A Comprehensive Guide To Selling Stock Footage
If you’re a videographer, there’s a good chance you’ve considered selling your work as stock footage. After all, what could be easier than selling something you’ve already created? You don’t have to deal with clients, deadlines, or any of the other headaches that come with being a freelance videographer. Plus, you can make a passive income from your videos – meaning you continue to make money even after the initial sale.
But before you start uploading your videos to every stock footage website out there, there are a few things you need to know.
In this blog post, I’ll give you an overview of the stock footage industry, how much you can earn, and some tips on how to make money from your videos.
- Wirestock Review – All-In-One Site to Sell Stock Media: This is for you if keywording, captioning, and distribution of your stock footage is too much work.
- Where To Sell Stock Footage? The Best 3 Sites and The Wildcard
What Is Stock Footage?
Stock footage is a short video, usually between 5 – 60 seconds long that brands, news and marketing agencies, or anyone can purchase and download online and use in their productions. In other words, stock videos are a stock of video clips stored in online libraries and are available for purchase at any time, anywhere.
Stock footage is an excellent low-cost solution for self-employed individuals, small businesses, or others who operate on a tight budget to get high-quality video content in their productions.
Stock footage can be anything — aerials, landscapes, time-lapses, lifestyle, cityscapes, etc. The clips are typically used in commercials, news programs, and documentaries or as background videos in different situations. Also, film and television productions use stock footage, for example, as an establishing shot between two scenes.
Stock Footage Market
The stock video market includes three key players: the contributors, the stock video agencies, and the buyers.
Contributors are those who create the content, tag them, and upload it to the stock platform. Anyone can be a contributor. Whether they are professionals or just ordinary people with a passion for shooting videos. Contributors are the ones who are doing most of the “legwork.”
Next comes the stock video agencies, which specialize in collecting, organizing, marketing, and distributing stock footage. They are the middlemen who build the platforms where the contributors and the buyers “connect.” The agency also does marketing, develops the website technology, manages the collections, and coordinates the contributors and the buyers.
Then there are the buyers. Buyers may be news and marketing agencies, film and TV productions, YouTubers, and companies, etc. Understanding who the buyers are and what they need is essential for contributors to succeed. Read my post Who Buys Stock Photos and Why? to find out who the buyers are.
The stock media market is a huge industry, and it’s only getting bigger. In fact, it’s expected to grow by 6.9% each year.
However, the market is incredibly competitive, as there are thousands of new contributors adding new content every single year.
That said, the stock footage market is not as saturated as the stock photo market. For example, Shutterstock has a massive collection of 700 million images, but its stock footage collection only includes 50 million clips.
This means that there are still plenty of opportunities for new contributors to make some serious money.
So if you’re thinking of getting into the stock video business, don’t be discouraged by the competition – there’s still room for you to succeed.
Why To Sell Stock Footage?
There are many reasons why you might want to sell stock footage. Perhaps you’re a professional videographer who has a library of unused footage that you’re looking to monetize. Or maybe you’re an amateur who recently captured some unique footage and is wondering if it’s worth anything. In either case, selling stock footage can be a great way to earn some passive income.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons next.
Pros of Selling Stock Videos
First of all, creating stock footage is simply the easiest and the most flexible way of making money with your videos.
You see, selling stock videos is not neglected by time, place, or formal education. It all depends on you; when, where, and how well you can work.
Stock footage is also easy to produce. Only 5-60 seconds of footage with minimal editing, and that’s it! And you don’t even have to worry about sound because the sound is not required with the clips.
Maybe you want to make youtube videos first and sell stock footage as a side gig; or another way around.
However, monetizing your Youtube channel is much more challenging today than it was a few years ago. You need high-quality content, tens of thousands of views, and thousands of followers before you can earn serious money there.
Selling stock footage, on the other hand, has a very low barrier of entry for videographers of any level. You don’t need followers or views, and you don’t need to waste time on marketing yourself. The agencies already have a massive customer base and marketing machine behind them.
