- counter 23.1%
- airplane 15.4%
- airliner 7.7%
- hostage 7.7%
Then Ruggero added:
I shot it in Serbia at the military airport of Batajnica, near Belgrade. It sold 14 times but never for keywords related to the place. It always sold for generic keywords related to the situation.
Speaking of elements of titles and descriptions that do not affect sales: from the analysis of the data shown by this tool, I can say that the second sentence of the description is useless.
I'll be back in Daniele's shoes and I'll explain to you what the second sentence of the description of the photo in question is.
It is the title as Shutterstock wants it in the case of editorial content. On it, you have to mention the date, place and event being filmed: in this case, a specific anti-terrorism simulation.
Then again, Ruggero:
Check out this Shutterstock research on the “hijacking + airplane” keywords.
The first results shown are photos of mine. They have also sold those with the colors of the Serbian flag painted on the plane.
Perhaps no other contributors before me had thought of uploading photos of a plane with hostages and terrorists.
Three pieces of information you need to earn more
Dear listeners, I know that it is much more exciting for a photographer to talk about the next mirrorless model, or dreaming about the next mountain peak to portray hoping that someone will buy it, but if you want to earn real money, such thoughts are simply useless.
What you need are boring tasks, such as the study of titles and keywords that help you rank the contents that microstocks show to their potential customers. That’s why Ruggero's message is great, for three reasons.
The first is that now we know that microstocks want the photos of terrorists. So flood the market with that subject and unleash your creativity to do it. And if you want to earn even more, make videos, not just photos.
The second is that the editorial title of Shutterstock is useless for ranking. It only helps Shutterstock to protect itself from lawsuits in case someone claims privacy or copyright on the subjects portrayed. Ruggero got around the problem by putting it as the second sentence, and we understood that Shutterstock tolerates this trick.
Third, we discovered a tool that tells us which keyword the customer who bought the photo searched for. By using this and analyzing sales, you can better understand what to produce to sell more and which keywords to use when describing photos and videos.
If you make good use of all this information, you could become… rich. If you don’t want it, keep talking about the Shutterstock reviewers who rejected your stock images.
The tool that tells you which keyword the buyer searched for can be found in the Shutterstock dashboard by clicking Insights / Top Performers.
At the moment, this applies only for images and not for all the keywords.
Friends buying your stock image as a present
Still talking about Poznan images, another contributor sent me another possible solution:
I am writing to you about the anomalous sale of photos of Poznan.
I have a theory. In my opinion, there is someone among his friends or relatives who wants to give him a "gift" and so they buy his stock images.
Dear friend, thank you for sharing your idea.
In my opinion, what you say is not true, because Shutterstock pays such a low percentage that the contributor would have little left of the gift.
I stop here with the messages that many of you have kindly sent me, because the big problem is another one. I misunderstood what Giulio told me.
Why a buyer always wants my stock images
Giulio listened to the episode and then contacted me. I though he was selling many images of Poznan. Actually, he was selling many images to a buyer from Poznan.
As many of you know, Shutterstock tells you where the buyer is registered. Giulio first contacted me to ask me why that buyer always buys his images, given that Poznan is not New York and statistically it is impossible that more than one person buys Giulio’s photos from there.
This kind of situation is still interesting: a single buyer who chooses images of subjects that are also sold by other contributors.
The idea I got is that this buyer should do some work related to the areas that Giulio photographed, southern Italy, and once the first ones have been purchased, Giulio's portfolio has been saved and, while the work of the buyer continues, it picks new content from there, as he appreciates it.
Or, a second interpretation, and this can be even more useful if it were true: Shutterstock, as Google has been doing for years now, produces customized rankings, depending on who does the search. This is technically possible, thanks to cookies.
Consequently, the agency is more likely to suggest images of the contributor who already sold stuff to the buyer who does the new search.
It’s a big maybe, but let me know if you agree with me.
From contributor to entrepreneur (with a $130 stock image sale)
My friends, this is not entertainment. It is a podcast where I teach you how to make money. Succeeding is a great pleasure, but the path you need to take to put money in your pocket is very boring. It’s not just a matter of the creation of stock images and stock footage. You have to go through the boring part of the job: writing titles and keywords.
Talking about this, Alessandro Grandini, a contributor who has written a couple of books on microstock:
- NICHES: Earn money with images in microstock photography
- MICROSTOCK: Earn Money by Selling your Photographs
that you can find for sale on Amazon and who is also a customer of my stock image and footage description service, wrote to me:
I carefully analyzed the CSV metadata that you and the freelancers you work with gave me, especially the title and description columns. If I have to give a rating, it is definitely a 10. All metadata is differentiated; it’s full of terms that have the greatest chance of being used for the buyer's searches.
Very exhaustive and fitting descriptions, and also the keywords are plentiful and good.
My satisfaction is total; I would say that I would not change anything.
I sent 10 of the images related to this csv, and the next day they had already accepted 8 of them (2 are still pending).
The good news is that the first sale has already been made: I have attached the screenshot (the girl with the mask and fogged glasses).
