What does it take to sell aerial stock photo / video and make a passive income by doing it?
Selling stock photos and video is actually quite simple. If you have a drone that shoots at least HD video and high-resolution images then you have the tools to do it. It provides a small additional income that can be used to travel more and fund passion projects.
Are my photos and videos good enough for stock photography and video sites?
Now this is really the biggest stumbling block for a lot of people, they believe their photos and video aren’t good enough. To sell stock images and video you don’t need to be the best photographer or have the best gear, you just need to create visually interesting imagery and video content that people will want to use in their work. You can submit images with anything from a hobbyist to commercial grade drone.
Its a brilliant way to improve creative and technical skills, the submission process can be brutal, but you will learn a lot from it. You just need to keep pushing on and creating content you think will work. Join online photography and filmmaking communities where people can like and comment on your work. Its a great place to appreciate other peoples work and to get some inspiration.
Here are some simple rules to uploading images and video
– Focus must be sharp on at least one subject
– Images and video need to be relatively free of noise, so a low iso is preferred
– Images generally need to be above 4 megapixels and HD or above for video
– Images generally need to be less than 30mb in file size and video less than 4GB
– Videos needs to be exported in the supported codecs (HEVC is not always accepted)
– Videos must be between 5 seconds and a minute
– Do not over saturate or over-process images or apply too heavy a grade to video
– Images are usually submitted in .jpg format and video is usually submitted as .mp4 files
Is it easy to sell stock images and video?
Signing up to stock sites can be a little tedious, it generally requires you to fill out a profile, add payment information and in some cases submit proof of identification and fill out a tax form. Don’t be put off by this, the proof of ID can be as simple as uploading a photo of a driving licence and the tax forms are handled online with generally just a few personal details, electronic signature and occasionally some self-assessment tax details.
Then once you are all setup most stock sites will have you submit some sample images and videos to be verified as good enough for sale. This is where you want to submit your absolute best photo and video content. This can take a few days to be processed, so don’t expect to be making sales on day 1.
Once you are set up on the websites you want to sell with then its simply a case of uploading, keyword tagging and submitting your images or video. This can be really time-consuming if you are doing it non-exclusively across multiple websites, but it really just makes you pick your best work. Then once you have an idea of what sells, you can upload more of that type of content.
What type of content sells well on stock photography/video sites?
This is no secret, almost all stock sites will let you sort content by ‘top selling’ or ‘most popular’ in any category. The thing to keep in mind is who comes to purchase the images and video, this is generally a lot of online businesses and agencies. So anything that serves a business, be that creative or more literal will have a lot more chance of making sales. Think from the buyers perspective and what they are likely to search for.
Typically stock photo/video websites are becoming overcrowded with content on particular searches. So if you want your images and video to show in peoples searches then you need to be thorough with your keyword tagging. It can also be advantageous to find yourself a niche so that you can have a large presence there. Shooting things for new technologies, for example, can be quite unique, so you have a better chance of selling those images/video.
How much will I make selling photography and video content?
This question is asked everywhere online and truthfully no one can answer it for you. Certain types of photo/video will sell better than others and different stock photography sites have different audiences. The actual amount you receive for image/video usage can vary dramatically from a few pence or cents to hundreds of pounds or dollars per image.
Why are the payments per sale so different in stock?
This is all dependant on how the end user acquires the photo or video and how they intend to use it. Someone using an annual subscription to a stock website that decides to use your image or video for editorial use will bring you the lowest yield. If the user purchases the image/video as a one-off then you will get a slightly better return. If the user decides to buy it at the largest available size and to purchase a commercial licence then you are going receive the highest possible amount.
Editorial stock content vs Commercial stock content
Editorial stock images/video can be used in magazines, blogs etc for editorial use, but the minute you want to use a stock image or stock video to directly promote a product or service, your usage requirements change. To do this the buyer needs to purchase a commercial licence for that image/video. Now for you as a stock content contributor, you need to know that to sell videos or photos commercially you must meet strict sale requirements. This is a simple overview of some of the rules of commercial photography.
