How Much Can You Make Selling Stock Footage? 2017 Income Report

I started selling stock footage in mid 2016, and after a slow start, have seen it ramp up pretty quickly this year. Here is my sales information over the last twelve months:

2017 Stock Footage Sales Report

(I have rounded some numbers and provided some approximations in this post, as certain stock footage sites don’t allow for the sharing of detailed sales data. The overall earnings are still representative.)

Numbers

Income: From November 2016 to the end of December of 2017, I grossed approximately $6,675.

I started listing footage in earnest in late 2016. I cleared $5,000 in less than twelve months and since then I have averaged roughly $550 in earnings per month.

 

Portfolios at Different Agencies

Almost all of my earnings have come from Shutterstock, Pond5, and Storyblocks (formerly Videoblocks).

Up until about two months ago, I had roughly 300 clips at each of the three major agencies. I have been able to almost double that in the last two months, so I’m looking forward to seeing if that translates into correlating sales in 2018.

For now, here are my portfolios. (I added a weighted average based on the average number of clips that existed per month on each agency, which was roughly 300)

You can find my portfolios here.

Labor: I believe it took roughly 200 hours of labor to create and upload the clips in my portfolio.

While I haven’t tracked my labor down to the minute. I know how much quality work I have put in, which doesn’t include work with Game of Thrones playing in the background…

 

Costs: The cost to produce these is hard to calculate, as half of them were the product of other shoots, the other half cost around $1,000 to produce.

Many of the initial clips I uploaded were the product of small commercial video shoots. It is hard for me to approximate the costs of these clips as there was a lot that went into these shoots that didn’t have to do with direct production, like figuring out branding and messaging, which isn’t something that you have to do in the same way for stock footage shoots.

I did end the year by creating new footage specifically for the purposed of making passive income through stock footage when I had free time. I am going to be more rigorous in 2018 tracking my spending and time when producing footage so that I can become more efficient going forward.

 

To give these numbers a bit more context, here is some more detail from 2016 and 2017:

  • My Best Month Ever was $1,227 in June.
  • My Best Sales Day Ever earned me $495.
  • My best selling clip has earned me a little over $700. Find it here:

StockbyNumbers.com best selling stock footage clip of 2017.

 

7 Initial Takeaways

What does all of this actually mean?

While I am still in the early stages, I think these point to a few positive things.

