My Top 5 Best Selling Stock Photos And Videos

January 9, 2020

I often hear one common criticism of stock photography and videography: why would you value your work so low that you’d be willing to accept pennies and dollars for each single photo or video clip sale?

Isn’t our work more valuable than that?

I have many thoughts on this issue. First, yes, of course I think our work is more valuable than what we are sometimes paid. In the past few years it’s been a race to the bottom for stock sites and stock contributors. There are many reasons for this, namely competition among stock sites causes them to compete with pricing along with more and more contributors being willing to receive less or even nothing for their work. This leads to lower assumed pricing in the market for stock contributors.

So my answer is two-fold: while I agree that we as artists and filmmakers deserve to be paid fairly for our work (more on this in a moment), I don’t agree with the race to the bottom mentality and I hope to find a solution to this problem so that we are paid fairly for good work.

However.

Every now and then you have a clip that earns $800 in a year.

In today’s article I’m going to share with you:

  1. My top 5 selling video clips and photos from this year.
  2. How they made so much money.
  3. Three tips for how to implement the same strategy with your clips and photos.

Pssst!

Find all you need to start making money with your photos and videos right now.

If you’ve read my monthly income reports then you already know that I haven’t added a single clip or photo to my portfolio since January this year, and yet I’m still making hundreds of dollars each and every month from photo and video sales.

The Ultimate Guide to Selling Stock Bundle

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It’s the easiest money I’ve ever made.

I’m walking you through exactly how to do it, even with a small portfolio of HD clips.

For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you’ll receive a beautiful 20 page PDF filled with valuable content packed full of insider tricks, including

  • Top selling categories and genres of stock right now (exclusive content)
  • Growing your portfolio into a money making machine (literally)
  • How to find keywords that will quickly rank high in search results so that your photos and video clips sell over and over again

My Best Selling Clips of 2019

top selling shutterstock clip.jpg

Here it is.

My #1 top selling footage clip of 2019.

It’s titled ‘Newborn Baby Yawning in Hospital’ and sells repeatedly on Shutterstock.

It’s been downloaded 36 times and has earned a total of $793.37.

most sold clip on shutterstock

#2 Top Earning Video is Baby Saying Baba to Camera with Audio.

It was downloaded 12 times for a total of $302.84.


2 most downloaded shutterstock.jpg

#3 Top Earning Video is Happy Baby Smiling at Camera.

It was downloaded 2 times for a total of $139.50.

3 most downloaded shutterstock.jpg

#4 Most Sold Video is Dad Making Little Baby Smile.

It was downloaded 3 times for a total of $119.75.

4 downloaded shutterstock.jpg

#5 Top Earning Video is Sweet Dog and Little Baby Playing on Hardwood Floor.

It was downloaded 4 times for a total of $97.14.

5 most downloaded shutterstock.jpg

5 Most Sold Stock Photos of the Year

top 5 downloaded photos on shutterstock

How did they make so much money?

Licensing versus Selling

There’s a very important distinction here that is misunderstood when it comes to stock footage and stock photography. We (myself included) very often refer to the number of clips and photos we’ve sold. This makes sense since we receive money for each download. But it’s actually an incorrect way to look at things.

We haven’t really ‘sold’ our media, we’ve actually licensed it. There’s a big difference.

Rather than selling our media to another person, we are still the owner and we’ve simply granted permission for someone else to use it in exchange for a certain amount of money.

The beauty in this difference is that we don’t sell it once and it’s gone. We can repeatedly license our media forever. We ‘sell’ it once and hope that it sells over and over again.

Yes, it seems unfair to only receive pennies or dollars for our work. Isn’t it worth more? Yes. If, that’s the only payment we receive.

Therein lies the difference. The money we receive is from a licensing agreement and there’s no end to how much we can receive.

In fact, typical licensing agreements usually are just a small percentage of what the whole product or service is actually worth, because it’s assumed that the value comes from receiving a percentage of that value many times over.

