One of the major recent changes in stock photography is the emergence of a vibrant market for footage. See what these successful photographers have to say about making the switch from still photography to stock video.

Last year, we asked a group of photographers to make predictions for the future of the industry. A number of them mentioned video, forecasting that more and more photographers would venture into the realm of footage. It seems they were right; the demand for high-quality stock clips has only continued to grow in the past twelve months. As of this writing, Shutterstock has nearly 9 million videos in its collection. That’s about a 30% increase since this spring alone.

The transition from still photography to footage can seem daunting. After all, video requires new gear, new editing software, and a new skillset. That’s why we asked eight stock filmmakers to share their best tips for photographers who want to step into the video world. These content creators come from diverse backgrounds — some started in photography, others started in video, and one even began as an illustrator — so they offer a wide array of perspectives.

1. “…still photography and video are two different sides of the same job…My suggestion is to try achieving perfection with one of them, and then translate the experience to the other…”

HQuality (A.Klapovska)

Video by HQuality (A.Klapovska). Gear: Red Epic Dragon at 120fbs, Samyang lenses, Adobe Premier for the post-production.

What’s the story behind this clip?

It was late November somewhere in the north of Italy with a temperature of no more than 5°C. The idea was to spend a full day in the countryside. In this little apartment that we were renting, we found these two brilliant, old-fashioned raincoats, left in a closet who-knows-when. The idea of a video just popped into my mind. It was a cloudy, foggy day with no rain and no sun, and everything was soaked in a gray light without shadows. I wanted to convey the idea of how beautiful life is, even when it is raining outside. Unfortunately, it wasn’t raining at all, so we took a pipe, went to the second floor, and started pouring the water from above onto the two actors. After some minutes, we were all wet and full of mud, but we also recorded one of my favorite videos ever.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

I used to work exclusively with video footage, and still photography was a sort of incidental side effect of my job. Then, step by step, I started to appreciate the challenge and the difficulty of shooting still photos — in particular, the complexity of delivering a certain message or emotion in one single frame.

After years of experience, I have come to the conclusion that still photography and video are two different sides of the same job, with their own difficulties and challenges. My suggestion is to try achieving perfection with one of them, and then translate the experience to the other, leveraging on your strengths and working out your weaknesses.

Where do you find inspiration?

This job has come with a complete change in the way I see the world. Every single minute I live my life, everything that surrounds me is filtered through my professional sight, and my brain runs through new ideas and possibilities. It fills me with strong emotions and high expectations.

2. “Cast models who also know how to act. They need to be believable in the story you’re trying to create.”

ReeldealHD (Erwin de Boer)

Video by ReeldealHD (Erwin de Boer). Gear: Canon 1D X Mark II camera.

What’s the story behind this clip?

I wanted to capture a group of girls having fun at a music festival. But because stock footage needs to be fully model-released, and it would be hard to get people to sign a release when they are having a party, I decided to hire models and bring them with us to a festival. We managed to sweet talk the organizers and get press passes for everyone. The day we arrived, we had torrential rain. Whilst setting up the tent, all our equipment got damp, but luckily the next day, the sun came out, and we managed to get some great shots while everyone was enjoying the music.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

Know what you’re getting yourself into! Filmmaking is twice as hard and expensive as creating stills. Cast models who also know how to act. They need to be believable in the story you’re trying to create.

Where do you find inspiration?

I still love seeing commercials on TV and sometimes prefer the commercial break to the TV program. But it is mostly people who inspire me. I spend a lot of time casting real people and trying to give their story an authentic feel. When I use actors, I try to really engage with them and capture their personalities.

3. “I think there is more freedom to express your ideas with footage, and our work is constantly pushing the boundaries of what video stock can be.”

dubassy (Dan Talson)

Video by dubassy (Dan Talson). Gear: Canon 1D X Mark II camera.

What’s the story behind this clip?

A lot of our work is based on music, clubbing, and the disco lifestyle. This allows us to make fun and colorful content. We called this series Mr. and Mrs. Discoball. We devised a way to hold a disco ball on a person’s head, which was quite difficult at first and required a lot of experiments. All the props and clothing were from our own collection, including the blue leather sofa, which we bought especially for shoots.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

While some people will come to footage from photography, I started with footage, and submitting photographs was a natural progression. For photographers wanting to make the transition over to footage, I think it’s a natural step; the basic rules of light and composition are the same.

