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My MTVnews years

I've not always been a stock photographer. From 2009 to 2013 I worked on a TV show that was broadcasted in Italy and was called MTVnews. Despite its name, news events did not matter, since it was sometimes broadcasted months after we had filmed it, but it was called that because the Italian Law requires TV channels to broadcast a news bulletin, and with that TV show the broadcaster could say:

Telling stories of young people is a kind of information.

I should say:

that's the typical Italian way to solve problems

since for a philosopher even your Facebook feed can be news, because there is no better way to understand the world by looking at the page of someone who shares:

  • fake news
  • photos of his dinners at the restaurant
  • some quote of Albert Einstein or Charlie Chaplin (fake quotes probably).

For 4 years we told stories of people belonging to the generation that was struggling with:

  • unemployment during the most acute period of the crisis
  • social networks before Snapchat
  • politics that were already taking us into the abyss, like it was already happening in most European Countries.

Young guys who don't want to find a job

Many of the young people we interviewed had nothing to do:

  • they did not study
  • they did not try to find a job.

They were in their twenties, but I am sure that they will be like that even when Miley Cyrus will retire.

Sorry if you take offence of what I said, but if you listen to this podcast I'm sure:

  • you've learned a lot of things about making money by selling photos and videos online,
  • but you also know that I'm not politically correct.

I don't care if someone will start a petition against me or hold a demonstration in front of my house. I'm a free person and I feel incredibly good when I say what I think.

MTV, at the time was the soundtrack of the future Italian government, which as I speak became the past, and for political reasons they were trying to make those guys look as they will be the best future that the world could have.

When my colleagues asked those boys the question:

What are you doing in your life?

Most of the times they answered:

I'm a rapper

You must know that Italy is not USA. In Italy there are no more than 10 singers who can make real money with rap music, but according to the program, rap music seemed to employ more workers than Chrysler.

As you know, this podcast talks about microstock, and so far in this episode the only thing that has something to do with microstock it's me, the storyteller and also a microstock producer that makes 3,000 dollars a month by selling photos and videos online, despite that I stopped producing months ago, because of the commitment of this podcast and my website.

However, there is another thing in this story about microstock, and it took me months to understand it. That thing sounds like the title of a new drama television series:

Microstock producers are the new rappers

40 year old guys still hungry and stupid

One of the pros and cons at the same time of working in the industry of microstock is that:

  • signing in with agencies is free
  • the equipment that is needed to create content is cheap.

I spent 1500 euros: camera+lens+tripod.

Recently I talked with many people who told me that they create stock footage and stock images with a smartphone, and they also make money with those. A smartphone is not the device that I recommend you to use but knowing this makes me say that everyone can sell photos online.

It's not like becoming a Hollywood director: you don't need a school, you need just a teacher that can be a blogger you can find in one second with your computer. You don't need to find a job as a runner in some film production company to have the chance to meet the right people. You just have to:

  • go to Shutterstock
  • sign in
  • start selling the photos of your holiday

even if I'm sure that this way you won't make much money.

When today we talk about someone in his thirties or forties, like I am, we know that he grew up surrounded by people who explained him that to be a successful person he had to become an artist, like:

  • Dawson Leery
  • Brian Austin Green in Beverly Hills 90210.

Because of this, if that today's 40 years old man has the passion for filming it is likely that sooner or later he will fall into the trap set by the microstock industry. I said “fall into the trap” because that man probably will think that microstock is a job, even if microstock usually pays much less than a fast food or a cleaning company.

These people are the same who live their life in forums and Facebook groups, continuing to repeat that:

  1. that buyers do not understand anything
  2. reviewers are stupid because they rejected their contents but accepted trash photos
  3. the world is cruel
  4. they are misunderstood geniuses.

On the other hand, as a producer that makes real money, I believe that microstock can be a business only for few people. I've got a suggestion for you guys that are listening:

if you don't make money by selling your photos and videos online and you don't want to learn how to do it because you think you're a genius, don't wait for luck, just find another job and stop wasting your time.

This is not a politically correct podcast.

What ND filter to buy

I started creating stock footage with my Nikon D610 . I was working with these settings:

  • 100 ISO
  • shutter speed 1/50
  • f/22.

I don't like the kind of image that the camera created, since I noticed that the shutter speed is too short. So, I think that the ND filter is a must have accessory. Do I have to buy 32, 64 or 100?

I also have another problem with the display. I use it:

  • for framing
  • to focus
  • to set the exposition.

But sometimes there's too much light and I have to use the viewfinder. What do you do? Do you use an external smartphone monitor to prepare your time-lapse sequence?


Thank you very much. This is a double question. Let me tell you:

are you living in the Sahara Desert?

Because it seems like there's a lot of light in the place you shot.

The number that describes the ND filter tells you how dark the glass is, the greater that number the more opaque the lens will be.

