Self-Iso Project: How to Make Money from Selling Stock Footage

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Even in turbulent times, demand for stock footage remains steady and selling your clips can become a lucrative sideline or maybe even your main gig. It’s also a great way to increase your exposure and develop a worldwide following. If you’ve never thought about taking this up, now might be the perfect time to get started. Here are some things to consider before plunging in.

Scour your archives

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Make sure your footage meets the standard

Most of us are self-isolating or working from home until further notice, so why not take this opportunity to raid your own archives for potentially marketable clips? If you’ve been shooting video for a while, chances are you’ve got loads of unused footage sitting on your hard drive waiting to see the light of day. Just don’t reach too far back in time. If it looks too dated, it probably won’t sell. Neither will anything shot at less than 1080p, and if you really want to future-proof your output, better to stick with 4K whenever possible (4K clips also command a higher rate than 1080p). Cut it. Upload it. See if it flies.

Keep it local

By the same token, unessential travel is currently being discouraged and in most of our recent excursions we typically haven’t ventured past the nearest grocery store or pharmacy. But if you’re planning to shoot fresh footage, you can easily turn your own home, back yard or balcony into the setting for some amazing shots. You can get creative shooting footage while walking or from inside your car while driving on one of your next outings, too. There’s always a market for stolen glimpses of daily life, however trivial or commonplace they may seem at the time.

Do your homework

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Keep current on stock footage trends

Take a look at some of the more popular stock footage agencies and see what’s selling these days. Things like food, animals and lifestyle are always in demand, but note that certain types of niche topics will trend up or down in a given season. The trick is to anticipate what might be trending upward next. Watch the news and pay close attention to advertising to stay current and ahead of the curve.

Rise and shine

It’s hard to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace. Something like a sunrise or sunset may be in perpetual demand, but these sorts of clips are a dime a dozen. Rise to the occasion and capture a shot from an angle we’ve never seen before, or find some other way to make it seem fresh and original.

Keep it brief

By definition, stock shots can be anywhere from five to 59 seconds long, but on most platforms they typically range from roughly 10 to 20 seconds. These are straightforward shots that don’t involve multiple angles or heavy edits, although colour grading is recommended. Don’t forget to delete the audio, and by all means don’t add music to your clip.

Keep it steady

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Use a gimbal or other stabilizer

Shaky handheld footage is a nonstarter and will put a dent in your reputation. If you don’t already have a tripod, there are lots of very cool, very affordable models on the market right now. And if you’re introducing movement into your shot, consider investing in a gimbal stabilizer or slider. Once beyond the reach of casual shooters, this type of equipment has become increasingly affordable and easier to use, too. Snap one up. You’ll be glad you did.

Check the fine print

Familiarize yourself with the differences between commercial and editorial content – and the legalities they both entail. Commercial stock footage often pays better but may require the use of release forms if people or certain properties appear in your clips. And be aware of your own rights, too. Most agencies allow you to retain the copyrights to your work, but there can be exceptions.

These are just a few of the most popular stock footage websites currently:


Cover Image Credit: Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

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