It takes time to make money.
Microstock is a slow business. In 2015 I shot:
It took me five days, creating content only of the most famous parts, including for example:
- Greenwich in London, which is not really downtown
- La Defense in Paris.
Two and a half years later I can say that to see the first sales I had to wait a couple of months from the reviewer's approval and to get the trip cost back I had to wait a couple of years, even if I'm a long time contributor with more than 10 thousand clips online. Today I can say that
with my stock footage of that trip to London and Paris I've made about 2000 dollars
Given the time spent for:
that money is not worth the effort, at least compared to what I make with my other digital projects, but in the future, those $2,000 can double, and become figures that make me say that it was worth the go. I know that many of you can say that $2,000 are much, since microstock is a job for me, but can be a good excuse to travel for other producers.
Why you won't make has much money has I do.
What I want to tell you is that if you go to London and Paris, it's hard to earn the same figure:
First, because I'm a professional:
- I know how to create a plan for shooting subjects always with the sun on my back
- I know what to do if an unexpected event happens.
I'm talking about the wrong weather forecast, not something really bad, and I know how to shoot fast and accurately.
Second because two years and a half later, competition is stronger.
I'm gonna tell you something to make you understand that mine is not luck because basing the business plan of your life on the fluke is the worst thing you can do.
Before leaving for a trip to create microstock, if this trip is as important as it was in Paris and London, I start two weeks before getting up in the morning very early and walking at least 15 km, just to get into the right fitness, like a player training for the Olympic Games.
I'm a decision maker, who can take the decision very quickly. Maybe sometimes I'm wrong, but the stalemate is not a situation for me.
When you choose to shoot a city, you have to leave some locations aside. It happens in small towns, where probably you need to create microstock only of the:
- city hall
- the most important statue
because you don't have time to shoot the cathedral.
But it also happens in Paris, where you can't shoot the cemetery of Père Lachaise where a lot of famous people are buried, because Père Lachaise is quite far and big, and shooting there it would mean not shooting 4 other subjects. As a tourist, I would gladly return to the grave of Jim Morrison as I did the first time I visited Paris in 2001, as a microstock contributor I avoided doing so in 2015, even if that decision hurt my heart.
Shooting microstock of small towns.
As you now know I am Italian, and my Country is one of the most visited by tourists. This means that many cities are great places to create stock footage and stock images that sell. It happens in cities like:
but it also happens in smaller towns.
Today is very difficult to find a European city with more than 100,000 inhabitants that does not already have more than 100 videos published on Pond5.
This is the reason why you have to hurry up to start producing. Italian cities like:
are still profitable, but just if you shoot them in one day. A great producer can be paid for the hours he spent to shoot there, while a good producer can just repay the flight with his sales, that is something that many photographers would like to. Considering that Europe is operated by a lot of low-cost flights, if you come from another continent, you must know that moving from Rome to London is not expensive. Sometimes the flight ticket costs less than 50 euros so, if you arrive in the city and maybe you shoot in spring, which is the best season to create microstock, you can still make money with European cities.
Speaking of money and focusing on Italy the cities most requested by buyers, as I said, are the 4 most visited by tourists: Rome, Milan, Florence, and Venice. Florence and Venice are less profitable than the other two. Let's say today you can make one dollar with Venice and 10 with Milan. But Florence and Venice are small cities, and you can visit them in just one day, at least as a microstock contributor.
Probably as a tourist, the best way to enjoy those cities and their history is to stop in front of every palace, because you'll find more culture there than in many Countries in the world, but you can create all the stock footage you need in 6 hours or, if you prefer, you can sleep in the city to do some night time-lapse. The best way to earn money today with cities like:
- Nice in France
- Seville in Spain
- Rothenburg in Germany
is spending less for travelling, and the easiest thing to do to spend less is to shoot more than one place in a single day, creating stock footage and stock images of 10 to 30 subjects per city. In other words, this means:
- assemble the tripod
- closing the tripod
- running again
without being able to enjoy the view.
Europe is small and overpopulated. In Italy for example, to move from one city to another, it rarely involves traveling more than 2 hours by train, even if you have to cross half the Country. I live in North Eastern Italy, so I know this part of the Country. If you're in Venice for example, the best choice as a microstock producer would be to spend one day for shooting:
that are less than one hour from Venice by train. This can be your day:
- you arrive at the train station, which is always not far from the main places
- you shoot the cathedral
- the main square
- the building where the municipality is located
- the most important Café, that usually is a place that has a few hundred years of history.