All you need to do is to concentrate on creating high-quality content, adding keywords and titles, and uploading the clips to the platform.
Cons of Selling Stock Videos
Selling stock footage has some challenges too. First of all, while it is effortless to become a contributor, to become successful needs a bit of hard work, especially in the beginning.
To get a regular passive income from your videos, you need to build a portfolio of hundreds of clips. That may take years, so you need a bit of persistence and determination too.
Secondly, you need to understand the market. You need to find subjects that are less filmed but are still in demand. There’s no point in shooting subjects that are already shot tens of thousands of times (except if you can do it better). It is challenging to sell clips if there’s a lot of competition.
Finally, the keywording can be quite tedious work. However, it is essential in order to ensure that your footage is properly categorized and searchable. However, by keywording your clips well, you’ll have an upper hand against those competitors who do it poorly.
If you can overcome these challenges, I guarantee you will eventually get results. So don’t give up!
Find out more on the market/keyword research in my post A Guide To Stock Photography Keywording And Keyword Research
Understand The Licensing
When you are selling stock footage, you’re not selling the footage itself. You are only selling legal permission to use the footage, also known as a license.
When a buyer downloads your clip from the agency website, they get a license for using that particular video in their productions. You do not lose the copyright to your footage, and you still can do whatever you want with the sold footage.
You can sell your clips to as many buyers as you can without losing the rights to your material. You can sell your footage on multiple stock sites or use them in your own film projects too.
However, there may be some restrictions depending on under which license you sell your videos. That is why it is vital to understand the licenses.
The most common licenses as of today are Royalty-Free and Rights Managed licenses.
Right-Managed license is limited to a specific use of the footage in one project only. For another project, a new license must be obtained.
The rights-managed licenses may be specified by
- Medium – news, commercials, television, etc.
- Usage – theaters, online, live shows, etc.
- Distribution – Country, Area, Size of the audience, etc.
- Time – How long the project lasts? Months, Years, etc.
A rights-managed license may be more expensive than a royalty-free license, but it is easier to get for exclusive use. Some agencies have the option to sell your rights-managed footage exclusively on their platform.
However, selling your footage for exclusive use restricts you from selling the same clip or related clips of that shoot on other stock sites. Also, if you sell your RM videos non-exclusively, you must be careful not to sell the same videos under different licenses on some other stock media sites.
Read more about Right-Managed License in this post: What Does Rights-Managed (RM) License Mean?
Most of the stock agencies don’t sell rights-managed videos anymore these days. A royalty-free license is what is typically being used in this day and age.
A royalty-free video license grants the purchaser the right to use copyrighted stock video footage without having to pay royalties for each use. The purchaser of a royalty-free video is typically required to pay a one-time fee for the video footage. Once the fee is paid, the purchaser can use the footage as often as they like without having to pay additional royalties.
The royalty-free license does not mean that the license is free. The word “free” refers to the license’s flexible usage rights. The royalty-free license allows multiple uses of footage in as many projects as the licensee wants. Whereas RM requires a new license for each project, RF does not.
Read more about royalty-free license on this post: What Is a Royalty-Free License? Questions and Answers
What Are Model And Property Releases?
In order to sell stock footage that contains recognizable people or property, you need to have a model release or property release, respectively.
A model release is a document in which the individual who is being filmed gives their consent for the footage to be used commercially.
A property release, on the other hand, is a document in which the owner of the property being filmed gives consent for the footage to be used commercially.
In both cases, the releases need to be signed by the relevant party and should ideally be witnessed by a third party. Without these releases, it can be extremely difficult to sell your stock footage commercially.
However, if you can’t get a model or property release, don’t panic, you still have the option to sell the footage for editorial usage — more on that next.
Editorial Or Commercial Usage?
As said, if you can’t get a model or property release, you can still sell your footage for editorial usage.