  1. Selling stock footage seems more than viable at the rate my portfolio is earning and growing and how much time and cost have gone into it. Since this is a business where passive income is generated off of older assets, I believe making roughly $25 / hour of time invested in the first year alone is a good sign for things to come.
  2. There are two clear frontrunner agencies in terms of sales. Many people already seem to agree on this, but for me Shutterstock and Pond5 are the tops by far, and worth the most time. When I started listing footage I wanted to try to invest the most time in the most promising agencies, so I conducted an informal test; I listed between 25-30 video clips on each of the sites that I had read produced the greatest returns. I left these clips on the agencies for several months and saw which might perform best. Within the first few months I had received sales on Shutterstock, Pond5, and Videoblocks, but to date I have not received a sale at Adobe Stock and have only had one sale at Dissolve, which didn’t arrive until I had already earned a considerable amount from the other agencies. Once I had this proof of concept, I began dedicating all of my time to the best performing agencies, commensurate with how well they were performing. This means that rather than take the time to keep uploading old clips to Dissolve and Adobe, I shot new clips and uploaded them to my best selling agencies. I think this paid off, as the smaller agencies still haven’t really passed the initial test. I think based on the amount that Adobe is spending on marketing however since they purchased Fotolia, that I am going to try to populate it as well. I’m going to move forward populating my Dissolve.com portfolio as well, mostly for testing purposes going forward.
  3. There are some clear elements that set top selling clips apart from low selling clips. The biggest is people, particularly faces. Almost all of my earnings have come from clips that have models with signed releases in them. This includes drone footage, as evidenced by my best-selling clip. Based off of my sales, and the extra time and investment it can take to shoot with people (depending on whether you need to hire models or can shoot with friends and family, or integrate stock footage into other video shoots) I believe it is well worth the extra time and investment to make sure that people are included in your shots. The payoffs are clearly worth it. Footage with people has sold in my library more than ten times as often as footage without people, yet it has not taken ten times longer, or cost ten times more, to shoot than footage without models.
  4. Quality and quantity both matter. Having tried to research this question extensively through forums and other contributors available earnings data, I think that both quantity and quality matter. Some of the shots that are clearly aesthetically inferior, but from the same shoot, will end up selling on one site, while a slightly altered version or angle will also sell on the same site, or another site. I think diversity in shots is clearly important, as it increases the odds that your footage will show up in a search based on just more keywords. At the same time, many clips that I originally thought of keeping off of my sites, since I didn’t necessarily think were the best, have ended up earning me hundreds of dollars. Sites don’t make their algorithms available to contributors, so it’s impossible to really answer this question. I think the best way to move forward is to submit similar clips in batches and let the agencies determine what might be too similar or not. SOme agencies like Shutterstock are more judicious, but the still largely except many clips from the same shoot as long as they are shot from a slightly different angle, or feature a different action.
  5. I’ve only sold about 10% of what I’ve posted, but some of my best content hasn’t sold at all, so it is important to have great content, but you also need a lot of it. I think this relates to the above. Some seamingly dead clips that have not gotten a single sale or view for many months will suddenly get several. But I think anticipating that roughly 10% of your portfolio will sell is a safe bet. I don’t think this is necessarily as a problem, and may be further proof that you need a large body of clips in your portfolio.
  6. Gear can be expensive, but it can also be affordable. My best selling clip was shot with a $500 DJI drone setup, while some of the footage I shot on a RED Epic has performed poorly. I think the most important thing is the all of the footage looks “cinematic” – a term and style that I hope to explore and dissect further in the future. I will say that shooting a high quantity of cinematic footage with a high quality camera, like a RED, is easier, meaning more can be gathered more quickly. Luckily, the cost of the cameras that can produce an extremely high quality of footage has plummeted over the last few years. If you know what to gear to use, what is current, and have some skills with how to improvise DIY solutions as well, you can shoot a lot of stock footage that sells
  7. It takes some time and patience. While I have heard of many photographers that sell stock images the same day they are accepted by the agencies, I have never had this occur for any of my footage. Based on my own experience, and information from other contributors, there seems to be a consensus that there is a delay of several months between when you list footage and when it sells. In my experience, it usually takes two to three months for footage to start selling. Some footage from a particular shoot has taken a full year to sell. Overall though, I seem to have sold at least one clips from each set-up I do within a shoot.

Improving Earnings Next Year

What Comes next?

Over the next year I am going to try to be much more detailed when it comes to numbers, so that I, and hopefully all of us, can become more efficient and profitable contributors. In the following posts I’ll try to lay out more detail and information about how I was able to make what I did last year, my plans for the future, and the actual amounts of time and money I think you and I stand to gain by selling stock footage. I’m very excited to keep exploring these trends and data based on my own portfolios through this site, and hope that others may want to contribute as well.

What questions do you want answered?

Beyond, “how much money can you make selling stock footage?” Please share other questions you might have about selling stock footage with me. As I share how much I made, when, which clips were selling, how much time I was putting into shooting, processing and tagging clips, how many hours this was all taking, and what the gear cost, I will hopefully be able to answer other questions you might have that I haven’t even thought of.

If there are other topics that you think would be interesting for me to cover, or if you would like to contribute to the blog based on your own experience, let me know in the comments if anything comes to mind!

At the very least, I hope that my numbers will give some confidence to filmmakers, independent videographers, and freelancers who decide to get started.

– L.B.

Posted by L.B. - Stock by Numbers

Filmmaker and videographer who started StockbyNumbers.com to provide and source helpful information for stock footage producers. Looking to increase stock footage sales for the whole contributor community, greater passive income, and more free-time to focus on even greater creative pursuits!

  1. “Almost all of my earnings have come from clips that have models with signed releases in them.”

    What you think is reasonable amount to pay for models? Also while hiring models they can see that some videos are for sale with hundred of dollars does it need a lot explaining for them that actually hourly earnings are more in range of roughly $25/hour? As newbie any tips with these model related things would help a lot while trying to start working with real models.

