Make Money Selling Stock Footage

 
$100 Bills Raining Down – US
Can I make money selling stock footage? Yes but before you get to excited there is a lot to consider. I have written this article to help streamline your induction to the stock footage community.

The easiest way to make money selling stock footage is to get someone else to sell it for you. Sure the stock footage agencies you contribute to take a large percentage of your royalties, but you are responsibility free. All you need to do is sit back and watch the money roll in…unless you want to make even more money in which case you should get busy making more stock footage.

Should I register to sell my stock footage with one or many agencies? Some stock footage agencies offer higher royalty rates if you contribute to them exclusively. Personally I think you’re better off contributing to a few agencies. Which stock footage agencies are the best? From my experience iStockphoto, Pond5, Shutterstock, Clipcanvas and Revostock are by far the most lucrative. Other agencies I have contributed to include ClipDealer, Fotolia, CanStockPhoto and Motiondrops. Why not contribute to every stock footage agency I find? You have to decide whether your time is better spent uploading and tagging videos or producing more content.

Stock Footage Sales Pie Chart

Stock Footage Sales Pie Chart

Which stock footage sells best? The best way to see what sells is to do some research. I like to do my research at iStockphoto since they allow you to see roughly how many times each video has been downloaded. For example if I do a search on iStockphoto for clown, only 100 videos are available and the most popular one has only been downloaded >30 times in over 4 years. You can interpret this in two ways; people aren’t interested in purchasing footage of clowns or they didn’t like any of the footage on offer. At the top of your search results you can select Sort by Downloads to see which footage has had the most downloads. Scroll to the bottom of your search results and click on Display Settings, under File Details select Downloads to see how many times each video has been downloaded directly in your search results. iStockphoto Trends is a helpful page that lists the best selling videos, don’t forget to select Video from the drop down menu to see the statistics for stock footage.

If you see something that sells well and you think you can do it better or present it in a new light go for it. Alternatively you can try and find a hole in the market and fill it.

Produce your stock footage at Full HD 1920×1080 using progressive frames rather than interlaced. Also keep in mind that Quad Full HD 3840×2160 will most likely be the standard within a few years. Stereo 3D stock footage is now available at some agencies but I don’t forsee it taking a big piece of the market until their is a larger adoption and use of 3D televisions. Some agencies to consider contributing stereo 3D stock footage to include Artbeats (must be exclusive), Stereobank and Pond5.

Give your stock footage as much exposure as possible. Logicaly the more people who see your stock footage the more sales you’re likely to get. Uploading to Youtube and Vimeo with links to where your stock footage can be purchased is a great start. Keep in mind you can only use Vimeo for business or commercial purposes with the purchase of a Vimeo PRO account.

Having my stock footage on Youtube and Vimeo has also landed me some freelance work from international clients on projects like The Darkest Hour film and the Maritime Xperiential Museum Typhoon Theatre ride on Sentosa Island in Singapore.

Growing Global Network
Jellyfish Nightlights

My best selling stock footage is Growing Global Network and Jellyfish Nightlights. Growing Global Network sells well because of its universal appeal, it can represent anything from the expansion of a business to the spread of a virus. On the other hand Jellyfish Nightlights sells well because it fills a whole in the market. The hole exits because filming something similar would be difficult and generating it in 3D isn’t easy.

If you keep your stock footage under 30 seconds in duration, under 750MB’s in size and encode it as a Quicktime (Photo-JPEG at 95% quality) you will meet the submission requirements of most of the stock footage agencies.

Uploading and assigning keywords to your stock footage. The easiest way to upload your footage to the majority of agencies is via FTP. I use a simple free FTP client called Filezilla. iStockphoto punishes its non-exclusive contributors by forcing them to upload via their website. Keywording or tagging refers to the task of assigning keywords to your footage. Stock footage agencies use a combination of your title, keywords and a myriad of other statistics to decide what results to show potential buyers when they do a search. All stock footage agencies require 50 or less keywords for each video. After I’ve run out of ideas for keywords I have a couple of tools I use to help out; Yuri Arcurs Keyword Tool and Googles Keyword Tool. If you’re are still a few keywords short, simply search for similar footage on iStockphoto and see what keywords other contributors are using. Deep Meta is an awesome free tool for managing your iStockphoto portfolio.

Keep a spreadsheet record of the titles, descriptions and keywords used for all your videos. This is useful
if you decide to contribute to other agencies in the future or if you produce a similar video.

