Can you make money from 360 stock footage?
Hello friend, and welcome back to episode number 23! Number 23 of my 31 day challenge where every single day I'm answering your questions about creating a career or a business that you love.
And in today's episode I'm answering the question: can you make money with stock footage? And I mean some serious money. Or is it just like chump change? So I'll be diving into that. If you've got a question you can ask me on social media, my handle is @alexmakesVR on Instagram and Twitter. If you've got a longer question, then you can ask me email@example.com, and if you would like to receive a newsletter from me every day- I don't know what this cadence is- every single day, I send out a newsletter basically to give you a recap of what I talked about in the episode, but also to let you know the episodes gone live. And if you would like to sign up for that you can sign up at alexmakesvr.com.
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So come on, Alex, give us the gas. Give us the gas. Can you make some serious moolah with stock footage? Or is it best to focus on other things?
Well, here's the thing my friend; I want to be totally transparent and say that whilst I've absolutely looked into the stock footage world and I've worked on projects where I've been using stock footage, I have never personally sold any stock footage, I think I've got one test clip up on them up on blend media, which is probably the biggest 360 stock site in the world, I think, still. I think it might actually be the only one that's purely dedicated 360. I could be wrong, though.
Obviously, the biggest stock sites do now except 360 images and videos. So that's also a way to go in terms of uploading on lots of different platforms, but blend is just the one that I know of. And for complete transparencies sake, I am friends with the founder of it. So although we'll be referencing them, don't think that I am totally unbiased because I'm not because how can I be? I know the founder. So take everything that I'm saying in terms of being specific about platforms with a grain of salt. Do your own research, look at the different platforms, look at the popularity of clips and that kind of thing. But in general, ‘what is my vibe?’ And what is realistic in terms of making money from stock footage?
The answer is, I think you can make a shit tonne of money from stock footage, if you- I mean it totally depends, and this is the slight downside with stock footage because ultimately you put it up obviously, and then you're essentially competing against everyone else's footage on that platform. So it's not guaranteed- do land a whale, they can be very, very lucrative. I'm talking like thousands. And I know, was it? I'm trying to think if it was a, I feel like it was a friend of mine actually a couple of years ago, maybe a year ago, ended up licencing I think one video clip and three 360 photos. But I think it was five grand. And it was a licence for a big brand. I can't remember who it was, actually, but it was like a big known brand, and they just wanted to use it on an advertising campaign for Facebook or something like that. So there is absolutely money to be made with stock footage. And I would say the cleverest thing you can do (and I wish that I had actually put some time into doing this because I didn't, which was stupid of me because it was very short sighted), is if you're shooting content anyway, if you're going out there and you're doing a shoot on site, I don't know, on a football pitch; If you've got permission to be on that site and if you've got a location release form signed anyway because of the project you're doing, see if you you can take a few extra shots. Obviously anything that you shoot or anything you create for a client that you can't use because of your contract (or the expectation even if you don't have a contract with your client is that you are creating that content for them, it is theirs and you can use it). You know if you've agreed to be able to use it in your marketing material, but you couldn't then go on and resell that footage or that film that you've made for that client. And so it's the same deal for stock, you can't just upload stuff that you've done for clients or stock side. But what you could do is, for example: you're on a football pitch, you're doing a little 360 film for a football club. Maybe you also then see if it would be okay to get some other shots that are specifically for your own purposes, which you will be kind of exploiting commercially, which is one of the downsides of of stock is you do have to have the correct commission, the correct permissions in place. But that would be an amazing opportunity, because then you've just done a client project where you're being paid to do the little 360 film anyway. And then whilst you were there, it's not really that much skin off your nose to go and get a few extra shots of the football pitch. And you could upload them to a stock site and end up making passive income from them, because essentially, you know, people can just buy them and they will just exist there forever. And by taking that extra hour or two to work on those shots that day, they could potentially go on to create cash flow for you for years to come. So I definitely think there's a lot of value in stock.
I have to be really careful with what I'm advising because I am totally biassed, because I have had a recent conversation with my friend who owns blend media, recently. So I do have a little bit of insight. So I will give you a slight nudge in the direction you should be going if you are considering stock, but I'm not sure to what extent. In fact, I did say to him that I wanted to do an episode interviewing him for the podcast in a few weeks time. So definitely, if you'd be interested in that, let me know because I will definitely then commit him to that and get him on the podcast to talk extensively. And then it's like, it's less likely to be me thinking, am I allowed to say that?
