What Sells and Why
Stock video is a digital product in a marketplace unlike traditional retailing. You can think about it by imagining an apple. Imagine a fruit bin where an apple magically reappears every time it's sold. It's a market where the supply of apples grows exponentially larger every minute, every hour and every day. It never stops. The cost of storing digital apples is marginal, near zero, so every apple sits in the apple bin on sale competing forever. Every day, more apple vendors show up with more apples. Competitive? This describes the digital marketplace for photography and video stock footage.
How can you possibly compete in a stock video footage marketplace like that?
Before I give you some points on what to sell, I wanted to set the stage. To understand what sells it's important to see the digital marketplace clearly. With some initial understanding of the market, you can generate shots which can compete successfully and make you money.
The market for stock video is intensely competitive and changes month to month - from a sellers perspective usually for the worse. Your competitors upload new clips everyday. To compete in the stock video footage marketplace you need to play the strongest hand you have before you shoot and even before you begin to upload and submit. Think before you shoot and upload. Don't walk into it blind – it's a prescription for poor sales and disappointment. Do your research and select your subjects carefully. Your sales will reflect this process.
Before you begin, gather your assets.
What advantage over other sellers do you have? How can you compete?
Such as: Where do you live? Who do you know with a farm or factory? What friends do you have in interesting occupations? Where do you have special access? What are your image gathering tools (cameras, sliders, etc.)? What special production / post-production skills do you bring to the stock footage game which can make your submitted clips different from all the rest?
Footage which is unique and/or hard to find. I live in S.E. Asia, so footage unique to Asia is around me. Footage of rice harvesting and planting is unique to this area of the world. I studied the shots already online and tried to make my work visually different and appealing. I regularly sell rice harvest and planting footage now. Here's a shot which sells several times per year on multiple sites:
Locations and subjects you know well. Your inside knowledge of your city, region gives you an advantage. Leverage your location asset into footage that sells. I took a long walk from my house in Seattle one sunny afternoon three years ago. I'd lived in the area for 20 years, I knew the city and its backstreets well. In retrospect it was a very financially rewarding day. In one long day I created many unique shots which have consistently sold on multiple sites.
Shots with people sell. Model-released or editorial, shots featuring people draw more views from potential buyers and sales.
Commercial and industrial subjects sell. Footage of industrial processes, equipment in action and business activity sell distinctly better than general stock. If you concentrate your effort collecting a variety of industrial footage, you'll see distinctly better returns.
Exotic or difficult to access locations and famous tourist sites.
Famous landmarks are in demand; your footage will need to be visually outstanding (and/or price competitive) to compete.
Editorial footage of unique events.
Some general advice:
Submit best and strongest in any category you choose to sell in. For example, if you do shots of animals at the zoo know right away you are in a popular and glutted category. Your odds just went way down. You may want to think twice. Only the best footage will sell. So only sell your best and strongest shots, visually and story-wise - if at all. Your footage, if not outstanding or in-demand in some way, will go to the back of the agency search engine results and remain there. Mediocre clips do not sell. If you can't do it better, do something else. It's a incredibly competitive marketplace and you MUST create competitive and outstanding video for it to sell.
Keyword like you mean it. Key-wording is critical for your success. It may be a great image, but it needs to be found. Most photographers love creating images, but hate key-wording. I am always startled to see great images and poor key-wording. It's a texted based internet market. Learn to love keywords and marry your metadata. Spend enough time finding the correct - specific and concept - keywords. Use every keyword you are permitted. Avoid spamming, but drill down into the image for keywords. It's the difference between success and failure.
Use strong thumbnail images to drive sales. Tiny icons are the first thing your potential buyer sees. Make them arresting. For example, If you do sell shots of zoo animals, they should be visually outstanding and create a sharp eye-catching thumbnail image which will standout from the others. I do have shots of monkeys at the zoo which sell several times a year on multiple sites. They all have strong thumbnails.
Let's look at one eye catching thumbnail:
This thumbnail of parrots illustrates the pattern.
These shots sell because the strong thumbnail is a preview of the story in the clip. These parrots interact - it's a interesting story in 12 seconds. Both are good thumbnails - and buyers select based on thumbnails (once all other search filters are set). Footage I have uploaded of other animals which is visually uninteresting, doesn't generate a good thumbnail and is in a saturated category simply doesn't sell. Better yet, if you can get a shot of an animal which is rare and in demand, you may stand a better chance of selling it. This shot of a panda (not mine) has sold 20 times in two years. A great return on time and effort.
Use catchy interesting titles. When a potential buyers does a search on an agency site, they not only are presented with relevant thumbnails, but each thumbnail has a descriptive title. Sales sites weight the keywords in the title box (I have been told). Use not only relevant specific keywords (see How to KEY-WORD), but title to attract the viewers interest.
Add descriptive text. Most sales sites have a box for adding a description of your clip. Describe your subject specifically and as a concept. Internet spiders scan the titles and descriptions and can draw in sales from searches originating on Google. Try to repeat critical keywords from your keyword list and your title.
Sell one visual idea at a time - make it generic. Reduce the image in your viewfinder to one simple idea. A generic idea and one idea only. Crop out time and place. Have just one visual easily identifiable idea on screen. Beautiful and simple gives your shot the broadest appeal - and broad generic appeal translates into sales. Once you get in the habit, you can do this with most shots. My editorial footage illustrates this. This could be a burning bus anywhere. I shot it deliberately as generic stock footage. It continues to sell.
Let's move to the next topic, Where To Sell.
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Drop me a line - I answer all questions. Good luck!