    Reply

    1. Hi Mike – Are you in the U.S? It varies from place to place, but generally $150 for a 10 hour day has been the minimum in my experience. $25 / hr will usually get you a better response if doing a casting call or going through a service like backstage.com.

      When I’ve worked with talent at a lower price I’ll often provide them with some of the best footage at a lower resolution to use in their talent reels.

      A lot of variables here and creative ways to work with people though. I’m working on a post about this now actually so stay tuned.

      Thanks for reading and reaching out, hope to see you around here more often. Would love to hear about your experience as well!

      Reply

      1. I am normally based in Europe but will do a lot of traveling and planning to find some people to shootings from Model Mayhem etc. it’s good to have some basic standard rate still I assume rates of models are quite similar world wide if they are professional.

        Probably 15$ per hour would be fine but I guess in poorer countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia people would be more than happy to work for less than that. For USA, Western Europe I guess 15$ should be more than enough if there is not castings or previous work with that talent.

        With photos it’s quite easy to get amateur models for shooting with cheap fees if some photos to their portfolio is offered but I guess giving some footage to their own use with lowish resolution might work in some cases.

        Looking forward to your new post on topic. It’s always our best bet still to keep expenses low as hiring several models at once can become extremely risky but then on the other hand cheaper actors might not give the results needed.

        Reply

        1. I don’t have a lot of experience shooting with models outside of the U.S., but I think that you’re right in that it will very based on market. I think this makes shooting stock footage really appealing if you are working in a place with lower labor costs like Eastern Europe. As language isn’t a barrier to larger global markets. Tricky part there is higher relative cost of equipment, which is going down quickly globally anyways…

          I want to be able to sleep well at night though and have good relationships with those I work with, so I plan on paying as decent a living wage as possible no matter where I work. Being able to work with the same people repeatedly is also helpful from an efficiency standpoint. So if you pay and treat talent well, they’ll be more likely to want to work with you on a consistent basis.

          Working with new people is just as important though to have diversity represented in your portfolio.

          If you subscribe with your email I’ll notify you when that post is up as well (promise no obnoxious spamming of worthless content)

          Thanks again for posting though and please feel free to share your experience of hiring talent here, if you ever feel comfortable doing so. I’d love to hear more!

          Reply

  2. So glad i found your article. I recently decided to get my butt in gear and start uploading stock footage, and doing so all at once. Ive been doing video work for 3 years now and have several terabytes to go through, so it has been very time heavy. As i just started last week, I’ve currently uploaded 110 clips to 4 different agencies, and hoping to get a return soon,and already shooting footage solely for stock in my travels. I look forward to generating anything, and hopefully enough to allow me to travel further and do more.

    Reply

    1. Hey Dakota – glad this was helpful! I think stock is especially worthwhile for those who already have a footage archive to post. If you don’t have to spend extra time shooting, it is a no-brainer to put up existing footage. I’m making over $1 per clip per month now and most of my footage was not shot specifically for stock, but I am shooting more specifically for stock, as the returns are getting better and better the longer footage is listed and I want to get more up quickly.

      I think the biggest limitation for a lot of people in stock is not having patience for their footage to sell, it usually takes my clips a year to start generating real returns, but I’m averaging $1,000 per month now off of my portfolio, so definitely worth it!

      Reply

  3. Discovered you through the Pond5 forums. Great article. I know it’s “older” but not that old. I am working up some nerve to ask for critiques in the forum. I have almost 400 clips up on Pond5 and Shutterstock. I have almost 300 on storyblocks, but never a sale there. I keep debating if it’s worth it. I make a few sales a month with Pond5 and Shutterstock and even Adobe, but nothing with storyblocks. My stuff is mostly nature and wildlife related though. Your articles is definitely motivating to keep on pushing.

    Reply

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful Sandy. I haven’t had a sale on Storyblocks for over 6 months, so I’ve given up on it for now. I think they (storyblocks) are mostly just buying contributors footage to put into their subscription library. I haven’t received an offer for this but many other contributors have.

      I haven’t been able to post in a while as I’ve been shooting non-stop for the last two months on commercial work, but I’m going to try to do an earnings update soon.

      Long story short thought I made over $1,300 last month between Pond5 and Shutterstock last month and have already made $500 this month, so I definitely think it’s still worthwhile to contribute.

