Adventures in Stock Video

I’ve been promising to write about stock video for a while and so this is the first of what I plan will be a series of posts going through my approach to stock video. I don’t pretend to be an expert – in fact I still struggle a bit with the concepts of what a good stock video is – but I’ll give you my thoughts. This first post will be an explanation of what I think you should be aiming at with stock video production.

But first a few words about my earnings from video and how far I have got! I did some early HD videos back in 2011 – some with me as an actor (not good), some which were simply generated from panning across a still digital image and then some of the fireworks over Washington DC on Independence Day. Those are pretty straightforward – camera on a tripod aimed at the right place and, bingo, I captured some pretty reasonable video. In fact, this series

has generated the most income so far in my stock video career. In those early years, I uploaded around 100 videos and then lost interest for a while. Since I restarted with video in mid 2016, I’ve added another 200 plus videos to bring my total on Shutterstock to 267 and 312 on Pond5. Total earnings from video to date has been $5758.

Looking back at how that has been growing is interesting. I don’t keep detailed stats on video separately to stills when I do my monthly agency totals, but I can get a good idea of sales via Microstockr Pro:

2011: $239

2012: $167

2013: $774

2014: $668

2015: $489

2016: $377

2017: $1521

2018 to date: $337

You can see from this that the effort put into videos in mid 2016 is starting to pay off although there does seem to be quite a lag between when you upload the file and when the sales come along. Just for interest, my fireworks videos are still my best sellers with $1250 of my total income coming from two files taken on that July 4th evening. If I recall, I stayed overnight in a hotel in Washington so that I could get there early and not be caught up in the traffic after the event – money well spent in retrospect!

So what is a stock video? The reason I find this question hard is that while I see the use of stock photos all over the place – magazines, website, adverts etc. – stock video is harder to see. I don’t much like watching video ads online (in fact, I don’t actually watch much online video at all), and I don’t watch a lot of TV and so seeing stock video in use is just not a natural thing for me to be aware of. But what I have seen is that the clips used are normally very short – perhaps just a few seconds edited into a longer piece. They often are used behind a presenter or behind some text or a message and they are there to help maintain interest and illustrate the main message of the clip. So you will see a pan across some bitcoins in a news report about the latest price moves there, some prescription tablets and bottle is zoomed into to illustrate the opioid crisis in the US and so on. I know there is a big market for good looking people behaving naturally in adverts for all manner of products and services but as you know from my stock photo work, that really isn’t my skill area. From the few videos I have taken with models (myself mainly), I’ve found that looking “real” on a video is a rare skill. My attempts are often wooden at best. So the message if you want to go into people video is that you need to hire good models with acting skills if they are to be at all believable in the end video.

So you are not looking to create a story with cuts and edits – you are looking to provide short (10-20 second) clips of a single subject that someone will take a few seconds from to complete their own project.

Which agencies do I support with video? Pond5 was my early choice, together with Shutterstock. I’ve added Adobe Stock to that list (although no editorials there), then Videoblocks and finally, in January of this year, iStock. I’m not sure about the latter agency – I can see some very low priced sales there already, although I suspect that the buyer would have chosen another iStock video rather than search for my specific one on another site. So at that level I’m not really reducing my overall income by accepting their lower prices. I also didn’t upload my full portfolio to them – just started uploading new videos to that site. Although I have not been on all sites for the same length of time, my earnings are heavily weighted towards Pond5 with $3000 coming from that site alone. Around $1900 has come from Shutterstock.

In my next post, I’ll focus more on the types of stock video I’ve taken, which ones are currently selling and how I go about taking them.

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Hello, Steve.

A roll – is a video or audio that tells the story that is the basis of the video. Typically this is an interview, news segment or any dialogue or video that serves as the main narrator.

But viewing the interview or news segment without any other visual effects is very boring. It’s just a talking head and there’s nothing to break it to supplement what they say.

Such things as wrong hands, coughing, incoherent dialogue – everything needs to be removed in order to hide these shortcomings.

To do this, add a B roll.

B roll – this is a short video that complements and supports A roll with several different uses.

Uses B roll:

1. The video A roll has a sound track with an interview. But it’s long. So we want to add a bit of B roll to make this video interesting.

It is necessary to cut out the least important parts or any stammering or sounds A … ah …, am ….