However, editorial use restricts the footage being used to promote or advertise a product or service, therefore, considerably reducing its sales potential. Commercial footage, on the other hand, can be used for advertising. Commercials are where the money is, so, if possible, always get the required releases or avoid recognizable people and property.
Don’t wholly avoid editorial content, though. Editorial footage may not sell as good as commercial footage does, but it does sell nonetheless. Editorial footage can be used in many applications, such as in news stories and documentaries, for example. So don’t limit your creativity by refusing to shoot editorial content just because it doesn’t sell so well.
You’ll find more on editorial and commercial use in this post: Commercial or Editorial Stock Photos? What’s the Difference?
How Much Can You Make Selling Stock Footage?
Many people are surprised to learn that you can make money by selling stock footage. In fact, there is a thriving market for this type of content, and people are willing to pay for high-quality footage.
The amount of money you can make selling stock footage depends on a number of factors, including the quality of the footage, the demand for the footage, and the stock footage site which you sell it for.
However, it is possible to make a significant amount of money from selling stock footage, and many people have made a full-time income from this activity.
Let us take Adobe Stock as an example here. Below you’ll find how Adobe Stock pays for their video contributors
|VIDEO (35% ROYALTY)|
|Buyer's plan||Earnings / download|
|HD - 25 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber||$7.84 / $5.60|
|HD - 40 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber||$5.25 / $4.20|
|HD - 350 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber||$4.55 / $3.85|
|HD - 750 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber||$3.50 / $2.80|
|HD - 16-500 CREDIT PACK OR ON-DEMAND||$22.40 to $28.00|
|4K - SUBSCRIPTION, 40-500 CREDIT PACK OR ON-DEMAND||$56.00 to $70.00|
You should bear in mind, though, that some companies may have exclusive deals with the agency that allows them to buy footage way below the list prices.
On the other hand, depending on the usage of the clip, some sales may be far higher than usual. So don’t be surprised if you sometimes get very low or very high sales. These are special prices for special customers or special usage.
How Much Money do I Make from Selling Stock Footage?
Below you’ll see how my latest Video and Image Sales performance. So far I’ve made $1054 from selling stock footage in 2023. I started contributing videos in the middle of 2019 and as of today I only have around 400-600 clips on sale depending on the agency. The earnings are going to get much higher if I just keep on contributing clips regularly.
I sell stock footage on 4 stock sites; Wirestock, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Pond5.
What Does It Take To Succeed Selling Stock Videos?
Selling stock footage is a great way to make some passive income as a videographer. But it’s not as easy as just putting your videos up for sale and waiting for the buyers to come to you.
In order to be successful in selling stock footage, you need to understand the market and what buyers are looking for. You also need to have high-quality content that is keyworded properly. And finally, you need to have the drive and determination to succeed.
If you have all of these things, then you stand a good chance of making regular sales each month. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
How Skillful You Are?
Your skill as a videographer will play a big role in your success in selling stock footage. If you’re just starting out, then you may not have the same level of skill as someone who has been doing it for years.
But don’t let that discourage you! Everyone has to start somewhere. The important thing is that you are continuously improving your skills and expanding your repertoire. And making stock footage is one of the best ways to learn too. The more skills you have, the more desirable your footage will be to buyers.
How Much You Are Willing To Work For It?
Selling stock footage is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You need to be willing to put in the time and effort required to create high-quality content, keyword it properly, and submit them on best-selling stock sites.
If you’re not willing to put in the work, then you probably won’t see much success. But if you’re dedicated and persistent, then you can definitely make selling stock footage a viable source of passive income.
However, you don’t need to work your butt off to get results. Uploading an average of 10 clips in a week will get you more than 500 new stock videos in a year.
How Well Do You Understand The Market And Buyer’s Needs?
It’s not enough just to create great content; you also need to understand the market and what buyers are looking for. That way, you can produce content that meets their needs and stands out from the competition.