But generally speaking, I remember when I first started looking at the stock world, the biggest tip he gave me was there's a filter you can use on stock sites (not just blend, but also Getty and the other ones), and there's a filter that allows you to look at what's most popular. So for example, if you put in- I don't know, let's use the football pitch analogy. You could go on to Getty or blend, you could search football, and then you could change the search preferences to look at the most popular. You can see which clips and which photos are selling the best and then essentially you know. So footage (this could be just general flat footage) you could then repurpose and recreate in 360. So let's say the photographs that work really well are action shots of generic footballers, in a generic kit- it's so important to remember, if you're creating stock footage, you can't have any brands anywhere in any of your footage. You can't if you're doing video, you have to get rid of the tripod. Same with photos, it needs to be super high quality. Obviously, all of these things you have to keep in mind. If you've got people in shot, you have them act, you have to have them released, you know, you have to have a release form that says they've given you permission to exploit that shot commercially. So there are all these things to consider. And you can find out more about that. I'm fairly certain Blend did a blog about that recently. So definitely go check that out. Or I'm sure they will be happy to answer any questions over email as well (and again, I have to be totally transparent and say that I am 100% biassed towards blenders purely because of my affiliation with the founder). So if you wanted to do the same for Getty I'm not suggesting, you know, you go and do your own. I'm trying to be very careful with this episode.
Hashtag not sponsored! Although, Damian if you're listening and you fancy, you know, let's talk!-
So yeah, so you look at the most popular and you go, ‘Okay, I'm going to recreate that shot and I'm going to do five different variations, I'm going to have someone tackling, we're going to have someone scoring goal and cheering, I'm going to have someone missing the goal and I'm gonna have like a moving camera shot. I'm gonna have slow motion, or I'm gonna have a hyperlapse shot, you know, maybe do lots of varieties of those kinds of most popular posts.’ So that's a really good tip.
The biggest places that you will see trends (in terms of, what is the kind of stuff that people want to see?), well, that is a bigger question about what 360 is predominantly good for in terms of the consumer space, in terms of the advertising space. And generally speaking, the biggest kind of focus for 360 content is probably going to be travel related. It's going to be exotic places, or is it cityscapes? Is it beaches? Or is it somewhere on top of the mountain? It’s that kind of stuff now. Now don't get me wrong, one of Blends campaigns they did a couple of years ago was with Chick Fill-A. And if you've not seen the video that they did with 360 stock footage, it's amazing! It's so good. They basically took loads of different stock footage from Blends site, and then they computer generated these cows into each of the scenes and they were doing various bits and bobs in the scenes. Say one of them, they were just like grazing in a field. One of them, they were skydiving, one of them, they were skiing.
So action sports is what I'm kind of hinting at there. It’s things like action sports and outdoorsy-ness. You know, there's so much cool stuff that can be done with stock footage. So do some stuff with some people in shot, if that's what's showing up as most popular, but also have plain kind of scenes which other people can then put their own stuff into the scene. So yeah, that Chick Fill-A commercial is absolutely amazing. Go and look that up if you've not seen it, because it's really good use of 360.
But yeah, I think travel related stuff, animals, families is probably a really good one. I always joke with my sister in law that we need to get my nephew- he is, oh my goodness, he made someone who is very committed to my career right now and not necessarily looking to have kids broody, because he is just the most stunning little boy you've ever seen. Just a beautiful symmetrical face, curly blonde locks, just, oh, he's just textbook. There's probably something to be said for why that is the textbook look, and we could go down a deep rabbit hole about beauty standards in the advertising industry, but we're not going to go there! I'm going to resist!