I'm also sending you a screenshot of a photo sale I had a couple of weeks ago for $130 to prove that the concept you said on your latest podcast is true: sales aren't just 10 cents.
Plus, yesterday I sold 4 photos for $65 each. Each one is a graphic composition that portrays an eye in one half, and the same eye but red in the other half.
If you always publish the same kind of photos of which there are now millions of them in microstocks, you just lose your time. If, on the other hand, you are original, and the subjects you portray have a commercial value because you know how to use the tools that tell you what to produce, then you make money.
With 4 sales in one day, Alessandro Grandini has reached 260 dollars, a figure that the average contributor probably does not reach even in a year. He did so because he portrayed unpopular subjects, like allergies.
I know it is much easier for you to go to forums or Facebook groups and badmouth someone, but if you want to live happily, which, in the microstock business, means making money, the only way to succeed is to work hard; Alessandro Grandini's message proves it.
3D graphics software and their marketplaces
Still on the subject of the previous episode, the graphic designer and contributor of stock images created in 3D, Daniele Gay, wrote to me regarding a request for further information that had been made by other contributors.
3D is a theme we've been talking about a lot in the last few episodes.
We now know that there are various software programs to create three-dimensional images and videos, often with photo realistic quality. Their names are Unreal Engine, Unity, Daz, Blender and Cinema 4d, for example.
Along with software, there are also marketplaces where you can buy ready to use assets for your projects, but the other Daniele can help us more than I can, so let me quote his message:
Daz Studio has its own store, Daz shop. What you buy there can only be used on the Daz software, even though there is a plugin called Bridge that allows you to export what you create with Daz Studio to import it in Blender, Cinema4D, Unity and Unreal Engine.
Cinema 4D doesn't have a dedicated store, but it is compatible with a lot of formats, like Blender.
For both Cinema 4D and Blender, you can buy assets on Turbosquid and Sketchfab.
The world of Unreal Engine is more complex. It's a software made by Epic Games, a giant in both video games and 3D graphics. Epic Games owns Unreal Engine and Quixel Megascans (and now the ArtStation site as well).
Quixel Megascan is a library of over 16,000 assets and textures (it is a platform also accessible online with free registration). With a plugin called Quixel Bridge, you can export textures in Blender or Unreal Engine format.
Regarding what Paola asked about Unreal Engine, I would like to help her.
Unreal Engine is free and can be used for commercial purposes without any problems.
A general rule for those who use 3D software for creating images and videos: as long as you produce by using paid assets you can always sell your content for commercial purposes, unless you use a 3D model based on something that is protected by copyright, such as a Ferrari, a designer lamp or a piece of furniture. In this case, the microstocks reject you for copyright infringement. All discovered from personal experience.
I advise Paola, if she wants to use human beings created in 3D, not to buy the Metahumans, which require very powerful computers to be used, but the Daz models: they are ultra realistic if rendered properly and are super customizable.
In microstocks, you can easily find content that comes from Daz—not only characters but also environments.
By the way: did you know that Turbosquid was bought from Shutterstock?
Thanks, Daniele, for sharing this information.
I’m quite sure there will be a lot of fun in the next few years for those who want to learn how to use 3D software, even by creating stock images and stock footage.
Microstocks are selling content faster and faster
Now, before moving on to the questions of you listeners, I have a message from another contributor who I often quote in this podcast. His name is Alessandro Mancuso from Florence, who gives us some pretty interesting information:
I wanted to let you know that lately I have been selling stock footage after just a few days since publication.
In my opinion, agencies have started favoring new content on rankings. Or maybe I just portrayed good subjects, as I focused on trending topics such as investment and metaverse.
Thanks, Alessandro. By the way, he sent me a frame from the footage he mentioned that you can see on the text of the podcast.
The footage is about the metaverse, which should be a trend of the moment, in case you want to ride it instead of photographing mountain peaks and panoramas of Paris.
There is a man and a woman, which I assume are Alessandro himself and his partner, since in other messages he has told us that his stock footage is shot using his family or himself as models. They both wear what we call a headset for virtual reality. Today, we should call it for the metaverse.
So friends: do you want a good idea for your next stock images and stock footage? Focus on the metaverse and thank Alessandro, who shared the information with you, despite creating new competitors.
The second important piece of information he gave us is a trend that I too think is real: microstocks are speeding up the ranking times of new content that are published.
How do they do this?
I have to answer with a question:
Do you know how an algorithm works?
I'll tell you in simple words.
A customer searches for a keyword. The agency has hundreds of thousands of content that contain it in the title or keywords.
In what order does it show them?
It creates a score with a mathematical formula such as: 100 times the number of sales + 10 times the ratio between clicks on the preview and sales - days of publication + total number of sales in the contributor's portfolio.
This is just a simple example, because agencies' algorithms are secret. Changing that formula can move hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and my idea is that those factors have recently changed, favoring the speed of sales of new content.
Please let me know what you think about it.
