THE MARKET FOR STOCK IS mature and well understood by most professionals, but with the increasing ability of modern cameras to be true hybrids, capable of outputting high quality video footage alongside fabulous stills, there really is no reason not to look at the full potential of this area. That means having the same mindset for motion as you would for a static photograph and, if you apply the same considered approach in both areas, you could easily increase your reach without a great deal of extra effort.
Everyone knows that the earning potential of stock is not what it was, although some specialists have managed to make a decent living by getting involved in microstock and playing the volume game. While it’s difficult to make an entire living from stock, it is entirely possible to augment your earnings in other areas by always looking for stock possibilities and regularly uploading work through your chosen outlets.
The key to success is knowing your market inside out, realising what sells, being on top of creating a suitable ‘blank canvas’ for an idea or concept and knowing exactly what format to deliver your work in. That approach is identical for both stills and motion and it can actually be beneficial to have a good moving
version of a still image as well, since some clients will want to run both a stills and a motion campaign and require a unified approach.
The market for the moving image has exploded in recent years and continues to grow and, given the speed with which data can now be transferred, it’s no longer the challenge it once was to deliver footage to your chosen outlet, even if it’s been shot in 4K, the de facto standard these days.
The ease of data transference also means that it’s truly an international business these days, and so the specialist motion stock libraries will accept material from anywhere in the world and equally the UK-based creative can pick and choose whichever outlet might happen to suit them best.
The biggest players, such as Shutterstock, will dictate the prices and take their commission, but there are now alternatives. InstaClip, for example, which was founded by filmmaker Jakub Gorajek, has a model where creators can either have a basic free presence or can pay a fee – $29.99 a month for up to 250 clips and $89.99 for unlimited clips – to post their own work and set fees. Here then is a selection of stock clip experts and some of the sites they’re using.
Find your niche. Check out what kind of footage sells best and see what you can shoot without spending additional money on travel, models, etc. Maybe you live in a beautiful place and have awesome sunsets every night, or your sister wants to practice acting in front of the camera. Shoot, upload and test what kind of content works. Then focus on this.
Think about every shot
Every clip should try to convey a story. Don’t just press the record button. Think about the framing and what this footage is expressing. If it’s a business-style shot, have your actors act natural, be sure they are wearing appropriate clothes, recreate the real business environment and be concise. Each shot should consist of 2–3 seconds of nice pre-roll, then 5–10 seconds of ‘action’ and 2–3 seconds of post-roll. That helps the potential buyer to make the cuts whenever he/she wants and also gives a professional look to your clip. If it’s a nature time lapse, think about what matters most. It might a beautiful sky with the clouds in the sunset, or maybe shadows passing by.
It doesn’t matter which camera you choose to work with, nice lighting is the key to success. It doesn’t mean that you have to max out your credit cards and spend all your money on Arri Lights — though they are great! It means that light should be consistent with the type of scene you’re shooting and you can build the atmosphere around that. Don’t be afraid to experiment, use the sunlight that comes from your windows. Even, a super cheap reflector will be enough in many cases. Current sensors can handle very low light conditions so, with a little bit of experimenting, you’ll be able to create the Hollywood look in your living room.
Shoot and upload every day, every two days or at least every week. Don’t wait until your uploaded clips are approved. Shoot, upload and grow your skills. Don’t be discouraged if your footage gets rejected: just learn from the experience and upload more stuff.
Q What’s Your Speciality?
I mainly film European wildlife and try to capture whatever I can as nicely as possible. I don’t go after anything in particular because I think it will sell. Fortunately it’s quite difficult to film wildlife footage, so there’s not much competition.
Q Audio doesn’t seem to be a big requirement?
Some stock sites don’t even allow audio to be included in the clips so I guess it’s true. If I capture an animal that makes a specific sound directly in the clip, for example a singing bird or a roaring stag, then audio becomes essential. If there is just a bird perched on a branch the editors can add whatever audio background they like and I mostly don’t bother.
Q Do you specifically shoot stock or is it shot alongside other wildlife filming work?
I might create short educational videos or offer my footage directly to documentarycreators, but basically everything I film is made into stock footage afterwards. My golden rule is never to offer my wildlife footage exclusively, so I always have the right to use it in my own projects.
Q Do you have a dedicated filmmaking camera or are you working with a hybrid model?
For the past three years I’ve been using the Panasonic GH5 and GH5S, although recently I supplemented these with a Z Cam E2 and I’m learning to work with that. Although the Panasonic can shoot nice stills, I’ve never done that. I focus solely on filming.
Q Is there any particular resolution you need to provide stock at?
