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 three days in Paris or London I made enough money to book the following four trips.
My 2016 earnings on Videoblocks.com with the stock footage I shot in London
By the way, if you are a newbie, starting to produce Microstock far from your home is not the best thing to do. If you choose the wrong:
- Season (please don’t shoot in winter!)
- 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. In light of this:
Why don’t you start building your own portfolio from your home?
To become a great Microstock producer you have to make mistakes: it’s the best way to understand the market, what buyers want and how they want the content they are looking for.
What’s the price you have to pay to become so good?
- Losing time to create stock footage that doesn’t sell.
But 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 there are thousands of situations adaptable to market demands.
Try to think of your potential customer. Let’s say he’s
- A director of a documentary that is talking about the Internet (that’s the kind of video I love!).
I worked for television and I know what they do:
- They write a text
- They record the voice over
- They use stock footage to edit the timeline with the voice over, 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 with long hair like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of that period.
These kinds of clips cannot be bought from stock footage agencies for two reasons:
- They are very specific and should be tailored
- Since the faces are easy to remember, as stock footage they can be used by everyone, even in the commercial of a computer shop on a local TV station: not the best thing for a documentary who wants to be an Academy Award nominee.
However, as Microstock contributors, 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 develop a version of BASIC for the Altair personal computer and founded Microsoft.
Here’s what stock footage and stock images the production 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.
- (…develop 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 you’re 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?
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 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 mocha pot
- The detail of a vacuum cleaner that goes on the floor
- Your pet eating from the dog bowl
- Your POV while opening the fridge
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 on booking.com 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, without further charges, to another of their hotels 100 meters away. 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 my friend Manfrotto, head and body.
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 lightbox 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 to eternity will be extra.
I’m not saying this because I want you to think I’m good, but simply to point out that anyone who stays in a hotel sooner or later, but nobody pauses the holiday and creates Microstock, earning what he needs 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, 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.