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:
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.