How much money can I make? As you can see from the graph bellow, it doesn’t take long before people start buying your stock footage and sales start to ramp up. For something you can do in your spare time the extra money in your pocket is worth it. I haven’t uploaded any new stock footage in the last 12 months and sales are still on the rise with my most profitable month ever in January 2012.

Stock Footage Sales Bar Graph

Can I make a living from selling stock footage? From my own experience, I see the potential too. I think the best approach would be to work on it part-time for a couple of years until you have built up a large portfolio, then when your stock footage income can supplement your regular income quit your day job and work on it full time.

Due to the ever increasing pool of available stock footage and changing market you could never stop producing content and expect to maintain the same income.

We look forward to reading your comments and will gladly answer any questions you might have. Check back for monthly sales reports. To follow is a list of stock footage agencies to consider contributing to, I suggest starting with the top row.

Sell Stock Footage at iStockphotoSell Stock Footage at Pond5Sell Stock Footage at ShutterstockSell Stock Footage at Revostock
Sell Stock Footage at ClipCanvasSell Stock Footage at ClipDealerSell Stock Footage at FotoliaSell Stock Footage at CanStockPhoto
 
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Updated: 7th April 2012

  53 Responses to “Make Money Selling Stock Footage”

  1. Thanks for the article, I will link through to VJLoops.tv Facebook, Twitter and our blog in hopes to get more VJ’s interested in content creation for profit and to consider joining the ranks at my own site which at the moment is quite small in comparison to the bigger agencies like Pond5. There are a ton of talented motion graphics artists sitting on beautiful content that would do really well if they put some time into it. A perfect case in point would be “Dubassy” he’s quite versed in the stock business with 5k plus in clips. Another tip that I suggest is that people create in HD and prepare themselves for 4k. Don’t limit your collections to SD footage which in time will probably be a thing of past. Cover your bases and cater to various resolutions and save projects for future renders.

    • Thanks for the links Kyle! Great points, do you mind if I add your advice to produce in HD as I neglected to? I might also add something about producing in stereo 3D as I think its likely to take off before 4k.

      • Yes, of course! I haven’t started with any stereo 3D yet, just some chroma-depth footage. I think the biggest obstacle here is the need for glasses. The effects are great and if they can lower the costs of glasses then I can see it being a novelty for special events/clubs when it comes to the VJ world. On the other hand in the corporate world where budgets are bigger I think costs are not an issue and there is potential. The wow factor for impressing clients or promoting new products/ideas with creative 3D video has potential. πŸ™‚

  2. Hello

    Nice artical. I agree the best way is just to continue creating content. Also making a master spread sheet of all your keywords is helpful for adding your content to future sites. It does take up time, but in the future when cash is rolling in while you sit around is a nice thing.

    Sean

  3. Great Article…

    I just linked it on VJ Union Australia Group (Facebook)…
    https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_108826845853904&ap=1
    (its a private thing, so if you want to join make a request and I’ll add you)

    or you can add my on fb : Grigori vdmoKstati

  4. Good article. But I do not see videohive.net here. πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you for this fantastic article.

  6. Hello!
    You made me start trying to sell stock footage.
    I got an invitation from clipcanvas today.
    It is worth selling there? I canΒ΄t find it in your chart.
    I earned 50$ in 10 days with 20-50 clips online at different agencies.
    So I will produce more content.

    thanks a lot!
    best regards

    Stefan

    • Hi Stefan πŸ™‚

      That’s a great start! I’m very happy to hear you’re doing well πŸ™‚

      I have had 18 sales on Clipcanvas totaling 254.73 € since becoming a member on 2009-08-12. For the hour I probably spent submitting footage to Clipcanvas I think it was worth it.

      Good luck with your sales!

      • Hello again!

        I just noticed that you answered – thanx a lot!
        The bad news: No sales on clipcanvas.
        The good news: 331$ on shutterstock, 300$ on istock and nearly 200$ on pond5.
        50-70 clips online, but only one really sells good (different touchscreen gestures – greenscreen). I really have no idea how to find the right price for my clips – perhaps youΒ΄ve got some tips?

        best regards

  7. Hi there,

    I’m wondering why Getty Images is not listed as a place to sell to. I know they own iStock, but can’t you sell direct to them too? Forgive my ignorance, I’m new to the area!