Questions from our listeners
In your lesson of the course where you talk about hyperlapse, you explain that you have to constantly "point and follow" a subject to create a good video. However, I also saw some hyperlapses filmed moving along narrow streets within historic centers like Venice. Under these conditions, it is impossible to point to the same subject from the beginning to the end of the sequence.
Can you help me understand what I have to do to get a smooth movement on the final video?
How to shoot perfect hyperlapses
A hyperlapse is a time-lapse in motion. To shoot it properly without the same reference points from the beginning to the end of the sequence of shots is a challenge that requires a lot of practice.
In my opinion, in those cases, you should work with devices that have an integrated tool that detects the vibrations and the inclination of the camera and then passes the data to software that stabilizes the sequence based on the position of the device.
The old GoPro 7 has something like this integrated, but it is certainly not the kind of camera that I recommend for selling content in microstocks.
Otherwise, you would have to work with a gimbal, with which you would also have the possibility to create smooth real time footage.
Having neither the GoPro nor the gimbal, the only good practice I can recommend to you is to keep the camera constantly parallel to the ground, using the indicators inside the viewfinder.
Upload images created with shareware software
As a newbie, I have a question. Can I upload images / videos edited or created with shareware software.
For example, I edit an image and export it with a watermark; can I crop it and upload it to microstocks?
Once I upload material to microstock sites, can I still publish it freely on social media?
Let me say this, dear friend: it does not seem to me that you have the right mentality to make money, not only with microstock. If you are 18, it is not a problem. If you are 44, as I am, then there are many problems, and I recommend that you solve those first, rather than throw yourself into the microstock business yet.
Answering your questions: if the photo is yours and it portrays non-copyrighted subjects and does not infringe on anyone's privacy, you can do whatever you want with it.
Instead of cropping the image to avoid the watermark, you should seriously consider purchasing that software, since with stock images you should make a profit.
If you publish your stock image on any microstock, it remains your property and you have no usage limits. You can re-publish it wherever you like, including social networks.
Teachers who tell the wrong things
My old photography teacher was an iStock exclusive, and he wanted me as an iStock exclusive too.
IStock is now dead. So I am of the idea to keep using 5 to 10 agencies. Do you think I am right?
I recommend Stock Submitter and Microstock Plus, which allow you to upload to 30 agencies with little effort and low costs without having to write titles and descriptions every time.
That’s the best strategy. Don’t listen to your old teacher, because not all the guys who know about photography also know about microstock.
Actually, in my book, Sell your photos and videos online, I explain how, starting from the subscription to Stock Submitter and Microstock Plus, you can scale your business and increase your earnings exponentially.
IStockphoto API key for Microstock Plus
Talking about Microstock Plus and iStockphoto, some of you have told me that the old API key no longer works.
The Api keys are codes that allow two platforms, like Microstock Plus and iStockphoto, to communicate. IStockphoto didn't have an official one, but a friend of mine found one that worked until yesterday.
Now that it has stopped working, I found a new one that I gladly share:
You can find it on the text of the podcast on microstockguru.com.
To use it, you must first deactivate iStockphoto on Microstock Plus, and then insert the new code.
YouTube protects videos from unauthorized use
Finally, I would like to talk about the world of photography and digital video, but not concerning the microstock business.
I received a very interesting question from one of the listeners, and I would like to share it with you, because if you want to monetize your passion not only by selling stock images and stock footage, what I'm about to say can be helpful.
I am entering the world of video productions as I need to shoot several videos of my wife who is a violinist. My budget is limited. A record label has posted a video of her shot by a professional on their YouTube channel.
Can the same video be uploaded to the violinist's YouTube channel, perhaps in a lower resolution?
Does the YouTube algorithm risk banning one of the two videos? Or do we not run this risk by having different codecs?
Dear friend, I see you’re not an expert. The algorithm is a mathematical formula that orders the billions of videos posted on YouTube when someone does a search, just like it happens on microstocks.
What is likely to give you problems is something else: software which, thank goodness, YouTube itself is using more and more frequently.
I say "thank goodness" because when they activated that software on my channel, I discovered that more than 100 YouTubers published the videos that I owned without permission.
Still, there is someone who downloads my videos illegally, republishes them on their accounts, YouTube reports it to me, I claim the copyright and then they contact me, telling me that, in their opinion, they can do whatever they want with my videos.
This is not the case. YouTube itself provides you with a technology called Content ID that recognizes when the owners of other channels use your video, even if they edit it with different codecs, another resolution or make small changes to the footage.
So, in your case, the record label can block your video, with the risk that YouTube will also warn you that it is the first step for the account ban.
In other words, don’t do it.
Talking about microstock, of course, if you decide to publish a channel where you upload your stock footage and someone buys that footage, there is a way to avoid YouTube from blocking the videos made with your footage, as buyers paid for it. But I'll explain how another time, along with the strategy needed to give visibility to your content through YouTube, as I have been doing for years.
Our time is running out, like in an old song by Muse.
You can contact me if you want by using the contact form through which you can send me your questions about microstock or share your experiences and information to help us make more money.