Then probably you will have to shoot the:
- other subjects that can change depending on where you are.
If you had never been there, staying in Padua or in Verona, the city where Romeo and Juliet was set, just for the 2 or 3 hours you need to create microstock, would be like watching a basketball game that goes to extra time and having to leave the arena before the end.
Do you want this?
I know that I'm not telling you something that you want to hear, but as I wasn't born in a rich family, only the microstock has allowed me to visit half of Europe, since my sales have always paid my travel expenses. So if you want to be like me, this is the only way, and I'm sorry to tell you that you won't have the time to drink a beer or to visit a museum.
Resilience will save your life.
One of the best rules to live well in this world that changes every day is to adapt yourself to the situation. I have always told you to use the tools that you can find online and that can improve the quality of your content, like the solar trackers, but in a small town is different. Shooting Verona is not like shooting Paris, where you need several days to make a good job. Paris is also more requested by the buyers, so you can have a bigger budget to stay more days in the city. In that case, you'll have time to create a shooting plan that will allow you to shoot the facade of Notre Dame at sunset with the sun on your back. Working this way in Verona, or in a similar city next to the city you're visiting, would require you to stay there at least 2 days, and it is not worth it, either because:
- it is less demanded by buyers
- it is less present in the portfolios of your competitors
so it is probable that there is not already a perfect framing of Romeo and Juliet balcony on Pond5's collection.
Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?
Microstock is not a dream, because after some episode of this podcast, a blog and a course in which I talk about my earnings (by the way, these are my single best sales best earnings of last week, Berlin and Barcelona):
I may think that many of you think that they have found the golden eggs.
If you found microstock in 2006 probably, yes, you would have found the golden eggs, but not today.
Good old day of microstock.
In 2006 there were producers who:
- waited for a bright day
- assembled the tripod in the garden pointing the sky
- programmed the camera to shoot a photo every 10 seconds.
- Then they went back inside their house to have lunch
- came back in the garden after an hour.
Sometimes that time-lapse sold hundreds of times on Istockphoto, earning more than $10,000 dollars. Those times no longer exist, and the reason is only one:
Being an entrepeneur of a free person?
If you want to make money today there are 2 ways. The first one is very difficult, you have to create a very expensive business:
- Rent a posing room for many days per month
- hire three models for every shooting session.
- Put them in front of a white background
- make them recreate a series of scripted gestures that express a concept.
- Saying No with the head
- Saying Yes with head
- Saying "Go away" pointing you hand
- Saying Ok with your fingers
and so on. At the end of the week, which is Saturday and not Friday afternoon, you have to start thinking about the next session:
- finding other models
- finding someone on Fiverr that can help you with keywording
- then start again to shoot on Monday.
This will happen all the weeks, and at the end of the year, if you will be very good you will have a passive income that one day you may give to your children. But you will lose your freedom since you have invested a lot of money to pay:
- the models
- the director of photography
- the freelancer who helps you with the keywording
- the rents
- the equipment. And if you don't earn, it could be a big problem for your life.
Do you want this?
The second way is the one that I use because I prefer to be free and work alone. When I want the day off to stay with my family, I take the day off. I have not:
- employees to pay
- debts with the bank.
In the last 6 months, I have stopped producing new content because I wanted to focus on other projects, and money keep coming as a passive income. This is the second way:
In this world, you're not rich only if you've got money, you're rich if you feel free.
I'm curious, did you think about this?
Or microstock is just something like well, that stupid man on the podcast made $2000 with a time-lapse, so I can make $3,000. Okay, go on, and send me an email next year to tell me what happened.
Now the second part of the episode starts. At the moment I don't use chapters because I'm very busy in creating new features for microstockguru.com and I don't know how to do it, even if someone says that is very simple.
Someone wrote me to tell me that my answers to your questions are the most interesting part of the podcast, so why not answering more questions today?
La Paz and Buenos aires footage.
There is very little content of South American cities, such as La Paz or Buenos Aires, where I would love to go for a vacation. Do you know if it is so because they have little demand? Can it be a good niche?
South American producers are not many. There is an interesting document released by Shutterstock a few months ago that talked about this. Do you know what are the Countries with most producers? Not USA, but Russia and Ukraine. I don't really know why.