Now please, give me one minute to talk to all the people who are listening, especially to those who never took a picture.

To have the correct exposure, you have to find the right balance between

  • aperture
  • shutter speed.

Let's say it's a sunny day, so there's a lot of light. You need to work with a short shutter speed, that is not something that gives a great look to your footage, because in Hollywood movies, directors use a slow shutter speed, and we all grew up watching and loving those movies.

In your own footage, to achieve the right exposure you have a second chance:

  • you need to close the aperture

but working with 22 also a bad look, and a part from this, you have an even bigger problem in the digital world:

  • dust spots on the sensor that are visible in your pictures and videos.

I found them the same day I bought a brand-new camera, and cleaning the sensor is very difficult and even dangerous. The only way to hide those black spots created by dust is using an aperture wider than 8.

So, on a sunny day, you can't work with a wide aperture and slow shutter speed, and the minimum ISO you can set in digital cameras is usually 100. This means only one thing:

  • you need an ND filter.

ND stands for neutral density.

Now, I talk to you my friend that asked the question:

  • I would use a density of 128 or even more.

If you use a 128 ND filter, it reduces the F/22 by 7 stops. That means that if you use:

  • a given shutter speed
  • a given ISO number

to achieve the right exposure without the ND filter you have to use

  • F/22

but with a 128 ND filter screwed on your lens instead you have to use:

  • F/10

that creates a better image quality.

You talked about real time stock footage, but remember that also for time-lapses, using 1/50th of a second shutter speed is not a great solution for the quality, because to give a more realistic effect it should be slower. I explain this well in one of the exclusive videos that I send to those who subscribe to my newsletter.

Let's say that using a slower shutter speed gives the speed effect to the footage.

The magview

Talking about the SLR display. If you shoot outdoors, your monitor can actually be a bit blinded by the sun, even if monitors increased their brightness in the last years. The most useful accessory to avoid this is:

  • the magview

that is a kind of viewfinder you attach to the monitor. Mag stands for magnetic. So it's easy to remove it and mount it. It's a cheap accessory you can find for 10 to 20 euros on Amazon. Check the size of your monitor before buying.

I had bought one for some LIVE shots I did years ago, but I never used it for producing microstock, because when I create footage of cities I just want to have my camera with me and few accessories:

  • a spare battery
  • a 50 mm lens.

Years ago, I also had a zoom lens, but then I stopped using it, because I realized that the lighter I was, the more I could walk to bring more content home.

Let's say this is the entrepreneur's mindset, that is different from the artist's mindset. In my opinion, sometimes when you create stock footage and stock images it is better to be fast than to create the perfect shot.

The lens you need

What lens would you recommend for this type of work?

As you know if you:

I've always recommended reflex cameras that are not expensive. In one of the exclusive videos I send to those who subscribe to my newsletter I explain why in depth.

To shoot cities like I do, the best choice is a reflex camera with APS-c sensor which has a lower quality than a full frame camera but gives a number of advantages that makes it the best choice for me.

It's once again the difference between:

  • being artists who only aim to technical quality
  • being an entrepreneur who only aims to... make a lot of money.

I prefer to be the latter.

That said, you asked me about the lens. If you have a Canon camera, my lens is the best choice:

And then use a 50mm f/1.8. Whether is the camera brand you use you can find the right model for about 100$.

Cheap equipment for producing stock images and stock footage

I own a basic Canon EOS 650d, which is called Rebel T4i in the US, a very unprofessional tripod and 3 lenses (18-55mm, 50mm f/1.8 and a cheap 8mm fisheye). For editing I use Finalcut Pro X. Do you think that can be enough for creating stock footage?

I will give you a clear answer, as your equipment and software are not very different from mine. Now I shoot with a Canon EOS 700D, and I created my collection mostly with a Canon EOS 550d. As I said in my previous answer, this is not because I don't want to spend my money on a Full Frame, but because for the type of content I produce, that is usually

stock footage of European Capitals, that equipment is perfect.

Probably my next step will be buying a mirrorless that records 4k footage and I'll keep you updated about that.

The 50mm f/1.8 lens works really well, I have it too.

In my opinion the 18-55 is awful, so I suggest you change it.

And you would also need a good tripod, maybe a Manfrotto like:

I use both of them, and the fluid head can be a great solution for creating real time stock footage.

Final Cut Pro is my software. I have version 7, which I think is much better than the X, but the X is also fine even if it's completely different. At least it is the only Apple editing software you can find for sale now.

One suggestion: if you want to change your camera, buy one that can record 4k footage.

Tax at source

Can you help me with taxation? I have just signed in to Videoblocks, filling out the W8-BEN form and I read in your post that for non-American citizens the agency withholds a reduced rate and credit card commissions. Are there other costs for contributors besides these ones? I think I understood that Videoblocks gives 100% of the sales to the contributor. How can that be possible?

