The market for stock footage is booming. Videographers can now make money by offering stock video clips to online stock footage libraries...
The marketplace for stock footage is booming. Knowing the video quality needs and who to contact is just the beginning. It's your time to get a piece of the pie.
Your video footage is worth something. Of course it is. It's worth something to you - that's why you have it. Fortunately, it may also be worth something to someone else. We might even say you can assign a dollar figure to it.
Show Me the Distribution
If you've shot a documentary or feature film, you know that the real payoff comes with a distribution deal. You might be able to make some cash here and there on ticket sales as you premiere your film, but the real money is in distribution. The same holds true in marketing your stock footage. You need to distribute your footage where you'll have the greatest return on investment. You need a distribution channel that will put you right in front of consumers. The channel you need is online, and it's ready to be put to use.
Online Stock Footage Exchange
There's one big fish in this pond and that's iStockPhoto. There are more options out there (we will discuss them shortly), but iStockPhoto is very popular among creatives and can provide the type of traffic to your content that can be profitable. The downside is that you are working in video, and typically video is in less demand than photos. The video channel is growing, however, so there is no better time to get on board.
Shutterstock is another successful stock photo and video website. While they don't drive as much traffic as iStockPhoto, they still manage to have a very successful group of users. Shutterstock has a multiple payout per download system, and they also have referral program. If you refer stock video buyers or stock video submitters, you can earn extra cash from their activity.
Another up-and-coming service is LicenseStream. Membership to this website is not free, unlike at iStockPhoto, but the advantage of this service is you have power over the licensing of your content. Because License-Stream's service gives content creators more control over the license, you can set a premium for your content. In this way, you can be more selective about how you want your content used, and, as such, you can usually charge more.
It's up for debate whether a less expensive and less restrictive model, such as iStockPhoto, is better for your pocketbook than a premium channel like LicenseStream. Much of that discussion will revolve around what content you have to offer. Let's take a look at that now.
Most, if not all, stock footage distributors have criteria for accepting your submissions. Believe it or not, there are only so many sunset videos a place like iStockPhoto will take. Hopefully, the content you will submit is original, yet broad enough to have some appeal in the stock footage market.
If your content is truly unique, you can think about charging a premium for it by using a more specialized distribution channel. Economics aside, always check to see what the competition has in your subject area. Let's say you have a rare video collection of gorillas in the wild. Check iStockPhoto by doing a simple key word search with "gorillas, wild as your search criteria. Wh at were the results? Can your footage compete? Will the footage enhance the offerings? Originality and variety are always good on these stock footage sites.
Let's not forget we need to address legal considerations, too. In every scenario, you'll need a signed model release for anyone who is identifiable in the video footage and a signed property release for any identifiable private property. You're a good video producer, though, and you've been doing this, right? In order for your content to be accepted, you must have these legal forms signed. It's a critical part of the agreement that the footage you supply is indeed royalty-free.
Quality is also a major concern. These sites are not a dumping ground for sub-par footage. A critical eye will be judging your submissions to make sure they meet the standards. You must have a commanding knowledge of lighting, exposure, focus and camera movement. Your work must show that you know how to control these functions in order to capture a pleasing piece of artwork.
If you think you have what it takes, the next step is to become a contributor. It's a good idea to check out all the specifications needed to make this happen. Many stock footage distributors have particular video formats that they use. Make sure you have everything you need to submit your work to have it accepted. These specifications can be found on the distributors' websites.
Part of your research before submitting your content should include reviewing your rights as the originator of this content. You should know if the rights to the content are exclusive. And, most importantly, you should know what your compensation will be. Typically, there is no exchange of money until another consumer purchases the royalty-free rights to your footage. Sites like iStockphoto pay 20% to 40% of the purchase price, depending on your membership. With 1920x1080-pixel interlaced HD video selling for $75 a download, that could be $15 to $30 in your pocket. If your content is popular enough, that could add up fast. To find out just what kind of potential your content has, we suggest you find similar content on iStockPhoto using the search tool and see how many downloads that content has. Although it won't show you what resolutions were downloaded (resolution determines price), you can get a sense of what the worst and best-case scenarios would be. Measure that against the time it will take to produce that content. If it seems worth the trouble, get to work.
Contributing Editor Mark Montgomery is an independent video producer.