    Thanks, Jackie

    • Hi Jackie,

      Getty Images requires you submit 15-20 clips as a sample of your work before you’re approved as a contributor. For someone only starting to sell stock footage, to have 15-20 clips is quite an acheivment let alone at the standard that Getty Images requires.

      That said I should probably still list it as an option. I will add it next time I update the article.

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention πŸ™‚

  8. Thank you for this article,
    could you please suggest one/some video editing software for stock ?

    • It really depends what kind of stock footage you’re producing and unfortunately most of the software is quite expensive.

      If you’re filming live action and all you need to do is some minor corrections then I recommend Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 – US $799.

      I haven’t personally used any of Sony’s video editing software but I been told by work colleagues that Vegas Pro 11 – US $599.95 is very good. Sony also has a couple of cheaper options, Movie Studio Platinum – US $94.95 and Movie Studio 11 – US $44.95 both have free trials and may meet your requirements.

      If you’re producing motion graphics or 3D stock footage I recommend The Foundry’s Nuke – US $4900 or Adobe After Effects – US $999.

  9. Hi,

    It’s really interesting. Could you tell my what is the number of files you have online for sale. Just for make a compare with the total of your sales.

    Thank you

    Francois

    • Hi Francois,

      I have listed the number of stock footage clips I have online in the pie-chart graphic towards the top of the article. Pond5 has accepted the highest number of my clips coming in at 97 although the majority of these are simply variations, I only have 18 unique clips online.

  10. Hi,
    Thanks for an informative article!
    I’m wondering what kind of policies you’ve encountered regarding model consent. Do we need to have permission from the people in our videos to sell stock footage?
    Thanks, Kirsten

    • Hi Kirsten,
      iStockphoto has a great article with plenty of examples of when you do and don’t need a model release. Check it out here. I know it refers to photography but the same rules apply. iStockphoto is a good benchmark for this kind of thing as they are one of the strictest agencies.

  11. I have a client who wants to use my footage for research to write a book. The book is being written to create a speaking career, and ultimately raise money for the charity he started. So, my question is do I charge him to use my footage for these purposes? If so, how much?

    The footage is of him and his crew as he competed in a long distance athletic event. I already have an agreement with this guy that I own the footage and right to it. Feel as if he’s trying to skirt the agreement to view the footage, which he may want to purchase outright at some point. Not sure what to do.

    • Hi Amy,

      As to whether or not to charge your client for the use of your footage is up to you, do you want to support his charity? If you decide to charge then deciding how much is not an easy task. You could call up a business that offers the service you provided and get a quote from them. It really depends on what kind of service you provided, how professional the end result is, how much time you spent on it, the costs you incurred, the equipment used, does he want to purchase the footage outright and in the end how much profit you want to make. Good luck πŸ™‚

  12. I’m a full-time freelance writer, though I just discovered vector design as a potential business venture. I’ve been creating custom logos and vector images for a few years now. However, I haven’t considered selling my images part-time until a few days ago after being inspired by the vector images offered on iStockPhoto.

    I’ve slowly built up my confidence, and I think I’m ready to start selling. While I won’t be selling stock footage, I found this article very helpful. Many of the tips here apply to selling vector images as well (my boyfriend showed me this article after considering selling his own photography). I originally planned to start selling my vector designs on iStockPhoto, since that’s where I primarily buy all of my images. A client of mine buys his images from Shutterstock, and I did hear about Fotolia (though I don’t have any experience with using them). I’ll do my research to see which companies accept vector drawings before I start selling and will slowly work down your list of recommendations.

    But I must say that I’m very excited about this opportunity here. I don’t expect big earnings right away (like any business, it will take time to develop), but I figured if I can just commit to creating three vector designs a week, it will all gradually add up. I went ahead and created an excel spreadsheet to keep a record of my vector images. I also found the trends list on iStockPhoto to be very helpful. It’s interesting to see which images have sold well in the last three months.

    This article has been very motivating to say the least. I’m sure other creative individuals, and not just stock footage professionals, will find this article as helpful as I did.

    • Hi Christina,

      I’m glad you found the article motivating and helpful. Good luck with your vector art. I’ve always wondered how well the vector art sells on iStockphoto. I’ve love to hear how you go! πŸ™‚

  13. A very concise, informative article. Very helpful.

    Thank you so much.

    Aloha!

