Achieving Success on Pond5: Lessons and Strategies for Selling Stock Footage
By Michael Shatravka | March 7th, 2023
Ready to turn your passion for photography or videography into a lucrative source of passive income?
Don’t miss out on my top tips and hard-earned lessons from my first year on Pond5! In this article, I’ll reveal how I earned $4,683.32 by consistently uploading 4,640 clips and selling 111 of them. Discover what sells and what doesn’t, learn how to save time, and make the most of your footage. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this article has everything you need to succeed on Pond5.
What’s Better: Editorial or Commercial Footage?
Let’s get real: whether you shoot editorial or commercial footage, it probably won’t make a big difference to your earnings. In my case, a whopping 95% of my sales came from editorial clips, with only a handful commercial clip sales. So, it’s safe to say that my bread and butter is editorial footage. And the best part? You don’t need release forms for editorial footage, since it’s already out there in the public domain. However, if you’re planning to upload commercial footage, make sure you have release forms handy. Without them, your footage will either default to editorial or get rejected altogether. Keep these tips in mind and start earning on your stock footage platform of choice!
Benefits of Being a Contributor on Pond5
Let me tell you, I’m a big fan of Pond5. The way they treat their contributors is top-notch. I also get to set my own prices and keep most of the earnings, which is pretty sweet. Plus, the payment process is hassle-free, and they even pay me from Ireland without any fees. Talk about convenience! If you’re in the market for a stock video platform, I highly recommend giving Pond5 a shot. And if you’re not already with them, I suggest signing up and going exclusive to score that sweet 60% commission and pricing control. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Behind the Scenes: What it Takes to Create and Sell Stock Footage on Pond5
Curious about what it takes to make it on Pond5? Let me give it to you straight. It’s a year-long commitment that involves around 1,500 hours of planning, preparation, and brainstorming every day. And that’s just the start! We then have to get to the shoot location, which can mean carpooling, taking a bus or train, or driving ourselves and shelling out cash for gas and tolls. Once we’re there, it’s a race against the clock to capture the perfect footage. Sometimes we hit the jackpot, and other times, we walk away empty-handed. It’s all part of the game.
But the work doesn’t end there. We then have to edit the footage for the client, ourselves, and for Pond5. We even create a reel to showcase our Pond5 clips and then upload everything to the platform. Next comes the crucial step of adding a title, description, metadata, keywords, and collection to make the clips searchable and relevant to potential buyers. Once approved, it’s time to promote the reel on platforms like YouTube and direct people back to the Pond5 collection. Phew! As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to this process, and a lot of elbow grease that goes into getting those stock footage sales. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, the payoff can be worth it.
How to Turn Your Videos into Profitable Stock Footage on Pond5
Are you tired of capturing aimless footage of nature and wildlife with no real returns? It’s time to get strategic and focus on relevant content to start earning real money. A simple way to stay updated on what’s relevant is by tuning in to different news channels and identifying common themes. It doesn’t matter which channel you watch; everyone uses the same footage, but with their own spin. Take notes and start capturing footage that aligns with these trending topics in your local community. You can even sell the footage directly to your local news station and then upload the remaining content to Pond5. The key is to keep an eye on what’s relevant and use it to your advantage. Follow these tips and start cashing in on your stock footage with Pond5.
Why Mining Old Projects Might Not be the Best Approach for Making Money on Pond5
Let me tell you about a lesson I learned the hard way. I spent hours combing through my old footage, only to find out that most of it was shaky and unusable. And even after putting in all that effort, I barely made any sales. That’s when I realized the power of editorial footage, which was selling much better during the same time period. I decided to shift my focus to editorial footage instead of wasting time mining old projects. However, if you’re a hobbyist with old niche footage of a historic moment or archived event, it may be worth your time to go through it and upload it. Who knows, you could be sitting on a gold mine that pays off in a few years or even a decade. Just remember to approach it professionally and with a strategic mindset. Making money from stock footage can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Follow these tips and start turning your passion for photography and videography into a lucrative source of passive income.
How Many Usable Clips Does a Shoot Yield?
