How I earned my first $150K by selling stock footage?

[Warning! This may want you to quit your job now.]

This is a story about landing a regular, stable income by doing what you love. Who wouldn’t want that? Take the read and grab useful tips that will help you make a start in stock footage business.

Believe it or not, but this came unplanned. Let’s go 5 years back.

2021 Update | Some time ago we decided to build premium 8K stock footage platform with easy to use subscription model. All our content is available in RAW format (R3D or CinemaDNG). We’re constantly looking for talented cinematographers that are interested in producing high-quality cinematic content. Learn more at https://raw.film

For stock footage tips and tricks, join my Badass Stock Footage Shooters FB Group. A perfect place for learning more about filming, camera gear and having great conversations with other passionate people like you!

It was 2011 and I was working on yet another video project for my clients. The project needed a cool animated graphic, so I decided to jump on VideoHive to find some fresh ideas and maybe buy another graphics template that would dramatically speed up the post-production process. Each After Effects template cost around $35-$50, which doesn’t sound a lot, but when you think that polish currency is around 4 times cheaper than USD and sometimes I needed to buy more than one, the project costs started to add up. I thought that maybe I should start creating my small projects and stock footage, upload them to VideoHive and earn credits so that I won’t have to pay cash for the next templates.

I tried to create some AE projects… but I had to face the truth, I really suck at creating cool stuff with AE:) I know how to do basic things like object and camera tracking, masks, color correction, simple expressions, but that’s not enough to create an awesome & useful template. But, I didn’t give up. I saw that VideoHive sells stock footage and they are just starting. Their library was pretty small at that time, maybe around 10K clips. I thought that probably no one is licensing stock footage from them… but I said, let’s test it. It was a few days after I came back from New York and had captured a few nice shots from the city. I uploaded them through their super complicated uploading process, got the clips approved and forgot about them.

Next time I wanted to search for some creative AE template, I opened VideoHive and I saw around $30 on my account! That was huge! I bought another AE template essentially for free:)

I said to myself… I love to shoot footage, I also love time lapses, I love to test cameras and see how they perform in different environments… maybe that’s a cool way to practice my craft, shoot more great stuff and earn credits for future spending for licensing new templates.

Next month, I and my future wife took a trip to Fuerteventura Island. I shot some sunsets, surfers, palms, sun, beaches and a couple of time lapses. Uploaded everything to the platform and 2–3 months after that my monthly income was something around $200. I thought… wow! That’s not bad. It’s not the amount that I will let me quit my video production company and start selling stock footage, but it’s something cool that allows me to buy a new lens or maybe a new camera in few months. This is a screenshot of my monthly earnings in 2013:

After that, shooting clips for stock footage became my small addiction. Whenever I would go somewhere, for the weekend or a short trip to a new city, I tried to be more creative and was generating new content. I remember my first $500/month. It was a super cool feeling. I was doing what I love, in my free time and what’s even more awesome… I didn’t have to talk to the clients. It’s all about someone needing the clips and then buying it. Boom. Done!

Then, I started to travel more, shoot more & better videos… short story long… I’m reaching $3,000 monthly passive (!) income on just one platform:) Again, it’s not an amount that you get for robbing a bank, but it’s a pretty cool amount of money for doing stuff that you love in free time! I can say that 90% of my portfolio was created in spare time. Depending on where you are, you may make a living out of it! Or… just pay your rent. Like I do when living in Silicon Valley. Well, it’s expensive here.

You might probably think that I was lucky, because I started a few years ago, built a nice portfolio and right now the whole marketplace is too crowded. Definitely, no! It’s always a good time to build up your portfolio, find an interesting niche and start earning money by doing what you love. Currently, it’s an amazing time for videographers. Cameras and lenses are getting better and better, but also cheaper. Today, you need to spend around $3K-$5K to buy a good set that will allow you to create truly amazing pictures that will look like shot on Red Helium or Arri Alexa that cost around $20K just for the camera body:) Here are some examples from my portfolio shot on Panasonic GH4 and Panasonic GH5:

https://videohive.net/item/convertible-fun/16861514
https://videohive.net/item/practicing-yoga/10449918

And here are a few time lapses that you can shoot almost on any kind of digital camera:

https://videohive.net/item/las-vegas-night-to-day/8717532
https://videohive.net/item/night-city-time-lapse-4k/5225077
https://videohive.net/item/rushing-people/18154570
https://videohive.net/item/night-sky-time-lapse/6023467

I hope that I was able to convince at least some of you that shooting stock footage might be a cool addition to your daily job. It’s always super hard to start, but when you catch the flow, I assure you that you will love it.

There is more and more stock footage services available. Even apps like EyeEm or Twenty20 are starting to experiment with video, so there’s room for everyone. I started on VideoHive, but you’ll be able to find your niche at Pond5, Shutterstock, VideoBlocks or Dissolve.

Here are my tips for everyone who starts in stock footage industry:

https://videohive.net/item/skateboarder/14200252
https://videohive.net/item/hand-in-the-sun-3/7902703
https://videohive.net/item/birds/12739085
https://videohive.net/item/happiness/16844801
https://videohive.net/item/kite-surfing/18310176
https://videohive.net/item/beach-from-above/12010137
https://videohive.net/item/driving-on-the-desert/13375113

Many people ask me if it’s still worth to upload Full HD footage, instead of 4K. In my opinion, Full HD will still survive a few next years. Good HD quality is enough for most web and TV productions. If you have a 4K quality camera, shoot 4K, your library will live longer.

What kind of equipment I’m using to shoot good footage and land a steady income? Here is my equipment list:

For Videos:

For Time Lapses:

Additional Gear & Software:

Remember, that equipment is not as important as your creativity and your talent. I was able to shoot great stuff with my iPhone 5 and got the footage approved:)

Sounds like making sense? Happy stock footage shooting!

2021 Update | Some time ago we decided to build premium 8K stock footage platform with easy to use subscription model. All our content is available in RAW format (R3D or CinemaDNG). We’re constantly looking for talented cinematographers that are interested in producing high-quality cinematic content. Learn more at https://raw.film

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Jakub Gorajek

AngelPad Alumni, 1 exit - UnStock (Acquired by Slidely), entrepreneur with expertise in video, https://raw.film