    Tim

  14. Thanks a lot
    This is the best guide to sell stockfootage for new comers like me.

    Once again thank u

    K. Maniyarasu

  15. Great article! … I do have a question though. On your JellyFish vimeo you link to 3 stock sites for purchases but they are all different pricing. If I may ask, what is the logic behind 3 sites with 3 totally different prices.

    Thanks!
    riz

  16. Hi,
    Really nice article. What do you think is best, be an exclusive at iStockphoto or be non-exclusive and sell my footage everywhere? Until now I have over 5000 clips. I upload 3400 on iStockphoto but their is a limit per month for uploading and also 40% is rejected. Is there any software for tagging for all stocks at the same time. Deepmeta is nice but it is just for iStockphoto.
    Best regards, Ales

    • Hi Ales,
      I personally think you’re better of submitting to many stock footage agencies rather than being exclusive to one. Sorry, I don’t know of any software to manage your footage on multiple stock footage sites.

  17. Hi again,

    I just noticed on Pond 5 that one of your videos made it to no. 1 of this month sales – one of mine is no.3 according to revenue. πŸ˜‰
    (username: studio_fly)
    Thanx again for making me start selling footage.

  18. Hi,

    We have a lot of footage of special wildlife in HD quality. At the moment we do have hundreds and hundreds of clips. NatGeo is currently looking into our wildlife footage about apes.
    What kind of agencies do you recommend to us? Big ones such as Shutterstock, Pond5 or a footage agency specialised in wildlife? What is your opinion about exclusive vs non-exclusive contracts?

    • Hi Carmen,

      I personally think you’d make more money being non-exclusive and submitting to as many agencies as you can, although since your producing live action stock footage you’re clearly going to have much more to submit and tag than someone like me who generates their footage in 3D, so submitting to many agencies may become a mammoth task. If you have a big enough stock footage collection at high enough quality you may be able to negotiate an improved royalty rate and/or get the agency to name and tag your collection, making exclusivity a more attractive option. In my opinion the improved royalty rates for being exclusive are not high enough to beat what you’d make submitting to multiple agencies.

      I’d love to hear how you go. Good luck πŸ™‚

  19. Thanks for the article. Too bad there isn’t some kind of trending tool for finding what everyone is searching for – across agencies and internationally. Also, nice! I’ve seen your “Growing Global Network” footage so many times on so many stock agencies, its nice to finally know who did it! πŸ™‚ I’ll also go with you: I submit to the same 5 agencies, too, but I get almost no sales with ClipCanvas and it can take weeks to hear back. iStock has been really slow to approve footage – taking over 6 weeks – while Pond5 and Shutterstock have been really quick.

  20. Forgot to mention: I use this site for keywording: http://www.findphotokeywords.com AND I gather both stock photos and videos when I shoot so I can get the best range and sometimes a photo will be approved where a video was not. πŸ™‚

  21. I was wondering how to deal with the different pricing on Shutterstock and iStockphoto. It seems that iStock is selling HD backgrounds for $170 while Shutterstock sells theirs for $79. How could you sell the same footage at such different prices?

    Thanks,
    Ken

    • Hi Ken,

      At Pond5 I have set most of my clips to $49, thats ~$120 cheaper than iStockphoto. Different stock footage sites offer different licenses, services and support, so they charge different amounts. A 1080p sale at both iStockphoto and Shutterstock earn me ~$24 in royalties. On sites that allow me set the price like Pond5, ClipCanvas and Revostock, I try to keep the royalties I’ll earn from a 1080p sale at $20-25.

      You simply want as much exposure and as many sales opportunities as possible hence it doesn’t really matter how much the stock footage agencies are selling your work for.

  22. Hi I’m trying to price some footage for an app. Its a piece of car editorial to go in a trade app one minute long. How do I price this. Do I price by territory as well? Can you help advise?
    Many thanks

    • Hi Kos,

      It really depends on what kind of service you provided, how professional the end result is, how much time you spent on it, the costs you incurred, the equipment used, does the developer want to purchase the footage outright and in the end how much profit do you want to make.

      Tally up the cost of your time, equipment hire etc and you’ll have figure to start with. If you’re really struggling you could request a quote from a company who offers the same services as you.

