First Steps into Stock Videography
Videography is becoming more popular amongst both, buyers and stock photographers. The availability of electronic screens allowing for moving content is growing and static images are not ideal to serve those platforms. We have put together a list of ideas how to start out in videography if you are coming from stock photography.
How to start Shooting Stock Videos?
Learn about the basic settings
To shoot video, usually you will want to turn your camera to full manual control. For the shutter speed there is a rule of thumb: Half the frame rate of your video – this means when shooting at 25 frames per second, you will shoot with 1/50s shutter speed. If you shoot at 60 frames per second, you should adapt your shutter speed to 1/120s. Basically this allows for smooth motion between the single frames you are about to shoot. Try experimenting with longer and shorter shutter speeds every now and then to see the impact it has, you will probably either end up with blurred or jerky movement (which you could use artistically at that some stage once you mastered the basic rules).
The Aperture Settings needs to Fit!
The aperture setting needs to fit your creative vision. However, you should keep in mind why the first DSLRs producing video became so popular even among pro videographers: The option to film with wide open apertures and a shallow depth of field is impossible with consumer/prosumer video cameras as they mostly have small sensors. With a full frame 35mm photo sensor (or even the APS-C sized ones) and lenses opening up to f/2.8 or even f/1.4, DSLR video introduced options at a cheap price that were not available without expensive professional gear before.
Use Shallow Depth of field
Take advantage of the shallow DOF filming with open aperture as much as you can. However, also keep in mind that in video you will shoot moving subjects or move the camera. This requires a compromise between getting and keeping your subject in focus by either changing the manual focus to the right points during the shoot and/or closing by aperture enough to allow some margin of DOF for movement. Then again, in video it isn’t a killer if your subject moves in and out of focus a tiny bit every now and then. While it would be very apparent in a static image, due to the motion our eye does not notice minor blurs and lack of sharpness as long as it doesn’t stay blurred for too long.
Get White Balance right
One more thing to mention is the White Balance: While this can be (more or less) fixed during the post processing for photos, making huge changes in the colors or contrast in video is entering dangerous territory – as the base material usually is far more limited (you don’t have RAW and 20+ megapixels to start with when doing footage) and the software needs to “guess” if all changes have to be applied to all frames at once or in different gradations. So you better make sure that your white balance settings are customized before starting to shoot.
A great basic introduction to DSLR filming is being given by Fenchel & Janisch in this 12 minute video:
Video is about motion
Can you imagine a video showing a tree on a nice day, a nice sky with clouds slowly moving above it? How long can you imagine that video before falling asleep? Probably not too long. Generating 30 seconds of this is not going to make great footage. Do this on a windy day with moving branches and quickly moving clouds might already add to it. But typically, if you actually want to do this kind of video, you are probably best off doing a time lapse. Why? Because it speeds up the minimal actual motion.
Lesson for Photographer
For a photographer, this might be the first lesson learned: In a photo, you freeze a moment in time but in video you need motion to make it work. Motion can be introduced in two ways:
- Shoot moving subjects
- Move the camera
If you are shooting people, you will want them to act – either with another person or with some objects. A person writing something could make a great video while a person actually reading a book will be too slow to make the viewer watch for more than a few seconds.
Moving the camera is another possibility to introduce motion – however, this is a more challenging tasks as you don’t want to see the camera shaking or wobbling (unless intentionally but that probably requires a pro to pull it off correctly).
Stability is king
Camera shake is probably the most common issue photographers run into when starting out with video. It actually isn’t easy at all to get smooth movements, and there is a huge market for gear helping videographers with the different ways of motion. You don’t have to start out with a video crane to shoot Hollywood style movements coming into a scene, though.
Get a stable Stripod
The first piece of gear you might already have: A stable tripod. Cheap and light weight tripods might not be the best solution but if you already have a tripod offering the stability to shoot long exposure photos, it should also work well for video. It would be an advantage if you already have (or get) a fluid head for the tripod, though. These absorb a bit of the power you add when starting or ending a pan or tilt move, resulting in smoother moves and no harsh breaks that easily become apparent in the final video.
A helpful review from photo equipment store B&H gives some insights what to look for:
If you get into the groove of producing footage on a regular basis, you can go out and find advanced solutions from shoulder straps offering stability and support when moving the camera on your body to rail systems for the camera or dollies to move camera (or even the operator) on the ground. However, all of those solutions are limited to certain purposes and uses, and you might first want to test the markets before getting heavily invested into any of these.
Don’t be afraid of high ISO
When you shoot photos, especially in controlled light situations, you are usually very aware that lower ISO results in lower noise levels and better salability of our images. Using your DSLR to product stock footage requires a basic change: ISO is more of a means to control aperture and shutter speed times.