To prevent the video from jumping between the cuts, insert B roll. This will make the video more interesting, and hide the changes that look like a shorter answer.

2. The next B roll is used to visually show what is being told.

The interview may be interesting, but the B roll can show more precisely what they are talking about.

3. The last B roll can serve as a transition between individual segments of the interview. If you next the video section start a new topic or line of discussion. A direct transition can be incredibly abrupt.

Instead, inserting several B rolls (2-3 pieces) can act as a buffer between old and new rollers.

All kinds of B roll must support the narration.

Many stories in the media suffer from the lack of B roll and they are less interesting.

The story of a volcano without B roll will be less dramatic and narrative. Viewers need a bright visual image.

Best regards, Vlad Savin.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your video experiences Steve. I haven’t submitted much video: 7 clips on Shutterstock as against a photo portfolio of 4103, for 1 sale so far. I have been meaning to shoot and submit more video. Pond 5 also seems like the go. I registered there a few months back but haven’t actually worked out the upload process yet. By the sound of it, it might be worth doing that.

Thanks for the insight! I’m still waiting to get into video stock. The problem is, that I don’t know what I’m waiting for… 🙂

Hi Steve
I discovered your site recently. I have also worked with various agencies for only a year. I have a problem to solve and I can not give an answer. Are your images on alamy all under an RF license? They told me that if the photos are sold on many agencies then the RF license must be inserted. How do you work? Thank you for your response.
I would like you to see my alamy portfolio to give me some advice, is it possible? I do not know how to send you the link of the portfolio (I tried to send to an email but I do not know if it worked). Sorry English (by italy), I use the automatic translator
hello, lorenza

Interesting reading about your experience with stock footage.
I’ve shot stills for stock for 20 years. Been supplying Pond5 and others for just over a year. Now have around 700 on Pond5. I’m proud of I’ve done so far but the hardest part is getting the ball rolling. I’m aware things take more time than stills I’ve heard the lag on Pond5 especially could be a year, worrying to know if things will materialise and hard to keep it going until things do.

Always interesting and inspiring reading your blog.

i recently open pond5 and shutterstock

pond5 for stock videos

shutterstock for stock pictures

thanks to you. i’ve got some tips. and i think i will be opening account to other sites

Thanks for your comment.
Just goes to show how you need to be with all of them as it seems as though they all go up and down according to the time of year and the content you produce.

Interesting comments.
With reference to istock, interesting reading that you think clients don’t shop around and would only buy from iStock, and that maybe it might not be taking away potential sales of your work from other sites?

Of course it is impossible to prove that this is the case every time, but all the trials I have done on Alamy and still photos suggests that people buy what they find on Alamy, in general, rather than seeking the same image elsewhere even though it might be cheaper. I think that is because many buyers have an account with one or two agencies and buy from them – it is too much trouble to open an account elsewhere just to license one specific image or video – there are probably more than one that would meet their need as well. In fact, if people generally believed that Getty/iStock was the cheapest source for video, then they would start their search there and only go to more expensive sites if they didn’t find a suitable clip on iStock. I don’t think that happens in practice.

Thanks for your comments.
I have often wondered.
I have been with iStock under a year, and sell a lot, but have often wondered whether this takes away sales from other sites. (I wish Pond5 would sell like this!) Or just to accept that it is extra income.
Looking at it another way, baked beans made by one company get distributed to different supermarkets, some cheap, others more expensive. People are happy to shop at both.

Also, wonder if the clients are different.
How come sales happen really quickly on iStock but take longer on Pond5? Is it because one is aimed at bloggers perhaps, and the other towards tv and documentaries which take longer to produce?

I think the low priced videos are probably for small sizes more appropriate for web use. I can’t see Getty just trying to bring the whole market price down just for the sake of it – they have too much to lose in their higher priced images and presumably videos. And to be honest, it is hard to ignore the $400 – $500 I earn from the site each month. So I stick with my belief that most people buy where they find!

Too true! Impressive, although I do wonder where they get used, having had some 4k sales at pretty low prices.

[…] in the week I wrote the first of several posts on stock video. Today I’ll move forward to look at the sort of stock videos I’ve been taking and how […]

[…] earlier posts on this subject have covered the basics of what stock video is, and then more detail on the sort of clips I have been producing. Now I’ll focus on some […]

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