Take some time to research the market and learn about what kinds of videos are in demand. Then, produce content that fills those needs. If you can do that, then you’ll be well on your way to success.
You can find out what’s popular in different categories by studying the best-selling lists that some agencies publish. Such as this one on Pond5 Contributor Portal. These lists can give you a good idea of which clips are selling and which ones are in demand.
The Quality And Quantity Of Your Content
The quality of your content is extremely important when selling stock footage. Buyers are looking for high-quality videos that they can use in their own projects. So, if your videos are blurry or poorly lit, chances are they won’t be too interested. On the other hand, if your videos are well-shot and professionally edited, then they’ll be more likely to take notice.
In addition to quality, quantity is also important. The more videos you have available for sale, the greater your chances of making a sale. So make sure to keep updating your portfolio with new content on a regular basis.
How Well Your Content Is Keyworded
Another important factor in selling stock footage is how well your video content is keyworded. When potential buyers search for videos on sites like Shutterstock or iStockphoto, they typically use keywords or phrases to describe what they’re looking for.
So, if your videos are properly keyworded, they’ll be more likely to show up in search results when buyers are searching for something specific. As such, it’s important to take some time to research which keywords or phrases are being used most often by potential buyers in your niche market.
Once you’ve determined which keywords are most popular, be sure to include them prominently in your video titles and descriptions so potential buyers can easily find your videos when they’re searching for something specific.
Nobody said selling stock footage would be easy—but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort required, it can definitely be a great way to earn some passive income as a videographer!
Just remember that success requires skill, dedication, market research, high-quality content, proper keywords…and most importantly of all—a heart for creating stock footage! If you have all of these things working in your favor…then there’s no reason why YOU can’t achieve success too!
Keywording And Captioning Stock Footage
Titles and keywords may first seem something not to take too seriously. However, adding relevant titles and keywords is one of the most important things that you can do to boost your stock footage sales.
Keywords and titles are what search engines are looking for when they are sorting the results for the buyers to see. Without any keywords, nobody finds your footage, EVER! So make sure to add descriptive titles and at least 25-30 relevant keywords into your footage.
When writing the titles or captions keep in mind the 5 W’s rule. 5 W’s comes from the words Who, Why, What, Where & When. Try to give an answer to all of these questions to have an accurate caption as possible.
Don’t add irrelevant keywords in hopes of getting more views. It doesn’t help. In fact, it can hurt you in the long run as the search engines will eventually push all of your clips down in the search results as being spammy content. It may also hurt your reputation. So don’t do it!
Read my Guide To Stock Photography Keywording And Keyword Research to find some expert tips on keywording
What Stock Footage Sells Best?
Anything can sell really, but some sell better than others.
In this section, I’ll give you a run-down of some of the most popular categories of stock footage and offer some insight into which types of footage tend to sell best.
People & Lifestyle Footage
One of the best-selling and always popular themes is people doing everyday things, often referred to as lifestyle footage.
This can include everything from people working and exercising to people having fun. Lifestyle footage is always in demand because it helps businesses communicate their message in a relatable way.
That said, as time goes by and new fashion and technology emerge, the footage can get old quickly and needs to be updated to reflect the modern day.
That, on the other hand, creates opportunities for new stock producers to step into this market. So if you’re serious about producing stock footage, filming people is definitely the way to go. Just don’t forget the model releases!
Aerials & Time-Lapses
Another popular category of stock footage is aerials. This type of footage can be used for everything from commercials to editorial videos and beyond. Although aerial drones have made it easier than ever to get high-quality aerial shots, they’re still in high demand because they offer a unique perspective that can really make a video pop.
Time-lapse videos are also quite popular and relatively easy to produce. Again, these types of videos can be used for a variety of purposes, from marketing campaigns to corporate presentations.