The reason why this clip made so much money is obvious - because it sold over and over again, not because it was priced at a higher rate.

Let’s dissect this concept even further and discuss the details of how to ensure that our media sells over and over again.

How to sell stock clips repeatedly

Now we’re getting to the important stuff.

I know you’re telling me, duhhh, I know I want to sell my work as many times as possible, but how?

There are three reasons why stock footage sells well, repeatedly.

Put them together and you have the perfect trifecta. The key here is that you can’t neglect any single factor. They work together to gain the most traction for your footage.

Try to implement the following strategy every single time and you will absolutely start seeing repeat stock sales.

Here they are:

1 | Quality

Quality is number one. You need to start here.

If your footage is dated or not up to par with everything else out there, it won’t have a shot in the world. The world of stock photography and stock video has become too popular and the competition is too good.

When a customer is scrolling through the hundreds of thousands of options to choose from, they will choose the best quality option every time.

I’m not saying your work needs to be perfect, but it needs to be pretty good at least in comparison to your competition.

Do a little market research. Go on shutterstock.com and type in a few keywords that relate to your subject matter. What pops up? Is your work better than what’s already out there? Does it at least stand up to it?

If the answer is no, then let’s go back to the basics and work on improving image quality a bit.

Don’t give up at this stage. It’s not hard to improve your work. A little practice and you’ll be good to go. Take an online course or two and consider this part of the process. This is where we’ve all had to start.

If you are still struggling with quality then there are some other things you can do to help matters. Step number 3 (competition) will be crucial.

The more you can niche your subject matter down, the more likely you are to stand out from the crowd. While you may not be picked among thousands of options, if the customer is searching for something very specific and you have it, then you may see some sales.

2. Quantity

This is sheer statistics. It’s a matter of fact that the more opportunities you give yourself, the better your chances are that one of your photos or videos will be seen.

Since the world of stock photography and stock video has become so popular, millions upon millions of photos and videos are uploaded across various stock sites each month.

Even with the highest quality media, you will increase your chances and odds of rising to the top of search results by increasing the quantity of footage you have out there.

In fact - I would argue that as I analyze my top 5 video and photo downloads for this year, they are not in fact my best quality work. There are many other clips that I would say are better quality than these. So why?

That’s why these three factors have power together. Focus on just one and you aren’t likely to sell very much.

The reason these lesser quality videos sold so much is either because of quantity and/or competition. Let’s get into the details of what I mean by that now.

3. Competition

This third factor is where quality and quantity meet. Depending on your category or genre of stock, the competition might be very high or it may be quite narrow.

The more narrow the competition, the higher your chances are of receiving sales. This is a great place to start for beginners or for those who are still working to improve quality of imagery.

Try to narrow down your niche of stock as much as possible. When you do this, you are narrowing the field of competition and making your photos and video more likely to appear in search results.

Here are some helpful ways to strategically niche down using keywords in your tags or titles.

  • Location - include the specific region, country, state, city or any other distinguishing factors in your photo or video
  • Current Events or Issues - I have a shot of some cows that I believe is mostly downloaded because I used the keywords ‘footprint’ and ‘carbon’ in the keywords. Instead of competing with larger keywords like ‘cow’ and ‘livestock’ I niched down to very specific ideas like ‘global warming’. This made my competition lower and made it one of my top selling photos.
  • Think outside of the box. Think about what your potential customer will be searching for and be sure to use those keywords.

The caveat here is that eventually you need to find the right balance. The more narrow you niche down, the less overall downloads you may receive. You can’t become so obscure that your work is never searched for.

My advice is to make at least one third to one half of your keywords very specific and use broader keywords for the rest. And focus on this point if you are a beginner or if you seem to be having a hard time getting downloads.

Hi, I'm Beth.

I started Handcraft Films to give other filmmakers and photographers the gift of documenting their own stories for years to come. I hope you'll learn something new and share your creativity here.
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