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Shooting for Micro Stocks

March 14th, 2016

I shoot mainly nature, wildlife and landscape photography which I sell on my own site and on a few micro stock agencies such as shutterstock.com, fotolia.com, bigstockphoto.com, istockphoto.com. I also shoot video for shutterstock.com, fotolia.com, videoblocks.com and pond5.com. I have attached the links below to my portfolios on each site. For some reason, video is easier to get accepted on each site rather photography.

The equipment I use is pretty standard. I use two Canon EOS 6D camera bodies with extra battery grips. With those I use 64GB cards which arenít all that fast (30MB/s and 400MB/s). I get up to 4.5 frames in continuous shooting out of this entry level full frame Canon camera. For lenses I use the Canon f2.8 16-35MM, f2.8 24-70MM, f2.8 70-200MM, f1.8 50MM prime focus, f2.8 100MM Macro prime focus and a Sigma f5.0-6.3 150-500MM. These are all tact sharp lenses. I am a huge fan of the 16-35MM and the 70-200MM. Those two are my two favourite lenses. I also started doing video with the Canon EOS 6Dís but I found that for wild life videography, I found DSLR cameras to be lacking. I donít like the layout and I find that DSLRís are lacking in video. So at first I bought the Canon Vixia HFR62 digital camcorder which can shoot up to 1080p at 60fps which is outstanding. I really love this little camcorder. Itís really compact and the video that comes out of it is really outstanding. I also bought a Sony FDR AX33 4k camcorder. I bought that to future proof myself as 4k is really coming into the mainstream in 2016. For the Sony FDR-AX33 4k digital camera you will need a faster card. I currently use a 128GB 633x card.

As far as computer equipment and software goes, you can edit your photos and videos on any decent computer. Laptop or desktop. For editing 4k video Iíd suggest a computer made in the last 2-3 years. And Iíd go for a desktop to edit your 4k footage just for the screen size and horse power of a desktop over a laptop. If Iím on the road somewhere and I wonít be near my Apple iMac I can still edit my photography on the go. I can edit my video as well but Iíd shoot with the Canon Vixia HFR62 which shoots 1080p 60fps. My early 2013 Macbook Pro canít handle the 4k footage of the Sony FDR-AX33 4k digital camcorder. Right now shooting 1080p video is still the mainstream thing to shoot with. Most DSLRís still shoot 1080p at either 30fps or 60fps. Some newer cameraís shoot 4k but they have limitations.

As far as video and photo editing software, I run on the Apple platform. You can use either Apple or a Windows based PC. Thereís plenty of cross platform software to edit video and photography. For video editing I use Final Cut Pro X 10.2.3 to edit my clips. For photography, I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC (Creative Cloud). I hardly use Adobe Photoshop CC but it comes in the Creative Cloud for Photographers package that I subscribe to for $10 a month from Adobe. You may have a different opinion on Adobeís subscription based model. I was using Appleís Aperture 3 until Apple decided to abandon semi-pro and pro photographers by killing off Aperture and replacing it with Apple Photos which I believe is geared toward iPhone ďphotographersĒ.

There are plenty of application you can use to edit your photos and videos that you upload to the various micro stock sites and to your personal website. Unfortunately you will not get rich by selling your videos and photos but if you work hard and specialize in a niche, you will make some good passive income. As you build your portfolio on each site, you will see your sales increase. I think in the past year, Iíve gone one day without making a sale on at least one site that I upload to. For this reason I am not exclusive with any site. Some sites, such as Shutterstock and Bigstockphoto do not offer exclusivity. Fotolia and iStockphoto do offer exclusivity. Exclusivity is great if you have a high acceptance rate and you sell a lot of photos with that one agency. Personally, I sell more with more agencies. If one photo doesnít get accepted on, letís say Shutterstock, but gets accepted on Fotolia and sells there, more money for me.

Diversification is key. Mind you, I shoot mainly wildlife, landscape and nature photography. Iíve recently entered the videography field as well capturing mainly wildlife, landscape and nature videos. Iíve been only doing it for maybe three to four months and have made a few sales on the various micro stock agencies. Depending on if youíre going to shoot in 1080p @ 60fps or at 4k, a fast computer is key. For 1080p, a reasonably new laptop with an SSD drive and lots of RAM will do. I work on an early 2013 Macbook Pro using Final Cut Pro X. If Iím shooting 4k footage, I edit on my late 2015 iMac with a 5k display with 32GB of RAM. I should upgrade the RAM to 64GB as 4k footage is a resource hog. Extremely large files do to it being 4k which is 4 times the size of 1080p.

If you asked me when I was going to school for photography if I would end up shooting photography and video footage, Iíd call you a crazy loon. I did not like shooting video footage. To this day I still hate being ďon cameraĒ as they say. I prefer being behind the camera and camcorder to this day.

There are at least two tiers of micro stock agencies. Agencies such as Fotolia, Getty Images, Shutterstock, Pond5 are the top tier. At least for me as far as sales go. Agencies such as 123RF.com, dreamstime.com and canstockphoto.com are the bottom rung agencies. You may sell better on the bottom rung agencies but may do better with the top tier agencies. That being said, itís difficult to get onto Getty Images, Shutterstock and Fotolia. Iíve had pretty good success with Shutterstock and Fotolia as far as sales go. Bigstockphoto and iStockphoto are pretty good and consistent as well. You will need a larger portfolio on Bigstockphoto and iStockphoto to get consistent sales. Like I stated earlier, Iíve only started doing video footage so my choice of footage is small. Pond5 seems to be the place to go to sell your footage. Currently, there is a huge waiting period for your footage to be curated. Meaning someone taking a look at your footage and accepting it onto the Pond5 platform. Iíve also been submitting my footage to videoblocks.com with a small portfolio there as well.

I have been thinking a lot lately about shooting 4k video and 1080p video. Currently I have only sold 1080p video shot with either my 1080p or 4k camcorder. Since 99.9999% of the people on the internet still use 1080p monitors or slightly above like the Apple monitors, is shooting 4k video worth it. One hundred percent of my stock footage is being seen on the internet. So the question is: Do I or you need a 4k camcorder? Currently I am thinking the prevailing answer is no. My current Macbook Pro display is 2880 by 1800 which is better than 1080p. 1080p video appears fine on my display. Processing 1080p video on my early 2013 Macbook Pro is good. The laptop does generate some heat when first processing video in Final Cut Pro X but only for a short period of time. One minute clips are processed quickly and easily.

So if you know of someone who wants to buy a late 2015 5k iMac upgraded to 32GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, 2GB video card or a Sony FDR-AX33 4k camcorder, let me know. We can work out a deal.