How to Sell Stock Video Footage

If you’re a filmmaker or videographer there has never been a better time than now to start selling stock video footage.

Stock video is in high demand for companies, particularly smaller ones, who are looking to add production value to their promotional material but don’t have the budget to hire out a creative team to conceptualize and shoot their promotional video for them. Enter, stock video.

However, stock video is not praised by everyone in the advertising industry. In fact, it’s seen by many commercial producers and directors as a double edged sword. On the one hand video producers, who in the past would be contracted  to to shoot content for companies, have either been replaced or undercut by stock footage alternatives. On the other hand this has allowed companies, who otherwise wouldn’t have access to professionally produced material, access to great video content at reasonable prices.

Since these smaller companies are willing to give up exclusivity in exchange for smaller fees, the content creators (i.e. filmmakers and videographers) are allowed to re-sell their media to more than one client, which of course helps compensate for the low selling price of each individual video.

Prices of stock video are dependent on many factors: Quality, length, HD vs. SD, resolution, size and popularity work together to determined the price a customer will pay for each clip of stock video. Common price ranges are:

Small clip $10
Medium clip: $40
Large clip: $100

As a supplier of stock video you’ll make a percentage of what the stock company sells your videos for. Most stock video companies will give their contributors a percentage ranging from 20% to 50%. Though, in the end it’s still a numbers game.  This means you, the content creator, need to know who your buyers are and what creatives are looking for. Remember, the video content you create will often be used to promote a product or service. This means you need to create content that will help your client achieve their selling goals. To have a diversified, strong selling portfolio you need to be a particular type of filmmaker with a very strong vision to communicate the essence of what advertisers are looking for. You need to understand what type of story they are trying to tell you and need to capture the visual essence of that story.

However, due to the nature of stock photography you never really know what your clients are looking for, let alone what type of companies they operate. For this reason you’re going to need to create a large and broad portfolio of work to tap into the needs of this general business audience.

How much money can you make selling stock video?

The founder of iStockphoto was recently quoted as saying that some of their top content contributors are bringing in $20,000 per month. However, this example, of course, is an anomaly and the majority of content providers are making substantially less money.

If you take a quick read through the iStock forum you’ll notice community members stating that with  100 – 250 pieces of media in their portfolios they are making between $50 and $100 / month.



Message by:  Lights Film School

Think like a client

Think about your clients. For example, think about the marketing needs of a real estate agent living in Cincinnati. What do you think they would try to communicate visually if they were to put together a small promotional video for their website but didn’t want to go out and get the footage themselves?

As a stock video supplier you need to find a way to best capture the visual needs of your clients. It’s not simply about capturing beautiful video. It’s about communicating a point.

Grow your stock video library

Because of the varying nature of your potential clients businesses, It’s inevitable that you’ll need to have a large portfolio of work if you plan on making this your full time job. A quick look at iStock’s “Diamond List” shows that almost all of their top performers have more than 1000 pieces of media in their portfolios (i.e. photographs, illustrations, animations, videos etc).

What are hot visual “topics”

Based on our analysis of this list, we found that there wasn’t always a strong correlation between a great video and a selling video. Particularly the artsy, landscape and flower videos didn’t fare very well. Categories that seemed to do better were:

Backgrounds & abstract
Business (i.e. video for growth, charts, computer, technology, money, teamwork)
Real estate
Healthy living

One of the best ways to learn is by going through the database of stock footage they have available and analyze the visual traits of the videos that perform well. There is generally a “sort” feature on each of the stock websites that allows you to sort by “most popular” or “most downloaded”. Examine these files. Are they regionally relevant? Professionally lit? do they use models and actors to communicate a point? Do they use dollies, jibs or other stabilization techniques to help add production value to their work? These are all questions you should be asking yourself before you start trying to build your own catalog of work.

Where to sell your stock video?

Pond 5
Shutterstock – Footage
Thought Equity Motion


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