      Good luck πŸ™‚

  23. Hi there,

    Thank you for this information it is greatly appreciated. I have been using a Canon XL2 during my travels in Madagascar and I was hoping to sell many of my clips as stock footage. Will the definition from this camera be enough? It is a pro user camera used to film the movie 28 days later though its not HD. The image quality on screen looks gorgeous but then is it enough. I’m using Adobe Premiere to edit and encode my footage too and as a result the output is something I’m unsure off. The camera is PAL and I usually aim for Wide screen high quality on WMV. I’m still very new to the world of film and editing from a technical point of view but my footage is pretty nice if I don’t mind saying myself so it would be a shame to leave it to waste. Any tips/direction would be so greatly appreciated.
    Sending this message via my phone so I hope it makes sense.

    Many thanks Dave

  24. I just want to say thank you for this very insightful article. I was looking for some information on this topic and found it to be extremely helpful and informative. Can’t wait to get started! Thanks again!

  25. I noticed your footage is at 30 fps. I work in TV graphics at 1920×1080 24p and had assumed that if I produced 3D stock motion graphics it should be at 24 fps. What are the advantages/disadvantages of 24 or 30 fps? Most agencies seem to accept either.

    • Hi Rik,

      Since every I do is quite abstract and doesn’t contain a soundtrack the frame rate is somewhat insignificant. People who purchase my work are hopefully not retiming(frame blending) the stock footage to achieve their desired frame rate but simply playing it back at their desired frame rate so a 30 second 30 fps clip will become a 37.5 second clip at 24 fps. Some stock footage sites have a seconds restriction on the length of submitted footage but not a frame limit so by submitting at 30 fps I can submit a longer clip. This particularly helpful when doing globe revolutions as I wanted the spin the globe as slow as possible but still make it loop. If you are filming live action, film at the frame rate of the region to think the clip is most likely to appeal to.

  26. Great article and great work! I am wondering if you have looked at the newer stock site http://www.stockeon.com? I like what I see on it and I am considering selling stock video for the 1st time and I am wondering if this site would be a good place to signup? Looks like they take 45%.

    Also, how do you determine pricing? I see your Pond5 clip is cheaper than shutterstock, are you adjusting the price based on the profit margin of the different sites?

    Thanks!,
    Dan Rollins
    livewirefilms.com

    • Hi Dan,

      I haven’t looked at stockeon.com but if I have some spare time I may submit a few clips there and see how they go. I wouldn’t submit there as a priority.

      Yes regardless of the price the stock footage sites charge for my work I try and make the amount I’ll earn from a 1080p sale ~US$20.

      Goodluck!

  27. Hello again!

    I’m producing since one year now and the last month was the best (I produce only a very few clips per month and have just about 100 clips online).
    How did your sales develop? I now selll 3 times more than 9 month ago.
    So do your sales still increase too? Do you think the market still grows (or do the number of clips grow faster than the sales)
    Perhaps this is interesting too: shutterstock: 46% pond 5: 23% istock: 19% – and fotolia sales increase too.
    All the best from Germany
    Stefan

    • Hi Stefan,

      Thats great to hear, last month was my best month as well, US$1700 in sales. My sales have been gradually rising even though I haven’t had a chance to produce any new footage for…oh damn it’s been two years. I should do a updated sales report. It’s interesting to see how similar my stock footage agency sales percentages are: Shutterstock 44%, Pond5 33%, 18% iStockphoto and 6% other.

      Thanks for the update, it’s makes me very happy to hear you’re doing well πŸ™‚

  28. Great! I made about 1400$ in june. πŸ˜‰ (220$ with fotolia)
    A new sales report would be very interesting.

    I think you could rise your prices on pond 5, but perhaps you tested it in the past. I made my 89$ clip cheaper for a while, but that wasn’t a good idea.
    Good luck!

    One last thing: do you know the microstockr app? It shows the sales on most agencies in realtime: http://www.microstockr.com/
    I use it (too) often.

    • Nice work πŸ™‚

      I agree, I should increase my prices on Pond5. Done. I’ll give $89 a try. Hmmm maybe I should have made them $79 to match Shutterstock…oh well too late now.

      I hadn’t seen Microstockr, thanks for the head up. I had tried some of the older apps but they weren’t any good. Checking your sales can be addictive πŸ™‚

  29. Yes, it is addictive!

    89$: All the future buyers donΒ΄t know that it was 49$ before, but they see the many sales πŸ™‚

    Ps.: ItΒ΄s nearly unbelievable that James Bond only paid a few Dollars for your great clip.
    Pss.: Pond5 – Best this month: your clip on 3, mine on 4 πŸ™‚
    Hope the market keeps on growing.

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