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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?

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If you are listening to this podcast since the title is self-explanatory, you are probably among the millions of people who have a camera to photograph, be it

  • a professional SLR
  • a smartphone.

I am sure that in the last 30 seconds you have started to wonder if that camera can become a money machine. Now, I know you have the right to think that I'm the classic fake guru of the internet, one of those guys who create videos with a swimming pool in the background, and my Italian accent thanks to 1970's Martin Scorsese films doesn't help me to convince you, but I'm an honest man, and in the next 10 minutes I hope you will believe in me.

The answer to your question is

yes, you can make money with your photos and videos, as I do, but only if you work hard.

At the moment there are thousands of people that have profits with stock images and stock footage. In the contributors' homepage of Shutterstock there's a sentence that I love so much:

Shutterstock serves customers from 150+ countries and has paid over $500 million to our contributors.

Well, my friends. There's a simple thing that I want to ask you:

Why do you have to give away your photos if there's someone who can buy them?

Most photographers around the world don't know what microstock agencies are.

They don't even know the photos they already created rather than laying in their hard drives can become a source of passive income or, as it happened to me, even a full-time job. Since today I earn about $3000 per month selling my stock images and stock footage, even if I work to produce them only a few hours a week. Well, in this podcast, I decided to tell you all my secrets, even if one day probably I will regret I did it because you are becoming my competitors.

Arc de triomphe in Paris at dusk

Let's go back in time to a night I spent in Paris in May 2011, when stock photography was the second job for me as I was a full time story editor for a program that was aired by MTV Italy. But before that, let me tell you my story:

When I was 18, that happened in 1995 for me, I started producing short films, after working in a factory during the summertime to buy my first VHS camera. For ten years I made everything I could to become a professional movie director, but it was too difficult for me, for many reasons: maybe I wasn't good at or perhaps it was nearly impossible to be a film director in Italy in that period, and even more difficult today. I don't know, but in 2006 I was so sorry and looking for a way to go on with my passion for photography and filmmaking, so I discovered istockphoto.com, which is, remember these two words, a microstock agency.

What is a microstock agency?

Let's say I'm:

  • a documentary director
  • a producer of one of those documentaries you can find on Netflix or one of those TV shows aired by Discovery Channel, like Brain Games.

Let's say 99% of the footage is original. At some point of the story the speaker says something like:

This happens in the US, what about Europe, what happens in Paris for example?.

The music starts, and you see a few clips of:

  • the Eiffel tower
  • a baguette food truck
  • the French flag floating.

For the production company, it's faster, easier and cheaper to buy those few clips on:

  1. Pond5.com
  2. Shutterstock.com
  3. Storyblocks.com.

Who produce that footage?

Thousands of freelancers around the world, and here I am guys! By the way, what buyers buy online at a low price is not only footage, it's stock footage. And stock images are the photos you can find, for example, on the homepage of some website, because if you're a serious webmaster, you won't use what you find after searching on Google.

I said low prices, which can be:

  • $79 for a 5 seconds clip
  • $10 for a photo

but the good news is that you can sell that video and that image even a thousand times.

So what happened in my life starting in 2006?

I had my job, and during my holidays or on the weekends, I booked low-cost flights to European capitals. I went to:

  • London
  • Paris
  • Berlin
  • Rome
  • Barcelona

mixing tourism with shooting stock images and stock footage, and I paid my hotels and flights with the royalties generated by sales on

microstock agencies, sometimes simply called microstocks.

How many time did you take a flight and go visiting a city?

I'm quite sure now you are regretting you didn't find this podcast years ago. Actually, this is my first episode, so it couldn't be that easy.

With this workflow, I toured Europe and found a perfect excuse to visit several times beautiful places. On May 2011 it was the third time I went to Paris to create stock images and stock footage, but the first one with a fluid head tripod and a DSLR that created Full HD videos:

  • Canon EOS 550d, also known as Rebel T2i in Northern America.

In those days the market was on top for me, because it was the best year for making money producing stock footage. A few filmmakers around the world with a 600 euros camera like mine had just started creating Full HD footage, that was what many buyers were searching for. I was aware of this, and I told myself:

what about creating high definition footage of the city more in market demand?

So, this is what happened:

  1. departure in the early morning from the airport near where I live, which schedules a lot of low-cost flights as I'm not too far from Venice.
  2. arrival at Paris Beauvais, which is called Paris only because Ryanair decided so but it is at an hour and a half from the city.
  3. one night in the hotel
  4. two days of shooting.

In August of that same year, my girlfriend and I went on holiday ten days in Sardinia: I paid the four stars hotel with the royalties already generated by the content I produced during that trip to Paris. And remember one important thing:

stock images and stock footage royalties are a passive income

so still today I'm making money with that same content I created in 2011.

Screenshot of stock footage earnings on Shutterstock

If today I open the page of my sales reports on Shutterstock, there is time-lapse of the Arc de Triomphe, shot immediately after sunset, which is now well above 1000 dollars profits for me, rising every month. Only on that agency. Then there is Pond5, and there is Storyblocks, and in the next episodes, I'll tell you why today I only upload in those three agencies.

I used to work with 1500 euros equipment, and today,

you can even think of selling content created with a smartphone

even if it is not what I recommend you do. If I can give you just one important concept in this first episode is that with stock images and stock footage you can make money only if you can understand the market, because the microstock industry is not producing art is just building a business. That is the concept where many traditional photographers stumble and get angry because they do not sell in microstocks. The technical part of the production is essential, but not as much as understanding what buyers want.

I'm quite sure you are very excited now. I will talk about this in the next episodes...