Remember that your sensor probably is capable to produce high quality images with something like 16, 21, 24 or maybe even 38 megapixels. A full HD resolutions in comparison is just 1920 x 1080 pixels, roughly 2 megapixels. So your camera can use about 10 pixels of incoming information to generate 1 pixel of output. This helps a lot with reducing the noise levels even at higher ISO. Also, as video means motion, minor technical flaws are far less apparent in the final product than in an image where each single pixel stares at you.
Start by sticking to what you know best
There is a very simple way that allows photographers to enter into the video market very quickly without actually leaving their home territory: Start shooting a timelapse. After all, a video is nothing but putting a lot of single images (frames) together. Time lapses allow you to shoot those frames one by one (though you will want to control it automatically very quickly).
Advantage of starting with Time Lapses
The advantage of starting with time lapses are simple: You still can apply the same control to your single images as before. Though it won’t be efficient to edit 900 images for a 30 seconds time lapse with 30 frames per seconds. But you can start by using tools like Lightroom to change the colors, contrast and other basic settings – and even fix those sensor spots that always start popping up when we thought we just had them all removed. Correcting those things will be much harder to do once you actually shoot videos, so a time lapse might be a good way to control the final result and slowly move into the thinking of how good footage looks at the end.
Use your DSLR to shoot Time Lapse
Using a DSLR to shoot time lapses has huge advantages: The large basic image sizes allows you to crop and downsize your original images a lot, hiding minor technical problems. Even shooting the new 4k formats which used to require expensive video cameras up to now is no problem using DSLR basic images. You can either shoot in RAW or even shoot directly in JPG when going for a time lapse. And there is another idea to keep in mind: When cropping the needed size out of your image, you can slowly move the crop from left to right, practically faking a pan shot without ever having to move the camera during the shoot.
Easy to shoot, nevertheless impressive – even simple things like clouds can be attractive when you show things faster than the human eye is used to:
Where to sell your video?
Most of the big stock photo agencies are also offering a footage or video section. However, what you know might not be the best places to sell your videos. For one, there might be an overlap between the image buyer and footage buyer segments but it probably isn’t that big. There probably aren’t that many graphic designers who happen to be professional video editors in their second life. So while image agencies might be able to handle footage technically, the customers might be somewhere else.
And also, you might want to consider if offering videos at the same “lowest possible” price levels and royalty percentages as microstock images are the best option you have. We would rather recommend to look for
- A) agencies that have a good standing in the video editing and post production markets;
- B) offer either decent prices for footage sales or – even better – allow the contributors to set their own price; and
- C) agencies that offer higher royalty shares than the 20 or 25% most of you got used to accept for image sales.
At Pond5, customers find more than one million video clips. This allows a variety of choice for clients and has attracted some attention in the market in recent years. Also, Pond5 allows contributors to set their own prices for footage (as well as photos). This means, you can decide based on your efforts and cost if a single clip will be priced at $10 or $200. Whatever you choose, you get 50% of the net sales price based on your settings.
Whatever you choose, you get 50% of the net sales price based on your settings. Pond5 also distinguishes itself with covering the western markets really well and has a large following in Europe with their native support for major languages in that territory.
Speaking of territories, we also suggest investing in one or two specialized agencies. We’d recommend trying territory specific sites like MotionElements which specialize on the Asian market but is also enjoying a growing following in the West as of late. As far as specialized territories goes, you can’t get larger than that.
They ingest your existing footage metadata and sell it to Asia in their native supported languages. They have a good standing in Asia due to their focus on video, allow contributors set their prices ($50 on average, but its common to see $100 and higher), and you’ll always get at least 50% from the sale of your work. All the right buttons for an up and coming specialized site, so it’s definitely worth your time. If you had to add one specialized site, let it be this one, you’ll cover more ground. We have covered MotionElements and their advantages here.
MotionElements has recently implemented a awesome VisualSearch feature, which we will review here very soon.
With the successes in the microstock markets, Shutterstock has also opened a lot of doors in the advertising industries. Among the products they added in recent years to achieve higher revenues, they also added a Video section (as well as an Audio section just a few weeks ago). Unlike the microstock subscription model, with Footage Shutterstock has decided to aim for a higher price levels.
However, there is a negative compared to footage oriented places: Shutterstock pays a flat 30% for clips sold which sounds quite fine when coming from (micro)stock photography but compared to other agencies offering it comes a bit short. It might compensate that with a larger market share but there is no certainty about that.
We hope this guide got you encouraged to start shooting stock videos now. We would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment below.