      As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I think it usually takes about a year for clips to really start selling. What I’m noticing now is that sales seem to compound over time, as once a clip sells, it usually sells over and over, so as more clips sell for the first time, your sales accelerate every month after that, but it just takes time for new clips to be discovered by buyers and bought for the first time.

      Reply

  4. So happy that I could find your article. We are two architects which are inspired by filmmaking. We have our full time job, and shooting footage after work, on the weekends and holidays. Mostly we shoot for stocks, still trying different stuff and see what would work the best in terms of selling. But so far we have so random selling, so it is hard to judge what is the most type of video we could focus on. We have actually started as you are, around November 2016.
    Now we are uploading our footage to Shuterstock, Pond5 and Stroryblocks as well. We’ve done over 900 clips.
    In total of all the time we earned from Shuttrestock 400$, Pond5 230$, Storyblocks 300$. Seems like it’s not much. So far we have invested into it so much time and energy, but we don’t want to give up. I just don’t know if we are somehow out of the content, or the quality is not good enough. As for the gear we shoot on Canon XC10 only in 4K 25fps and on MavicPro also in 4K 29.97fps.
    If you would like you can have a look on our portfolio on Pond5, if you have some suggestions or comments on our work it would be very nice of you.

    https://www.pond5.com/artist/bomavideo#1/2063

    I have one question for you. Do you make a post production of your footage? If yes, how deep do you go for it. In the beginning I was trying to do it, but was thinking probably I’m not doing it professionally and make it even worse. So I decided to keep flat footage so it is more flexible for buyers to postproduct it. What do you think.

    Thank you in advance and hope to hear form you!

    Reply

    1. Hi Maks – thanks for coming to the blog for and for reaching out. Sorry for the long delay here. Been on the road the last few months shooting a few non-stock related projects.

      I looked over your portfolio and think a lot of the footage looks great! My first reaction though is that not enough of it is model released footage with people and their faces. I think that could partially account for relatively low sales compared to mine. It looks like only around 10% of your portfolio has models? Maybe I’m wrong here, but the vast majority of my income has come through model released footage.

      I also think that grading your footage would be worth a try. There is conflicting information out there from agencies about whether or not it is better to grade footage. I grade mine and it seems to sell well. I think one problem with non-graded footage is that the thumbnails and previews usually look bad. A trained editor might be able to visualize what the footage will look like once graded, but even when I go through stock for different edits, my eye just doesn’t go to ungraded clips and I don’t want to take the time to test a grade on a preview file to see if the clip actually looks good. I think it would be worth trying to grade your next few shoots with people and then report back in 3 – 6 months.

      It might be worth trying some back lighting as well. I’ve had a good amount of success with clips that have sun flares in the background.

      One last note – I haven’t had a sale on Storyblocks in over 6 months, which mirrors the experience of a lot of other contributors, so I would consider taking your time to shoot and upload even more to Pond5 and Shutterstock. I also have had some recent success on Videohive – I’m earning around $.40 / clip per month and the clips have started selling within two months of being posted, which in my experience is pretty rare. They just lowered their review times as well, which should help speed up your workflow and earnings potential.

      Best of luck though and please let us know if you are able to try any of these suggestions and notice any changes.

      Reply

  5. Hi great article thank you so much .

    I have been in stock Footage for year, one thing until now is not convincing for me is Shutterstock, as I’m only on pond5 reason been is that I set my own price for each clip as I think most of the time the artist knows how much a clip should be, but Shutterstock and others they set up a standard price which most of times is way too low compares to the one i set my self, so I have a question:

    All the numbers and figures in your article and comments ( the numbers for earnings not clip sales) which site between Shutterstock and pond5 have more in percentage ?

    The reason I’m asking this question is this :
    I have some clips which priced at $299 or $249 on pond5 and it sells if those clips were on Shutterstock it must sell many times to level up with one single sale that I get on pond5.

    Reply

    1. Hi San – I actually wrote a post trying to figure out optimal pricing on Pond5, I would recomend checking it out. I’m going to follow up soon.