Abstract & 3D Animations
One trend that’s currently popular is abstract and 3D animations. These types of animations can be used for a variety of purposes, from product demonstrations to background effects.
Thanks to the increasing popularity of these animations, selling stock footage that offers abstract 3D animations is something you should consider.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of stock footage that sells well. And although some categories are more perennially popular than others, there’s always room for new and innovative content.
Be creative and do something new. You never know which clips turn out to be best-seller. Be bold!
Where To Sell Your Video Footage?
There are probably hundreds of stock agencies out there, so choosing your preferred agencies may be a world of pain. However, there are only a few agencies proven to make money for their contributors.
In the beginning, you should concentrate on them and maybe later expand to the others. I’ve chosen here 5 of the best players in the market as of today. Wirestock, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5 and IStock.
Also read this post to find in-depth information on the best stock footage sites around today: Where To Sell Stock Footage? The Best 3 Sites and The Wildcard
Wirestock is your top choice if you want to minimize the effort you put into selling your video footage. This stock agency is a one-stop site for selling royalty-free stock footage where you can upload once and get exposure to Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5, IStock, and more!
Wirestock does all the heavy lifting for you by keywording and distributing your footage to all major stock media sites.
The downside of this is that it is a paid service. For $7.79 per month, you can get 100 submissions each month. In my opinion, this is reasonably priced given the ease of use and time you save in distributing your video clips. And eventually, your sales will cover the expenses and more!
Wirestock is my personal favorite choice for selling stock footage.
However, if you’d prefer to do the work yourself, you can always think about selling your footage on one or all of the stock media sites mentioned below.
Read my full review of Wirestock here: Wirestock Review – All-In-One Site to Sell Stock Media (Includes a discount code!)
Shutterstock is one of the biggest stock media companies in the market as of today. It is enormous, having approximately 700 million stock images and 50 million stock footage in their library.
They also have the most contributors. According to their earnings report, they have approximately 900 000 creators, so the competition is fierce.
Shutterstock has one of the simplest and most straightforward interfaces in its contributor dashboard. That makes uploading to the platform quick and easy. They offer a keyword suggestion tool that suggests keywords based on other similar content. Make sure to check what it suggests, though, as sometimes the provided keywords may be way off.
Shutterstock requires FTP transfer for the video clips, but this can be done with free tools such as Filezilla, for example.
They also have a mobile app to track your sales, but it cannot be used to upload videos.
Shutterstock offers 15%-40% royalty for each clip sold depending on your contributor level. The royalty amount also depends on whether the buyer purchased a single clip or which clip or subscription pack they have.
Royalty amounts vary between a few dollars per sale to hundreds of dollars per sale. My personal sales so far have been between $3 – $60 per clip.
Adobe Stock is a relatively new stock media agency, but it is already gaining a lot of market share. Especially after they acquired Fotolia, they have become a serious player in the market.
As of being owned by Adobe Inc., they have unlimited leverage power to expand and find new clients.
They have approximately 260 million stock images and 26 million stock videos in their vast library as of today, making it a bit less competitive compared to Shutterstock.
The Adobe Stock contributor dashboard is OK. You can track your sales and find the best-selling contributors for each week in the insights section.
The uploading system is a pain, though, because you need to manually add the most relevant keywords on top of the list for each clip. However, if you do it well, your chances of selling get better.
Adobe Stock also offers a keyword suggestion tool, but like with Shutterstock, check carefully what it suggests.
Adobe Stock’s strength is in the way how Adobe has included its stock libraries in its Creative Cloud applications such as Premiere Pro and After Effects, etc. Millions of CC subscribers have a connection to Adobe Stock library directly via their favorite CC app.
Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps are market leaders in fields like graphic design, video editing, web development, and photography. So you can imagine how powerful the marketing impact Adobe Stock has over the professionals in these fields.
Adobe Stock pays 35% royalty from each clip sold, which is a generous royalty rate compared to many others in the market. It is one of my favorite platforms to sell stock footage, and I can highly recommend them.