There might, however, be a steep learning curve if you have never shot footage before. It could involve learning new editing software, testing different video codecs and compression, managing large amounts of data, and a change in workflow. There might also be an initial investment needed for a dedicated video camera, continuous lighting, a more powerful computer, and extra data storage; however, to dip your foot in the footage world and play around, most DSLRs can shoot pretty good video, so most photographers can definitely try things out that way.

It will depend on your level of video knowledge, but you have to be prepared to invest much more time into creating footage, especially if you do a lot of post-processing and really play around with your RAW footage. But it can be a satisfying journey for a photographer to expand their still images and ideas into a moving story. I think there is more freedom to express your ideas with footage, and our work is constantly pushing the boundaries of what video stock can be.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. I started my career in art as a VJ, mixing my own videos alongside DJs at clubs and festivals around the world. This carries over into our studio work today, which takes disco and music themes and mixes them all up in weird and interesting ways. We work with dancers, performers, models, and DJs and have an extensive wardrobe of clothing and props to create club-like atmospheres.

Our other passion is traveling. We have a camper van and try to spend as much time as we can driving around Europe, looking for amazing locations to shoot time-lapse and video. Inspiration comes from seeing new places, being around nature, and meeting new and interesting people on the road.

I also get inspiration from vintage audio/visual objects like old TVs, headphones, and stereos. We have a growing collection of weird and wonderful items that get used a lot in the videos. There is a timelessness to these objects that has been lost in today’s consumer items. Finally, living in the vibrant city of Barcelona definitely helps feed our creativity. There is so much art and design to see, and there are talented people all around us.

4. “…upload more clips from series that sell very well. And shoot some more. If you don’t, others will re-shoot it and saturate the niche.”

logoboom (Konstantin Sutyagin)

Video by logoboom (Konstantin Sutyagin). Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, Canon FD 400mm f2.8L lens with FD-EF adapter.

What’s the story behind this clip?

I started experimenting with shooting footage when Canon made their 5D Mark II with Full HD video capability back in 2009. I got one mainly to be able to shoot higher resolution photos; however, I was entertained by the possibility of shooting great footage. A little later, I stumbled upon my friend’s photo of a jet plane landing in LAX. It was shot with an old Canon FD telephoto L lens, and it looked iconic. I called him and proposed that we go to that spot together; he would bring his big, bad telephoto lens, and I would bring my 5D Mark II and try to shoot some footage based on his photo. That is the story behind my first video clip uploaded to Shutterstock. It has paid for the camera and the lens and many more cameras and lenses since then.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

Follow your heart, do what you love, and take the time to play with new and exciting things. This approach is what led me from shooting stock photography to shooting video. There is one piece of advice I wish someone had given me when I was starting: upload more clips from series that sell very well. And shoot some more. If you don’t, others will re-shoot it and saturate the niche. At the same time, I should note that I am very selective and don’t recommend submitting everything you shoot, only the best ones.

Where do you find inspiration?

I get inspired every day just by noticing beautiful things around me. It could be a shadow, a fallen leaf, sunlight reflecting on a face, beautiful clouds, sunsets, architecture, anything. The world is full of beauty, and I love experiencing, capturing, and sharing it.

5. “If you can shoot compelling still images that sell, you’ll be able to transition to video with some trial and error.”

Burlingham (Elliot Burlingham)

Video by Burlingham (Elliot Burlingham). Gear: Sony FS100 camcorder.

What’s the story behind this clip?

One day, we headed out to the nearest cornfield for a quick shoot. I was feeling a little guilty for not lining up a more elaborate shoot in our studio with models. It was just me, my dad (who is my business partner), a video camera, and a red hat. We pulled off the side of the road; I grabbed the camera, and my dad put on the hat. We walked around for ten to fifteen minutes, shooting handheld. I remember getting back into the car and wondering if it was time well spent. Fast forward a few years, and this is one of our most successful shoots. This particular shot was featured in a Get Covered Illinois television ad campaign.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

Get started, and keep going. That’s really the best advice I can give. I had to figure that out on my own, but I wish someone had reinforced it early on. If you can shoot compelling still images that sell, you’ll be able to transition to video with some trial and error.