The new standard for the past few years has been 4K. Even if I’m planning to output a video in Full HD, the 4K resolution is still important, because it gives me the opportunity to crop the footage at the editing stage or to create a ‘fake zooming’ effect. Right now some filmmakers are starting to film in 6K or even 8K, so I would never film just in Full HD again, it’s just not futureproof. And as for the stock selling sites, 4K footage sells for more, so consequently it earns me extra money.
Q Can you tell us a little about yourself please?
I bought my first DSLR camera in 2010 and, after a couple of years shooting stills for stock, I moved onto video because I enjoyed working with a camcorder and that helped me to gain better commissions.
Q What’s selling for you?
I choose clips that show the best aspects of scenery I’ve filmed or, if I’m filming something like a plumber changing a tap valve, I show his hands and tools, not the worker’s back. I’ll carry out some basic editing, such as removing noise, stabilising if needed and cutting clips to the right length, usually dictated by what’s happening: if it’s action it might fit within the 5 – 60 second limit, if it’s a landscape then it could be maybe around the 20 second mark.
Q What about audio?
Usually agencies ask you to remove audio from footage. Also it depends on the situation – if a clip shows someone hammering in a nail, for example, audio might be a useful addition.
Q What are you filming with?
I started out using camcorders but upgraded from HD to 4K three years ago and now shoot with a Panasonic Lumix DCGH5 mirrorless camera with Leica 12-60mm lens, which is excellent for video clips.
Q How long have you been producing and selling stock video clips?
I began producing stock in 2013 and have been professional for the past three years. We always wondered about self-hosting and selling files directly to clients, since stock platforms take the bigger share of the earnings from the footage that we’ve put so much hard work into. It also makes
showcasing your files to clients much easier. Instaclip was a great alternative at a very reasonable price, so we signed on.
Q Do you set out to specifically shoot stock?
Most of the time we arrange stock shootings and discuss with models and actors what we’re after. In this way, we separate client work from the stock business.
Q You also offer your own platform,Nektarstock, alongside InstaClip?
The two platforms do different things. Nektarstock.com offers busy content producers the chance to let us take care oftheir work by leaving the online business to us; we curate their content and deal with the online distribution, and they earn income through our channel. Instaclip, meanwhile, is hosting most of our own video clips and we use it as a sales platform.
Q How do you decide what makes a good clip?
It comes down to experience and personal taste. We’ve been working with clients producing content on a professional level for many years. But we also stay up-to-date by reading filmmaking blogs and we research the web for great content and fresh ideas.
Q Do you have a dedicated filmmaking camera?
For our film work we use a Sony FS5.M2 with an Atomos recorder to record in 4k Apple ProRes and slow motion. But we also rent cameras for shootings in order to experiment with them and to get different results. For the photography part, we use Canon DSLRs, ranging from a 1D to a 5D. That way we can produce the best possible quality.
Q What’s the market like for motion stock?
For most contributors it’s a passive income that supplements their main one. Only a few can make a living from it. I think the future is bright for anyone on the stock platforms if they can create impressive and original content and stick to market demands. Everyone should be looking to up their game to compete against the many brilliant artists offering their work online.
Q What would be Shutterstock’s requirements for video footage in general terms?
Footage must be between 5 and 60 seconds and no larger than 4GB. We accept HD and 4K resolution, including footage from a mobile device. For file format, the clips should be prepared as Quicktime .mov or .Mp4 files. The technical requirements for video are listed here.
Q Do you provide a guide for first time contributors?
The contributor website and mobile application has a lot of information to help contributors be successful and we have a contributor success guide that provides information on trends and content in demand, as well as tips on the submission process. The contributor support page details frequently asked questions and searchable answers to help photographers, videographers and musicians as questions arise. Additionally, our blog is a great source of timely trends and advice to help contributors be successful.
Q What about subject matter?
There are several ways a contributor can discover topics and content in demand. The Shot List is a monthly guide to the most requested content for the month ahead and this Topics & Trends page lists
the content that is always in demand. With six images being sold every second on the platform, Shutterstock has a wealth of data to share that helps inform contributors of trending topics and content. At the beginning of each year, we publish our annual Creative Trends report, highlighting the top trends we anticipate for the year ahead across photography, illustration, film and music. We continue to highlight trends on our blog throughout the year.
Q What about pricing?
The earnings structure is different for image and video contributors and is based on a percentage of the price Shutterstock makes for licensing the content. The percentage earned is based on the level a contributor is in, and levels range from 15% to 40%. The level a contributor is at is determined by the number of downloads and it resets at the beginning of each calendar year. The more content a contributor licenses in a year, the quicker their earnings rate increases.
Watch as Jakub Gorajek explains how the individual can create and populate their own stock video clip business on his Instaclip platform.
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