How To Make And Sell Stock Footage

Sometimes as a creative you might wonder to yourself, how can I better utilise my talents and make money from them when I have no other gigs?

If you have a camera and have any interest in filming random (and potentially generic) footage then it might be a good idea to sell it.

Selling stock footage is something you can choose to do on your own at your own pace, the only real skills you need to have is knowing how to operate a camera and having the patience and the persistence to set up and maintain an account with one of the many stock footage websites.

There are many steps you need to take to be successful in selling your footage and it’s worth it if you plan to set aside the time and effort.

This article is focussed on general tips, guidelines and important things to know for making and selling stock footage.

Many stock sites have their own rules and regulations you need to adhere to in order to create an account with them, but I’m going to talk more about where to start and what you might be getting yourself in to.

  1. Have a camera, preferably with 4K (but not necessary).
    If you have a tripod – USE IT. (Unstable footage will often get rejected unless it’s for obvious artistic reasons).

  2. Film everyday things in a unique way.
    If you live in an urban environment there are many things you can utilise, just make sure you’re doing it legally.
    For every face featured in a clip you will need a talent release form (copies of these forms can be found on the websites you create an account with). If you have specific people who can be your actors, then great! Use them. Otherwise avoid people. Stick to objects and/or nature.
    Whatever the environment you live in, you can utilise it.

  3. Abstract footage can span many genres.
    Get creative. Random, abstract footage can be used in many different and creative ways, especially in artsy films and music videos.

  4. An editing program is necessary.
    A basic one will do if all that’s needed is to trim and colour the footage (ie. iMovie for mac). Da Vinci Resolve is also a great, free program which includes colour correction.

  5. Research the various stock footage websites.
    Some sites will give you more money if you sign on exclusively to them. Websites you can create a stock footage contributor account with include: Shutterstock, Pond5, Envato – Videohive.

  6. Meet all the site specific requirements.
    Read the fine print. This step is more important than you may realise, if you spend a lot of your time working on selling stock footage but don’t meet the site requirements then most of the footage will be rejected and that time is wasted.

  7. Make sure you have the right to work in the particular country you reside in and take the tax laws seriously.
    This is essentially self employment so it’s important you do everything by the book.

  8. Stay organised!
    I’ve created a spreadsheet for myself, with detailed steps on how to, import the footage, cut, colour, export, upload, name the clips, add keywords etc. It’s a lot, so organisation is key!

  9. Be persistent.
    Once you’ve come up with a system for your workflow then you will catch momentum and the money will come pouring in – theoretically. It may take some time, but if you stick at it then you can actually make some good money.
    It isn’t something you should start out doing full time because it can still take long to get any traction. It might be worth spending a weekend or a few days going out and filming footage you could use. Then another week or so trimming, colouring, organising the footage and creating and account with one or more sites.
    The set up can take a while so be prepared to put a lot of your time and energy into getting started. After this initial process you might be able to see which clips are popular and gain the potential for selling more footage.
    Like I said, you can choose how much time you actually want to spend selling stock footage. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
    If you manage to get a large list of clips approved onto one or more sites then even if you let those sit there you may see money come in once in a while from your footage being bought. It won’t happen consistently, however, unless you are consistently creating and uploading footage.

Selling stock footage is a great way to make money on the side, so it’s worth giving it a try if you have some down time to get started and/or if you are looking for another creative way to take advantage of your talents.

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  • Jay Evans

    Editor

    Jay Evans has spent the last 8 years working as a film editor, 4 of which have been with The Initiative Production Company. In his spare time he enjoys music, comedy, experimental cooking and getting lost in the woods.

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