Are you wondering how many usable clips you can get from a single shoot for Pond5? Well, the answer depends on various factors such as your shooting style, the location, and the subject matter. But in general, a 60-90 minute shoot can yield anywhere from 50 to 150 usable clips for Pond5. Of course, the number of usable clips may vary based on your individual shooting and editing skills. So, make sure you focus on capturing high-quality footage that aligns with the current market demands to increase your chances of success. Follow these tips and start maximizing your earning potential on Pond5.
“Batch Editing Your Clips for Pond5: The Time-Saving Strategy That Helped Me Maximize My ROI
When I first started selling on Pond5, I spent hours crafting individual descriptions and titles for each clip. It was tedious and meticulous work, and I poured all my time and effort into it. But soon, I realized that this approach wasn’t sustainable. Batch editing was the smarter way to go. Instead of spending 10-15 minutes per clip, I could edit 100 clips in just 15 minutes! And you know what? My batch edited clips started selling like hotcakes, while my individually edited clips were just sitting there without any views or sales. Of course, I’m not advocating for half-assing your work. Do your research, use accurate and relevant keywords and descriptions, and make sure your clips align with market demands. Batch editing will save you time and help you get the most ROI. Without it, I wouldn’t be doing Pond5, and neither should you! Follow these tips and start maximizing your earning potential on Pond5.
My Personal Guidelines for Pricing Your Work on Pond5
Pricing your work can be a daunting task, especially for those just starting out. But fear not! Based on my experience, there are some guidelines you can follow to set reasonable prices. For 1080p footage, I usually price it at $79 for a good, 15-second clip with interesting and relevant content. A mediocre 3-5 second clip will cost around $50. For high-quality, one-minute footage, I can sell it for up to $149. For 4K footage, I start pricing at $149, and for really good quality, I may charge up to $249. Keep in mind that drone footage requires a license and could result in a hefty fine if you don’t have one. Pricing ultimately depends on the quality and uniqueness of your work. For hard-to-get, once-in-a-lifetime clips, I charge up to $499. Don’t sell yourself short if you have something valuable to offer! Follow these guidelines, and start unlocking the secrets to setting reasonable prices on Pond5
Generic Clip / 1080p
Unique Clip / 4K
Rare Clip / 4K
Collaborating with People: Cash, Commission, or Portfolio Exchange?
How I collaborate with people and models to create amazing content:
First and foremost, the easiest way to handle a collaboration is to pay them cash and have them sign a release. It’s a straightforward deal – they get paid, you get your footage, and you can use it forever. Just pay cash, and you’re good to go.
However, if you’re on a budget, there are other ways to collaborate. For instance, you can offer a commission to the artist. For example, with one artist, I said, “Hey, I’ll give you 20% of the gross clip sale, and you cover the PayPal fee.” PayPal takes a small fee, so they get their clip at 20% plus the fee. To make sure everything is transparent and legit, I include a report showing how many sales the clip has made.
Lastly, maybe you have a cool friend who will do it for free. They may need something for their portfolio, and in that case, you can do a portfolio collaboration where they help you out, and you shoot them a couple of things or give them a photo shoot, or a free favor. It’s a value exchange – they get something they need for their portfolio, and you get the footage you need for your project.
So, those are the three ways I handle collaborations with people and models. Remember, there’s always a way to collaborate, no matter what your budget is.
Do You Need Expensive Gear for Stock Footage Sales?
Some of my top-selling videos were shot with a $500 Panasonic G7 camera using a cheap kit lens, and even though they weren’t shot perfectly, people still paid for them.
It goes to show that you don’t always need the best equipment or perfect footage to make a sale. To be honest, I thought most of these clips were garbage and nearly deleted them. But, I remembered the original clip I sold way back in April, which was only three seconds long. I thought, “If someone is gonna pay money for that, they’ll pay money for whatever.” So, I stopped deleting clips unless they actually were shaky, blurry, or just straight garbage.
The lesson here is that if the footage is usable, it’s worth selling. You never know who’s gonna buy what, and sometimes, imperfect footage can still be valuable. So, don’t worry too much about the quality of your equipment or footage – just shoot what you can and put it out there. You might be surprised at what sells!