– Images/video cannot contain any recognisable people or landmarks
– Images/video cannot contain any brand names or trademarks
– Images/video need accompanying release forms for people in the photos
You need to be careful when uploading commercial stock images/video to make sure they do comply with the terms of the site. For example, not having the correct supporting releases can lead to legal issues. Commercial images and video command a much higher price tag than editorial images and video, so if you can make your content comply to commercial usage then you open yourself up to make higher sales figures per image/video.
Aerial content tends to not need release forms etc because people are unrecognisable but you may end up with trademarks from buildings etc, so be sure to check your photos and videos before uploading them. The worst case scenario is that they will be rejected and you will have to re-upload them for editorial usage, but that does take additional time.
What is the commission split on stock photos/video
This can vary dramatically across websites and depends on a few factors. The quality of the image/video, the exclusivity of the image/video and whether the image/video can be sold commercially. Typically your share of the sale can range anywhere from 20% to 50%. The stock site will always take a very large percentage of each sale for the use of its platform to promote your work.
Video tends to get a better return, some 4k video content is still making amounts of up to £100/$100 for a single download.
Is it worth giving away such a big percentage?
It depends if the photos and videos you have are actually going to be used for anything else. Do you have loads of great photos and videos just sat on old hard drives? If so, then why not put them to work on stock sites, they are not making any money on old drives collecting dust. Even if you only make a small amount of money, it’s more than they will yield not being used.
Exclusive Vs Non-Exclusive in stock content
This essentially is whether you want to sell your content with one stock agency exclusively or through many different ones. You will make more per sale selling exclusively, but you will reach a wider audience selling through multiple sites. Some stock sites will also give your content improved search rankings if you sell exclusively through them.
You can mix and match, so long as you make sure any exclusive images or video you upload to sites remain only on that website and are not sold on any others. Otherwise, you are breaching your contributor contract and that can lead to legal issues.
Does selling stock content harm the creative industry?
The people who complain online about the industry being ruined just need to adapt. There was a time when you could make hundreds or even thousands of pounds/dollars per image or video, but those days are mostly gone. Technology has given everyone the ability to take amazing photos anywhere at any time. The rules and fundamentals of photography and videography will make your content more aesthetically pleasing, but these can be learnt along the way. Essentially, you don’t need to be a ‘pro’ to be paid for photography or video content, but you need to put in the effort and learn your craft to make good money. The people that succeed in the creative fields are the people that work hard, adapt and learn from past mistakes.
Aerial photography and especially 4k aerial video are quite specific niches that can be heavily utilised in the stock world. There is a lot of content but you just need to be persistent and make your content stand out.
Do you have to pay to submit photos and video to stock websites?
Almost none of the big photo stock sites charge to upload images, the payment to the service generally always comes out of the image sales. There are services out there that will charge a small monthly fee to automate your distribution to multiple stock sites. This saves you having to upload them to each platform individually.
Can I set my own prices for stock content
You actually can do this on certain sites, at the time of writing this article Pond5 offer it. The other way to do this is to make your own website so you can price and sell them yourself to people directly. This sounds like a huge undertaking, but its actually quite easy to do if you catalogue your images/videos well and can create a pricing structure you are happy with.
What stock sites are worth using?
Shutterstock provides the most income for a large percentage of people who sell stock, but if you sell non-exclusively then all of the following sites are well worth checking out –
As a wrap-up, selling stock photography or video can be a really interesting way to learn a lot about photography / videography and also start to make a little money as a creative professional.
Be prepared for some long hours uploading and tagging content, some rejections and push backs along the way and know that it is not going to make you any money overnight. It’s a long game and you do it for the love of the craft. If you need a quick money fix then look elsewhere as this is certainly not it.
Stock photography/video can build you a solid portfolio and even lead on to paid jobs. Which is great to progress your career and start to try to make photography or video production your main source of income.
Good luck in your venture into selling stock content. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions and we will do our best to answer.