Shutterstock Contributor Earnings Report 2017
Via The Shutterstock Blog.
Talking about South American cities:
great places. Buenos Aires is also full of Italians, so I love it, but they are not very important tourist destinations, at least not yet. My friend, I doubt that you would make a lot of money shooting them, but if you are there for other reasons like visiting a great place, the best choice will be to spend at least one day to create stock footage, that is more profitable than stock images, as you know because you're a fan of me. Shoot in 4k, and use all the secrets that I teach in my course to make more money. If you're one my students you already know that there is an online tool for example, where you enter a keyword, in your case, it will be:
and it tells you if that subject will probably sell.
Use the online tools, don't trust your opinion, trust data.
By the way, greetings to all the people who listen to me from South America. Probably saying South America is like saying Europe, where there are huge differences between Countries. At least you all speak Spanish, except for Brazil. We speak instead dozens of languages, because we have thousands of years of history and divisions behind us, even if now we're moving to become a single Country, regardless of Brexit, but I don't want to talk about politics.
A daylong time-lapse.
When you create a daylong time-lapse, and so the light changes from night to day, do you always work in M pose or do you work in aperture priority? If you stay in M pose, what do you change when the light conditions change? To stabilize the sequence with Adobe After Effects, what do you do in this case?
The question is very technical and for this reason, I love it. The time-lapse from day to night is very difficult. Just in that case, you should work in AV, that is aperture priority, and then correct the flicker with an After Effects plug-in called GB deflicker, which I explain in one of the lessons of my course.
Time-lapses from day to night, or vice-versa, last for hours, so they are the best choice only if you make a lot of money, because of the time you spend to produce them. Think about this: if you are in Paris and you want to shoot the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero with real-time footage, there are already thousands of clips like those online. If you create a time-lapse from night to day, you will be one of the first to publish it with good chances to make a lot of money, but in that day you will spend for creating the sequence, you can shoot dozens of clips in the city that together are more profitable.
- Is that time-lapse worth doing?
I do not think so. But you can have different needs:
- maybe you live in Paris
- maybe you want to create a collection made only of that kind of time-lapses
- maybe you're rich and you don't want to shoot for money.
I don't know, you have to decide my friend. About the second part of the question, I'm gonna give you other technical information that is not easy to explain in a podcast.
The After Effects movement tracker, which is the best on the market, has a parameter that allows the user to set the tracker to stop and be repositioned manually when the movement it is tracking has a reliability less than a certain threshold, that I recommend you to set to 80%. So you can stabilize even in those difficult light conditions, but it takes more time. Once again, you can find all the information in my course.
Post-production for time-lapses.
Next question When you export a time-lapse, I heard that you don't use Lightroom for post-production, so I believe agencies reviewers don't make any problem with time-lapses where the histogram is not perfect like it happens with stock images. Is it correct?
On time-lapses I do not use post-production because it is not worth it. I'm talking about money of course:
- too much time to spend to make a good post-production and not many sales more.
I sound quite boring today, but you have to think that microstock is a continuous calculation on what you spend, in terms of money and time, and what you earn. In my opinion leaving stock footage as is is the best solution.
Talking about a time-lapse sequence, if I had to correct all the photos I would lose time that the more sales won't repay me. I have a question for you:
- are you a hobbyist or a professional?
In this case, the strangest thing is that the hobbyist is the photographer who spends his time in post-production, to create stock footage. Further, try to consider that your video will be edited in a timeline with other videos created by other directors. Applying filters to the footage can give problems to the editor, so my advice is to leave your footage as is.
Agencies can refuse your footage because the colors are out of range?
Yhe reviewers of the agencies can refuse what they want, even content that you then:
- will be accepted
- will sell dozens of times.
Many years ago this happened to me. The rule is that
do not reject the footage because it is not post-produced. The only post production I do, as mentioned before, is the stabilization of time-lapses. I never corrected the colors in my life, except when I underexposed the footage while shooting, because when you are out on the street there are a thousand things out of your control, so it can happen that sometimes your footage is:
- shaky (even if use the tripod).
Maybe one day, given the rising quantity of content, agencies will start rejecting 90% of what producers send, as some agency started doing with photos made by new producers. But until then you should avoid as much as possible post-production which is a great waste of time that you can use for:
- producing more and better content.