It's possible because of competition. Once again, I explained it in one the previous episodes.
In the Marketplace, which is different from the All You Can Download collection, Videoblocks pays 100% to the contributors. They just take the credit card commissions, which is:

  • about 2%

as well as the American taxation at source:

  • 30% if you don't fill the W-8BEN form
  • or 8% if you fill the form and you live in a Country like the one where I live, which is Italy, that has signed a bilateral treaty with the United States.

It's 8% in Italy, but it can be even 0% in another Country, depending on the treaty they signed.

Of course, you must pay taxes also in your Country, but you can deduct from them the taxes at source you have already paid to the United States Government. However, I am really bad at giving you tax advice. Because I'm not an expert: you should talk with an accountant.

App for model releases

By chance I ended up discovering your site and got addicted to your information about stock footage. Your honesty is very appreciated. I devoured your articles one by one since they are useful knowledge. Thanks for your course. But I have a problem with the model release form, I know this is a newbie question but I will ask it anyway. Is there a universal model release form for all agencies?

I mention this because it is very tedious to fill each agency release forms for Pond5, Shutterstock and Videoblocks. Do you have any suggestion for this?

I should say, welcome, newbie. I really prefer to talk to newbies who want to learn than to talk with long time contributors.

I know how bad it is to fill model releases on multiple agencies. The best thing to do to save time is to use some mobile App that is accepted by more than one website.

I'm not an expert, because I haven't created much content that needed model releases, so I prefer to link you a content made by another blogger, because there's a great post written by stockphotosecrets.com.


Review time on Pond5

I uploaded 10 clips on Pond5 three days ago. For just one of them I was given the possibility to edit titles and keywords. The others are still flagged as “processing”. Is it normal to have such a long waiting time? Is there a way I can speed it up?

It takes up to one day after you upload the videos on Pond5 to find those videos on your uploads page ready to be tagged. If you wait a longer time, there must be something wrong.

Talking about review time, that is the time between the submission of content and the acceptance or rejection of it, you can wait one day or one week, sometimes depending on who you are. Usually newbies wait more.

But the time between:

  • uploading files on Pond5
  • having the chance to fill titles and keywords

is the same for every contributor and it is not more than one day, usually no more than one hour. For a simple reason, reviewers are real people, processing files is handled by computers, and in this “1984 style world” machines cost less than humans.

The first stock footage sales

I have a couple of news before the end of the episode. Maybe you remember I talked about Alex Rotenberg in this podcast. He has a great blog about microstock, especially stock images, called:


that gives a lot of information about producing content that can earn you a lot money. He started producing stock footage also and sent me 3 clips he uploaded to Pond5:

  •  one was shot in Copacabana beach, Brazil, during new year's fireworks
  • The others were shot in Milan, while snowing.

I said to him probably he would sell the Brazilian footage, but it would be harder to sell that kind of stock footage set in Milan.

Only three months after uploading the fireworks scene he sold it on Pond5 and got its first 19 dollars. Now Alex, please rise the price as Pond5 allows you to do it.

Pond5 membership are payouts

Second news, it's still about Pond5. I don't think it’s good news, because I'm going to talk about their new membership area pay-outs.

In 2016 they started selling stock footage with subscriptions. Producers who were selected to contribute to the part of their collection sold with those subscriptions got a given amount of money every month. Mine was:

  • $791 for 24 months.

It means that I got $18,984.

Starting from March 2018 they changed the royalty system, so contributors do not get every month the same money, but the money they get depends on sales they have in the membership area.

Well, in the first 2 months I got about $250 each

Pond5 memberhsip area payment

Pond5 memberhsip area payment

so I went from $791 to $250. I should say this a very bad news for me, but I think also for other contributors.

This is microstock: sometimes news is good and sometimes it is bad, like it happens in every business. There is only one way to make more money:

  • No magic formula
  • no guru's guides on how to make one million in one day
  • Just studying and working hard.

Tim Ferris: I love your podcast, but I'm not sure that a 4 hours workweek is the best solution for making business.

Guys the 13th episode of “Sell your photos and videos online” ends here, and the only thing I need to do now is remember you that the best thing in life is not having fun but being happy.

In this episode you've learned about:

  • who the new rappers are
  • what kind of ND filter to buy
  • what a magview is
  • what the best lens set for shooting stock footage and stock images is
  • when you can use cheap equipment and when you can not
  • what taxes at source are
  • how to sign multiple model releases with an App
  • how long Pond5 takes to review your content
  • how the new Pond5 membership area pay-outs work

These are the other pages of my website linked in the text:

It took me more than a day to create this content for you. Why don't you help me and share this page on Social Networks? You will help your friends who love photography to make money.