Pond5 is only one of these four agencies that are mainly focusing on stock video. They have over 36 million stock clips in their collection. They do offer also images, but with only 45 million images they are a very small player in the market. They also sell 3D models, music, sound effects, and AE templates.
Pond5 has been around for quite a while. It was launched in 2006 and was the first stock video marketplace at that time. Today they are one of the biggest and most reputable ones.
For contributors, Pond5 is a very user-friendly platform. The royalty rate is one of the fairest in the industry. For non-exclusive contributors, Pond5 offers 40% commission, and for Exclusive contributors 60% commission.
I have been a contributor with them since January 2020 and have had several sales so far. The royalties have varied between $10-$50.
The footage uploading is best done with an FTP app such as Filezilla or a similar application.
Captioning and keywording can be done in batches or for individual clips one by one. The system seems a bit old-fashioned, but it does what it is supposed to.
You can also find statistics such as how many views and bin adds your content has and how many views your portfolio has.
Pond5 is one of the best sites to sell your footage. I can highly recommend them.
IStock is the fourth one of the big stock agencies. They have been around since 2000 and were acquired by Getty Images in 2006.
Their collection includes approximately 135 million stock images and 10 million stock videos.
IStock’s contributor dashboard is a bit complicated. It does have everything you need to track your sales, but the system just is a bit complicated to use. You’ll get used to it, though.
The positive side of the IStock dashboard is that you can find statistics for:
- how many views your content has,
- how many times your content was saved on a board,
- and in which countries your content was viewed and how many times.
They also have a bit different keywording system than the other agencies. It requires you to be more specific than usual. For example, instead of just adding a keyword star, you need to use the keyword “star-space.” The keywording system will help you with that by giving suggestions, though.
IStock sales reporting also differs from its competitors. You can’t track your sales in real-time as you can with many other agencies. IStock reports all sales of the previous month, usually around the 15th-20th day of a month. So you always have to wait 2-3 weeks before knowing how much you earned in each month.
IStock’s prices are one of the lowest in the market, which attracts a lot of customers to their platform. The large customer base is one of IStock’s strengths as they generate a lot of sales volume.
However, their royalty policy is notoriously infamous. IStock pays only 20% royalties to its non-exclusive video contributors. You can opt to become an exclusive contributor, giving you royalties as high as 25%-45%, depending on your lifetime downloads. However, being exclusive only to IStock prevents you from uploading to other sites and substantially reduces your sales potential.
Combining the low prices with the worst ever royalty rate, the compensation per clip can be extremely low. Especially the partner sales from Getty Images can be frustratingly low sometimes. If you can mentally deal with occasional sales below $0.5 per clip, then go for it.
IStock has a very bad reputation among the video contributors because of these ridiculous royalties. So think twice before applying.
However, if your mind can deal with it, you can apply to IStock here.
Selling stock footage is probably the easiest way for videographers of any level to start earning money from their work. If you have a decent camera with the capability to shoot 4K videos and some passion for creating stock footage, you are already in a strong position to make money from what you love.
To sell better, though, you must understand the buyer’s needs, study the market, and continually keep developing yourself. You need to dig a bit deeper and make better content than your competitors.
Some of the best-selling stock producers concentrate on filming people. If you’re aiming for serious money, then making people and lifestyle footage is the way to go.
However, shooting lifestyle is not the only way to earn. Anything can sell as long as you do it well — aerials, landscapes, time-lapses, etc.
Take a look at the best-selling lists and learn to make better content. Or study the market and find a niche less covered.
It all starts with choosing the right agency. I recommend going for POND5. It is one of the contributor friendliest and is proven to generate income. Then expand to others.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me or add a comment below.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your journey!
…and don’t miss these related posts:
- Where To Sell Stock Footage? The Best 3 Sites and The Wildcard
- A Guide To Stock Photography Keywording And Keyword Research