Digital Nomads

Making Money with Stock Videos

By on February 16, 2014

I think that the most common question in our lives are: how do you make money for a living?

So I’ll share one way (and not the only one) to make some money using both my skills as a videographer and the Internet.

I opened an account many years ago on Istock Photo. In the beginning it was just to give it a try. The first step to do is to send 3 videos (from 5 up to 30 seconds long) in order to be accepted as a videographer.

Usually in the beginning it takes a long time. I think I waited almost a month before any feedback, and you know why?  It’s simple. The people that work on this stock site have to deal with millions of videos, photographs, illustrations, music and flash animations everyday. They have to check them for the quality, see if the file is suitable for the website and so on. First, of course, they will check people that already have an established account (in other words, those that have already sold). After that, they will go on the new ones. So just be patient.

photo (3)When you receive your notification to be part of the sellers, you can start to upload your files. They have good user manuals for each of the categories that go through explanations on how to record the footage, how to export and the common mistakes that will not allow you to upload some of your files.

You need even more patience at this stage (and trust me, as a guy that has not even a gram of patience) for the file to be approved. But- in the end- you’ll have an answer. There are actually 3 main steps you have to take care of if you decide to start doing this job. So personally speaking about the video section:

  • How to create the footage
  • How to export it
  • How to upload it

This is in order to upload more and more files on the site and to start selling them.

Here’s a link to my portfolio.

What to record?


The first file I uploaded is a time lapse of clouds shot in Canada in 2009. Before I did that I just took a look at the site and searched the most downloaded files. For example, some clouds were the most popular, so why not-?

You have to realize that people that buy from stock sites might need any kind of image, also the ones that you think are so common and not useful. You never know. After that, I started to take footage of several things that were around me, for example some night city lights, landscapes during my travels, hands typing on a keyboard and so on.

Just look around you, take your camera with you when you travel- and a tripod will be useful as steady images are more sellable. Use your imagination and the moments that are surrounding you. The everyday things that happen just in front of your eyes, like for example footage I have in my portfolio of people walking in silhouette outside the subway: so simple, yes? But it sells well!

During your shooting be careful about any kind of advertisement that could enter into your frame: billboards, plastic bags with brand names, cars, etc…

Also be careful as well for people: if the people you record are visible and recognizable you will need a release document that allows you to use the footage. You can find the release on the Istock page and you have to include it when you upload the file.

Keep in mind buildings: you can’t upload a footage of the London Eye, for example, if you don’t have their permission; as well for the Eiffel Tower when the sparkling lights are on, as a German company owns the rights and so on.

When you record some footage think how it could be useful. For example, abstract footage is a good sell, how people can use it in different types of media. And try to be creative: don’t shoot just one subject, but try to create different kinds of subjects for you footage and your online portfolio.

So find a little bit of time and enjoy being outside, and not in an office. Living and shooting.

In this video you can find some samples of the footage I sell on stock websites:

How do I export my footage?

photo (2)When you go back home with your SD card full of interesting footage, you can start downloading it on your computer and edit it. The websites accept footage from a minimum of 5 seconds to 30 seconds (something that you have also to keep in mind during the shooting).

Put the footage on the timeline and edit it: control the start and the end of the file, camera shaking, drops, and anything else that could ruin the quality of it.

I usually don’t add any effects just because I prefer to give clean footage so the final client will be able to start from there and add his own effects.

Be creative here, too: for example you can do a 30 second editing with the same subject but with different points of view or sizes. You can add also sound or audio on your footage so the end product will be more complete.

Now you can export your footage for the upload: double check everything and with the user guide provided by the website choose the right format options based on how you shot the footage.

Organize the footage in different folders and name every file using words that you can find on the file itself, which will help you in the last step when you upload it. If you have a footage of a hamburger on a table you can name it: hamburger_table_restaurant_HD.  It’s important to organize the footage because when you have thousands of videos ready, it’ll be easier to find them.

You can find any other information in the user’s guide.

How do I upload the footage?

photo (3)In the beginning, I didn’t have many videos, so I uploaded directly from the Istock webpage. Now I use their FTP server and Filezilla as software for the upload. I can upload multiple files at the same time, and if I want I can stop the computer and when I get on again, the upload starts from the same place.

When your footage is uploaded you have to spend time with some writing: a good and attractive title for it, a description and tags. This is such an important step if you want your file to be found when somebody looks for footage. Just take a look what your footage is about and start: hamburger, restaurant, salad, tomato, food, fast food, lunch…

Don’t be really precise when tagging, try other words. For example for some clouds in the sky you can use: idyllic, paradise, natural phenomenon… just try to use words that could give the sense of your footage, not just what people can actually see in it. Now that you’ve done that you can submit it. Very good!

And again, just a little bit of patience. Your file will be reviewed by real people and you receive a notification of acceptance or not. They usually write you why the file wasn’t accepted, so you can fix it or keep it in mind next time you shoot something. Live and learn.

I think these are the basic notions you need to start the job, if you are interested. Of course, when you build your portfolio you understand more and more tricks in order to sell more (not only on one website0. So what are you waiting for: grab your camera and find things you like to shoot! Making money online is not so hard!

Useful Links for Stock Footage:

istockphoto – shutterstock – gettyimages – pond5



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