Traveling the world with a camera is the dream of every photographer and video maker.
My best professional memories belong to the days I spent in European capitals taking pictures or shooting stock footage,
in years when during a three days trip in Paris or London I made enough money to book the following four trips.
My recent earnings on Videoblocks.com with the stock footage I shot in London
By the way, if you are a newbie, starting to produce content for microstock far from your home is not the best thing to do. If you choose the wrong:
- Season (please read this post!)
- Subjects (today the Eiffel Tower is no longer the most profitable place to film in Paris)
- Shooting technique (hyperlapse is the new trend!),
You’ll lose time and money. So:
Why don’t you start building your own portfolio from your home?
To become a great producer for microstock agencies you have to make mistakes because it’s the best way to understand the market and what buyers want.
What’s the price you have to pay to become so good?
- Losing time to create stock footage that doesn’t sell.
As you are going to lose more time if you start producing far from your house, and even more money because you have to pay for your travel expenses, inside the place where you live you can find dozens of situations to film to create content that sells.
The key point is always thinking about your potential customers. Let’s say the buyer is:
- A director of a documentary that is talking about the Internet (that’s the kind of video I love!).
I worked for television many years, and I know what they do:
- Write a text
- Record the voice over
- Use stock footage to edit, along with interviews and reconstructions with actors.
So, let’s say they are talking about the history of computing. The first thing a producer wants to schedule is some interviews with experts. Then they will plan some scenes shot on purpose recreating the garages of Silicon Valley in 1970’s with young people inside.
These kinds of clips cannot be bought from stock footage agencies for one reason:
- They are very specific and should be shoot on demand.
and also because faces are easy to remember and stock footage can be bought by everyone, even by a local TV producer who use it in the commercial of a computer shop, which is not good for a documentary that wants to be an Academy Award nominee.
However, we are microstock contributors, and we must understand that there are many other kinds of content that film productions prefer instead of filming from scratch. Let’s say that the voice over of the documentary says:
In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen developed a version of BASIC for the Altair personal computer and founded Microsoft.
Here’s what stock footage and stock images the production company needs to edit this part of the documentary:
- (In 1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen…): an image of Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975 (You can’t create it, at least if you were not a Californian photographer in the 1970’s). They will probably buy that picture from a news agency archive, paying a lot of money.
- (…developed a version of BASIC for the Altair personal computer…): the stock footage of a young man in his bedroom typing on a vintage computer and with a poster of the film “Mean Street” on the wall (I love Martin Scorsese!). Or maybe the same scene set in a garage like those of 1970’s where nerds used to work.
- (…and founded Microsoft…): two hands holding beer glasses mug. You can set the scene in 1970’s using a vintage watch, or one of those crazy colorful shirts they used in that decade.
Then, let’s say the voice over is talking about the modern days of computing:
Worldwide, there are over 1.79 billion monthly active Facebook users which is a 16 percent increase year over year.
The production needs to edit this part of the documentary with:
- (Worldwide, there are over 1.79 billion monthly active Facebook users…) More than one scene with different people (young, old, man, white, black, Asian…) in different settings (office, school, outdoor) and on different devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone).
- (… which is a 16 percent increase year over year.) A graphic showing the increase (if you’re an Adobe After Effects user it’s not hard to create it).
These were just examples, but talking about computers, inside your house you can easily film:
- A modem with lights flashing
- Close up of hands typing on a keyboard
- The face of a man in front of the computer
- A time-lapse of what happens at a computer user’s desk (typing, drinking a cup of tea, using the smartphone, relaxing, writing notes….)
Do you have a computer at home? Do you have an Internet connection and a camera? So what are you waiting for to start filming?
The footage you are going to produce can be more profitable than a Times Square time-lapse, as today there are tons of Times Square time-lapses already published in the collections of microstock agencies and it’s very hard to give buyers a reason for choosing your content.
Mine were just simple ideas. As I show in my course, there are dozens of situations you can film inside your house:
- The coffee which flows from the Moka pot.
- The detail of a vacuum cleaner that goes on the floor.
- Your pet eating from the dog bowl.
- You’re POV while opening the fridge.
and many others.
Only your creativity is the limit, but before being an artist, you have to understand what content sells. It is not enough to use a tripod and press the REC key because if you want to win the battle against your competitors, you have to take care of the lighting, framing, and technique (I love shallow depth of field).
A few years ago I booked a three-star hotel for a Saturday night. That same day they called me to tell me that the hotel was closed at that time, and they transferred me for free to another of their hotels in the same city. I discovered that it was a five-star luxury hotel. I knew I would never have another chance to be in a place like that, so as a stock footage producer, I decided to transform a “pure relax weekend” into a weekend of work as well, bringing my Canon EOS 550D/Rebel T2i and a Manfrotto tripod
After arriving, I spent just half an hour to make generic shots of the room:
- An overview from the door to the bed with my suitcase parked in front of the bed.
- The marble sink with the water flowing.
- A welcome basket with soaps and shower caps.
- The toilet flushing.
Take a look at the stock footage I created in my collection on Pond5. The quality is quite poor, and the absence of artificial lighting is due to the fact that I could not lose too much time (it was a holiday, and I was not alone!).
My earnings only on Pond5.com of the stock footage shot during that weekend.
The most interesting fact is that the royalties I got from the total of those sales paid the cost of the hotel. In other words: I spent a night in a five-star luxury hotel for free, and what I’m going to earn from here on will be extra.
I’m not saying this because I want you to think I’m good, but simply to point out that everybody stayed in a hotel at least for one night, but only me and few other heroes paused the holiday and created stock images and stock footage, earning what we needed to pay for the next trip. With this workflow, I’ve toured Europe, and I’ve built a portfolio that today gives me a living.
This is my cat. This frame is from one the videos I shot with him. I can tell you more in my course.
Sometimes subjects that sell are not far away from where you are now, whether you are at home, or in any place where you’ve come for other reasons.
Just look around, use your camera and when you’ve finished start planning the next shot.