Shooting Top-Selling Stock Footage: My Camera Gear Revealed
I want to talk about the gear I use for shooting my videos. My main camera is a Panasonic G9, which I chose because of its stabilizing features. The body and the lens I use (a 12-35mm f/2.8) are both stabilized, which means I don’t need a gimbal. With this setup, I can shoot outdoor footage in a guerrilla-style because the camera shots are super smooth, giving it that cinematic look. The Panasonic G9 shoots 4k 24fps 10-bit, 4k 60fps, and 1080 180 fps – it’s an incredible camera that can handle both photos and videos.
Before I got my G9, I was a loyal Panasonic G7 shooter for three years, and nearly all of the videos I shot were with that camera. Even though the G7 is an older and more affordable camera, it still produced some of my top-selling footage. So, my point is, you don’t always need the latest and greatest gear to get great footage – it’s all about how you use it.
At the end of the day, gear is just a tool. It’s up to the user to make the most of it and produce great content. Don’t get too caught up in having the best and most expensive equipment. Instead, focus on developing your skills and using the gear you have to its fullest potential.
As of March 7, 2023, if you own an iPhone 12 Pro or similar spec model, you will shoot way better quality with your smartphone than the Panasonic G7.
Bitrate & Compression
Let me tell you a story about how even mediocre footage shot with a low-bitrate G7 camera can still sell. I once had someone ask me about the bit rate and compression of my footage. Despite its web-quality look, my footage has been purchased by major news networks and used in documentaries. I’ve seen some of my clips on Vice and even on television. When someone needs a specific clip, they need it, and the quality of the footage becomes much less important. So, don’t get too hung up on the technical aspects of your gear and footage. Focus on creating relevant and usable content, and the sales will come.
Gear Does Not Matter for Selling Editorial Stock Footage
I know there’s a lot of talk out there about gear and specs, but honestly, don’t fuss about it. At the end of the day, what really matters is how relevant your stock footage is. You could be shooting with your iPhone, and still make a sale because someone needed that clip and there was no other version of it.
I shot with a Panasonic G7 for three years and made a living from it, so I know firsthand that you don’t need the latest and greatest gear to be successful. Sure, upgrading your equipment eventually can be nice, but it’s not essential for making sales.
So, my advice to you is this: work with what you have, get good at it, and don’t worry too much about gear and specs. Focus on creating relevant and valuable stock footage, and the sales will come.
What Drone Do I Use for Stock Footage?
I currently use a Mavic 2 Pro, and I have to say, it was worth the investment. While I considered the cheaper Mavic 2, I ultimately decided that if I’m going to sell stock footage professionally, I need to invest in high-quality gear. The Mavic 2 Pro offers 10-bit color, is D-Log, and produces incredible footage that allows for amazing color correction. With the right filters, the footage looks like it came straight out of a movie. So, if you’re considering a drone setup for shooting stock footage, I highly recommend investing in quality gear like the Mavic 2 Pro.
(As of March 2023, I am using the DJI Air 2s for ALL my drone videos and this is what I recommend for everything / check out this article with actual video examples from some of my projects)
Making Money through Stock Footage Sales on Pond5: One-Year Income Breakdown
Let’s take a look at our one-year income breakdown from selling footage on Pond5.
In April, we started strong by putting in 300 hours to create COVID-19 related content, and we made $468.45 in sales. May was even better, and we made $588.02 by selling footage of empty streets and other pandemic-related scenes. However, in June, we hit a decline of $464.27 and decided to take a break.
During our vacation, we invested in a professional camera, a G9, a gimbal, and a drone, a Mavic 2 Pro, to future-proof ourselves by exporting footage in the highest bit rate. In July, we started selling more drone footage and had some sales related to the coronavirus pandemic, totaling $379.62.
Throughout August, we shot commercial real estate drone footage, which resulted in $335 from editorial coronavirus pandemic sales. September brought us $491.24 in stock footage sales, featuring clips of the coronavirus pandemic and homeless individuals.
In October, we made $238.82 by selling stock footage featuring an outdoor morgue during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as footage of an EZ-Pass sign. November was a great month for repeat clip sales, and we made $620.39.
December was our lowest month, but we still managed to make $152.35 from editorial coronavirus footage. In January 2021, we made $502.74 by selling footage of outdoor rallies, protest events, and even some footage from an old moving company video.