Where do you find inspiration?

Sometimes inspiration can be the hardest part of this job, especially when you are trying to shoot every week. We have a studio with a lot of natural window light. We like to create sets that work in our space, so I suppose a lot of our inspiration comes from that. We also work with a lot of diverse, interesting models and actors. Often we will find people to work with before we even have an idea. Depending on our models’ look or unique talent, our shoots will often go in an unexpected direction.

6. “One must consider the edit and the ways in which motion within the shot will cut into a larger story.”

TheStacks (Kelly Wilcox, Creative Director, and Seth Whelden, Cinematographer)

Video by TheStacks (Kelly Wilcox, Creative Director, and Seth Whelden, Cinematographer). Gear: Sony a7RII camera, 16-35 f.4 Sony/Zeiss zoom lens, Letus Helix Jr gimbal system, Small HD 502 external monitor.

What’s the story behind this clip?

We love to use people we know for talent, preferably friends or people in relationships with one another, as is the case in this clip. The chemistry that comes out of those situations is genuine, and it shows. This couple has an explosive connection. Frankly, it was adorable, and I think we successfully captured the magic between them. We enjoy rolling on the moments between actions. Sometimes that’s the best stuff, when the talent has no idea you’re still shooting.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

For all the commonalities video and photography share, it’s important to remember that they are entirely different mediums. Outside of the technical differences, one difference between still photography and motion picture, especially in regards to stock, is that any given clip in the film/video world is likely to be just a small part of a larger story, whereas a photograph absolutely must be able to tell the whole story by itself. In stock footage specifically, the challenge is in not knowing what that larger story is and creating content versatile enough to fit into many narratives. One must consider the edit and the ways in which motion within the shot will cut into a larger story.

Where do you find inspiration?

We follow certain people and groups that we consider to be trendsetters on Instagram and Pinterest. We like to follow an eclectic mix of people — from locals to people all over the world — to get a sense of cultural diversity and trends. As far as trends go, we kind of have an unwritten rule that we won’t shoot it if it sounds boring to us. How could anything be great if your heart isn’t in it?

7. “You either have to find subject matter that isn’t being covered or take a totally original spin on a common subject.”

iQoncept

Video by iQoncept. Gear: MacBook Pro, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects.

What’s the story behind this clip?

I wanted to symbolize the challenges you face when you’re trying to find the right person to help you — in this case, a lawyer. There are so many to choose from, and it can feel like you’re picking one at random from a vending machine. But there must be some quality about the one you choose that helps you make your selection, so in this clip, one lawyer stands out as the right choice. At the same time, it represents the challenge of a lawyer trying to stand out from the crowd and position him or herself as the best candidate. I like to take a concept like this and present it in a way that no one else has done, so hopefully my clip stands out from others, just as the chosen lawyer does in this video.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to make the transition from still photography to footage?

Whether you’re shooting photography or video, it’s crucial that you stand out. Microstock has become ultra-competitive, and it’s hard to stand out by providing more clips on common subjects like people on the beach, office workers, etc. You either have to find subject matter that isn’t being covered or take a totally original spin on a common subject.

In terms of making the transition, I would encourage you to take advantage of video’s ability to tell a story. You might only have ten or twenty seconds to work with, but that can be enough to imbue your clip with character and a dynamic situation that makes the viewer relate to what’s happening. If you can make an emotional connection with the viewer/customer, you’re one step closer to a sale.

Where do you find inspiration?

I keep my eyes and ears open as I absorb the world around me, watching for challenges people face and thinking about how to communicate them in a quick, ten-second video. Everyone has goals, some big and some small, and I try to create clips that visualize the route to achieving them. Hopefully, microstock customers find them useful in getting their ideas across in presentations, websites, commercials, or whatever platform they’re using to achieve their own goals.

Top Image by DoublePHOTO studio.