But I do say to my sister in law all the time, ‘We need to get a 360 camera on that kid, and just let him play like around!’ We would have to obviously be really careful about any branding that he was wearing, and also branding of the toys in the vicinity. But he, oh my, I’m sure he's a gold mine waiting to happen. Again, if I was to do that (just to give you an example), what I would probably do is I would say, ‘Right, sister in law, we're gonna do two hours, and we're gonna get my little nephew to do ten different things if he will obey, which is unlikely, knowing him! And we're gonna have him in seven different kinds of outfits, we're gonna get some of them indoor and outdoor, we're gonna have him play, we're gonna have him laughing, we're also gonna try and get him when he's a bit more thoughtful, when he's sleeping, we’re gonna get some close closer shots, we're gonna have some further away, we're gonna do a combination of photos and video.’ And I would, even though she's my sister in law, have to get her to sign a location release form for wherever we are. It would all be at my brother and sister in law's house, so I'd get them to sign a release form for that address. I would get her to sign a release form on behalf of my nephew, because he's not old enough to agree to that. And obviously I would agree with her what percentage she would want to be paid. That would be something I would offer her naturally because she's family but potentially, it's difficult to know how to go about it with people that are in shot. If you don't know them, or if it's someone's location that you're using, you've got to be as transparent as possible about the fact that you are going to try and sell that footage. But try, if you can, fake to get it for free. If you can't get it for free, I suggest you pay them just a one off fee, or maybe even just try and do some percentage splits to begin with, see what kind of stock footage works and then going forward just pay people a day rate. For example, if you're getting models in (let's say you're setting up a coffee shop scene, and you're hiring models or actors for the day to come in and do various roles and get lots of different footage), ideally, you want to pay them a day rate. Because that investment for- let's say, you pay each of them £300 a day, and you have four, let's say that's £1200, plus you pay £200 for the cafe for the day, which is unrealistic, but let's go with it for the analogy. So let’s round up to £1500 that you've spent on hiring everything, doing it, but you could make that back on one licensing deal- you know, you could make that back very, very quickly. And that footage is now going to last for a long, long time. And if you filmed it in 8k, and it's super light, it's beautiful, it's crystal clear, it's great.
That's one thing you got to remember: you’ve got to future proof your content, because 360 keeps evolving and now 4k is definitely not good enough. 8k is the standard. You get a good couple- if not a few- years worth of money coming from that footage. And again, I don't know about the biggest stock sites, but Blend are super open to have these conversations with you as a creator if you want to go to them and say, ‘hey, I want to do this kind of thing. I live here, these are the things I have around me, is this the kind of footage you're looking for?’ They will be super happy to have that conversation with you because they are super creative and friendly. And the way that it works is they take a percentage, I think they take a minimal percent, 30% I think, and you get 70% of the royalties. I'm not sure what the split is on Getty and some of the other stock sites, but I have a feeling it's a bit less than that. And what I'm saying is, it's a very worthwhile avenue to explore. When it comes to permissions and things when you're on a public site, I don't think you have to get permission (I could be wrong). It depends on who owns the land. So say for example, you're on like a really famous tourist site like the Eiffel Tower, how strange is this? In the day, it's not copyrighted. You can take as much footage and as much photos and videos as you want of the Eiffel Tower and exploit that for commercial gain, as I understand it. But as soon as it turns night, you can't, because the lighting on the Eiffel Tower is copyrighted. And so now you would have to get the permission of the tourism people that run the Eiffel Tower, you would have to get their permission and the permission of the light designer in order to then exploit that commercially, which you wouldn't do. So how interesting is that? I don't want to go too super into the weeds, but there's various levels of licencing, and I think (generally) it's editorial, and maybe it's called commercial? Basically, there's a difference in price in terms of what you get paid for stock footage, depending on who's buying it for what reason. So for editorial, I might write an article about why going to the gym first thing in the morning is good for your mental health.
And I might licence your stock footage, your 360 photo just to go as the piece that I would use at the top of the article on Facebook posts to draw people in. I believe that's editorial. So you as the creator, you’re not going to get a massive amount of money for that. I think it'll be in the hundreds. If that. I think it's £100 though, I think it's at least £100 and then it goes up. So you would get that because that's editorial, I'm not selling anything. The second someone wants to sell something with your stock footage, in the Chick Fil-A ad for example. They're obviously using that as part of an advertising campaign. As soon as someone wants to sell anything and they want to use your stuff, that's when you start to get the serious cash moolah. In order to get that serious cash moolah, to create the kind of stock footage that can be used for advertising sakes, you have to get the permissions in place. You have to really cover your arse on those things and not have brands in shot and all that kind of good stuff.
So those are my thoughts on stock footage. Definitely worthwhile looking at, especially if you're the kind of person that lives in quite an interesting place or tends to do shoots with interesting things. Different kinds of things anyway, like action, sports, travel, working with animals. Anything of that sort I think would probably be really, really great. And again, I'm totally biassed, but Blend are great. Reach out to them. They will be very happy to have a conversation with you.
I will do an episode of the podcast in future with Damian, one of the founders of blend media. So I hope that gives you a bit of an insight into the stock footage world and whether you can get cash money honey! And the answer is yes, if you do it correctly! So I hope it helps. If you've got a question for future episodes, it might be a follow up to this or it might be a brand new question. You can ask me on social media, @alexmakesVR is my handle. If you've got a longer question that you would like to ask, you can send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you want to sign up for the daily newsletter to be reminded when these episodes go live, you can sign up at alexmakesvr.com.
That's it from me. Have a great day wherever you are in the world and I will speak to you tomorrow!
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