February brought in $200.25, and we sold a commercial clip from a restaurant. In March 2021, we had our biggest month yet, making $710.32 exclusively from editorial sales. Our footage included stock market footage of the pandemic, as well as footage of closed businesses, empty streets, and a local food bank charity.
So, what did we learn from this year of selling footage on Pond5? Quality isn’t everything – a clip is a clip is a clip. The most important thing is to have relevant clips that people are looking for. Don’t worry about the clip’s quality; you will make money with it.
Making Sense of Pond5 Trends: To Follow or Not to Follow?
You can never predict Pond5. It’s constantly changing and evolving, and what sells one month might not sell the next. This can make it difficult to know what to shoot and how to allocate your time and resources. On their front page, Pond5 showcases whatever is trending that month and has all these different ideas, including cool and goofy things. However, following their advice and shooting these clips is a gamble because Pond5 does not include the number of sales on these clips.
To back up what I’m saying, during my hardcore month on Pond5 (April, May, and parts of June), I had my clips featured on the front page in the Pond5 Select galleries. I’ve had several clips featured in these galleries, and many of them received a lot of views, but zero sales. Having trending content and featuring your stuff does not guarantee sales. What does get you sales is having stock footage that is relevant to today’s world.
Therefore, look for current events such as news and create footage related to them. This is probably the fastest way to make money by selling stock footage. The news is always changing, and there’s always a demand for relevant footage. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, footage of masks, social distancing, and closed businesses was in high demand.
Another reason I don’t follow Pond5 trends or try to come up with my own stock ideas and trends is because it’s like thinking of a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. You’re thinking up footage for a project that doesn’t exist. Instead, I view stock footage as a byproduct of a paid production. Whenever I’m hired for a paid production or job, I stick any leftover or unbought footage up on Pond5. It’s just part of my process. This footage came from a project that had a real market demand, and someone actually paid me to produce it. Shooting stock footage from thin air has no demand, so it’s just supply with no demand.
If you’re a photographer, videographer, or a big production company, figuring out how to systemize Pond5 into your main process can create a secondary source of income for you. So, definitely check it out. Whether Pond5 is worth it or not depends on your situation. If you have a lot of leftover footage or are consistently producing content that could be repurposed for stock, it’s definitely worth considering. But if you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of extra footage, it might not be the best use of your time and resources. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if Pond5 is worth it for your specific situation.
The Bottom Line: Making the Most of Your Time and Efforts on Pond5
The answer to whether Pond5 is worth it depends on a few things, like your goals, career, and how seriously you want to take it. So, what do you want to get out of it? Take a moment to think about that.
Regardless of whether you make a lot of money on Pond5 or just a little, consistently contributing to the platform will definitely help you value your time, work smarter, and improve your craft. You’ll get better at shooting, working with people, production, and editing, all of which will make you a better photo and video production person, and you’ll start making more money. Over time, this builds and compounds, and Pond5 can significantly help grow your business in just one year.
If you’re interested in being successful on Pond5, it’s important to be involved in the video world. If you’re involved in production or have a steady supply of new content to upload, you can definitely make money starting today. However, if you’re a hobbyist looking to make money selling videos of your hobbies, it may be much harder to make significant money as the content may not be in demand.
Now, if you’re looking to get rich quick and make some free, passive internet money, Pond5 is not the way to do it. You’re better off working at McDonald’s, where you’ll make way more money. Pond5 is not for you if you’re looking to get rich quick.
However, if you’re a production person looking to create a solid passive income stream each month, Pond5 can help. It’s paid for some of my big purchases, like my Audi S4, and the money is real as long as you put in the consistent work. So, implement Pond5 into your workflow, and make it a routine part of your job.
In conclusion, Pond5 is worth it if you have realistic expectations, are willing to consistently contribute, and are involved in the video production industry. Thank you, Pond5, for the steady income stream, and thank you for reading this article. If you learned something, please subscribe to my newsletter, and be sure to check out my YouTube channel for deeper insight!
Michael Shatravka / Guerilla Camera Operator
2020 COVID LOCKDOWN – Brighton Beach
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