      To give you a short answer – for me, shutterstock sells at a much much higher quantity. Around 5:1 compared to Pond5. So while I can price Pond5 higher, the volume on shutterstock still surpasses what I’m able to earn on higher priced Pond5 clips (at the moment they are priced similarly as a test, but my P5 clips used to be priced in the range you’ve described).

      Either way, I would still suggest uploading to both, Shutterstock gets a much higher volume of internet traffic compared to Pond5 (over 10 times as much if I’m not mistaken) and based on the books I have read and research I have done, being exclusive on a single agency isn’t as advantageous as posting to multiple agencies. Long story short I think Shutterstock is still worth the time!

      Hope this helps and best of luck! Let us know if this changes or is still the case as you go along!

      Reply

  6. So I want to start selling stock footage but i don’t have the equipment, all I have is an hd camcorder. I know a person that is willing to give me money for the equipment if I can prove that selling stock video brings money. So what can I do with my hd camcorder to get at least 3 sales in 2 weeks?

    Reply

    1. Hi Bogd740 – glad you found the blog. Unfortunately I think it is highly unlikely this is something you can prove in 2 weeks. The fastest any of my clips have sold after posting is 3 weeks, but even this is extremely rare. Most of my clips that sell consistently don’t start selling for 3 – 6 months after posting them. Or even a year or more.

      A regular HD camcorder might be hard to produce high selling footage with. I have nothing against them, their are just some technical limitations you will have to contend with. They usually have poor dynamic range so you would likely need to try to shoot lower contrast scenes or subjects. They also have a very deep depth of field because of their small sensor sizes. One way to work around this is to shoot with them in manual mode, fairly zoomed in, with as wide open an aperture as possible to try to create a shallower depth of field. Shallow depth of field isn’t guaranteed to get you sales alone, but based on my experience and just growing best selling clips on different agencies, it seems to help. You might also try experimenting with time lapse, but the time lapse I’ve created done usually sell and take a lot of time…

      Anyhow – I wish you good luck, if you’re able to make a small investment up front I think it can pay off, but it is not guaranteed by any means…

      Reply

  7. Hi. It was great reading this article, many good tips. I have no experience around this kind of stuff yet, but I would like to make some money with it and also improve my skills. It certanly requires dedication, patiance and quality. Unfortunately when we’re starting we can’t afford the right equipment, so we have to use what we’ve got.
    But I would like to ask you about locations, since we can’t go too far without money, and moving around with some expensive equipment isn’t always a good idea. In simple locations what could mean a good shot (trees,open spaces,animals,sunset,flowers,people)? What’s the minimum required quality and equipment? I mean, can I make money using my phone? I know it’s some stupid questions, sorry. But I would like to know what you do think about that.
    Thanks!

    Reply

  8. Hey mate,

    Really curious and can’t seem to find a solid answer. I work with a lot of drone footage and shoot in a flat profile. So is it best to leave it in this color profile and what about cutting up the clips?
    Should I upload a long clip or better to cut it up into smaller viable clips (without rough motion etc.)

    Reply

    1. Hey Nick – This is a tricky one and I haven’t been able to sniff out a good answer myself. Pond5 at one point was encouraging contributors to upload as flat as possible so that editors had as much flexibility as they want. But I’m an editor, and that’s not the reason I use stock. I buy stock footage because it is already pretty much ready to go – the beauty is I don’t have to spend a ton of time grading a clip. If I want something super unique and specific for a piece I’m working on, I’ll probably try to shoot it myself or find a freelancer in another area to do so for me.

      The other reason I don’t think posting flat footage is a great idea is that the thumbnails don’t stand out on search pages. Some of the flat / log shots aren’t really legible when you see the thumbnails. If you search for almost any subject on any stock site and filter by most-downloaded, or most-popular, you’ll rarely see un-graded shots at the top.

      Because of all of this, I usually try to strike a balance when I’m grading footage where there is still contrast and saturation that make it stand out on a search page, but there isn’t so much that an editor doesn’t have some room to grade.

      Regarding drone footage – I’d cut clips to be 6 seconds to 1 minute and focus on cutting them so you have a diversity of shots, i.e. don’t cut a 2 minute tracking shot into 6 shots and submit all of them, take the time to submit 2 of those shots, and a rising shot, and an overhead shot. Focus on diversity in addition to quantity.

      Reply

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