Producing 4k footage.
Does it make sense to upload 4k time-lapses? While creating a Hyper-lapse, is it better to take a point on the main subject as a reference or shooting without any references because Adobe After Effects will fix the shaky movement?
I didn't recommend to create 4k footage until 2 years ago, for many reasons. If you have a:
- good computer
- good internet speed
today my suggestion is to produce 4k footage. First because on Storyblocks you get about $200 for a single sale, and second because 4k is the future of production, and being the first to upload that kind of content is always good. I'm telling you because I was one of the first producers who started uploading real-time stock footage in Full HD, and thanks to this I still sell today stock footage created in 2009.
Talking about the Hyper-lapse:
- After Effects stabilizer is great.
There are a lot of tutorials on Youtube about how to use it, and sometimes it looks like it makes miracles. However, when I shot without references because I thought I could correct movements with the software stabilizer:
- I got a final video that was not good but was accepted by agencies
- I had to delete the video because the quality was too bad.
- it's better to create a single good hyper-lapse, rather than creating 3 hyper-lapses with bad quality.
- create your first 10 hyper-lapses in your hometown, because it's a very difficult technique.
Microstock created with a drone.
What do you think about shooting with a drone to upload footage on microstock sites? If shooting with the drone is forbidden and I sell the content, do I risk something?
My friend, I can't answer these questions, at least the second part.
I'm Italian and sometimes I talk with foreigners, because I meet them for professional reasons or because I'm on holiday. I tell them that I am Italian and when they understand that I'm a little bit different from the stereotype of Italians, they begin to ask me questions about my Country. Probably questions that have been held in since they started coming on vacation here, or watching the international news on TV.
I first fight and reply something like:
- No, it's not true... This is a stereotype... things are a little different than those told by newspapers, and so on.
Then they start to argue, by quoting real life situations and not gossip, and at some point, I have to give up and say:
- Ok, you're right. Italy is a strange Country.
I don't know my friend if you're from Italy like I am. But yes, you can't shoot with drones, but I have a friend of mine in Rome that without any permission made his drone fly over the Colosseum, the symbol of Italy. The drone flew over the head of a couple of policemen and nothing happened. It was a few months ago in times of terrorism danger, and we're so lucky that my friend was just a crazy stock footage producer.
So your question is:
My answer is:
Around the world, shooting with drones usually requires a license. So if you don't have one, you can not sell the footage because it was illegally created, if someone can prove it. In real life, let's say is like with Uber in Europe. The best thing to do for someone who wants to make money in the globalized world is to:
- start is business, which is uploading the footage in this case
- wait for the lawsuit that I'm sure it will never happen.
Microstock is a global market, Laws are different in every single Country.
- If the producer is Italian
- the Agency is American
- the customer is Russian
- the broadcaster is French:
- where must the trial be held?
I'm telling you:
- somewhere over the rainbow.
Sorry, but I just wanted to quote another film like I did in the previous episodes.
Well listeners, today there were a lot of questions. If you write me, maybe I'll answer you, but please, before contacting, rate me on iTunes, because I need your help to give you more information.
This episode lasted for about 24 minutes. I am a great fan of podcasts. I use to listen to them while walking in the middle of nature, and I know that the perfect duration is 15 to 20 minutes, so I hope you agree with me.
It is much better to walk than staying in front of a computer or a smartphone to mind your old friend's business.
I believe that technology can democratize the world, or at least can improve the lives of people who want to study it, but please stop wasting your time on social networks. Remove that blue icon from your smartphone as I did last year, and I'm quite sure your life will be better.
In this episode of my podcast you've learned:
- Why it takes time to make money with microstock today.
- Why as a beginner you can't make much as a professional.
- What you have to do to shoot small towns.
- Why you have to adapt yourself to new world to have a better life.
- How good old days of microstock were.
- Why sometimes you have to choose between freedom and money.
- If stock footage of South American cities can sell.
- What to do to create great daylong time-lapses.
- How to post-produce a time-lapse.
- If it's worth to create stock footage in 4k.
- If microstock created with a drone sells.
I want to thank all those fans who clicked on the little heart of the podcast player embedded in the page of my website that I linked to all the subscribers of my newsletter, and thanks to all the guys who shared the last episode. Please do it too, and don't try to have fun, try to be happier.