At A Glance: Video Stock Options

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Video content is exploding online, and as the need for high-impact visuals and graphics proliferates, so does the need for original content that’s available at affordable rates. Top sellers can bring in thousands of dollars a month, and while it takes a lot of focus to reach this level of sales, even casual users can make a few hundred extra dollars a month by uploading and properly tagging content that more often than not is just sitting around. What’s more is that with more than 750,000 clips, a stock sales website like Shutterstock (, which offers both stills and video as well as illustrations and vectors, will leverage this more or less sedentary library of video content to an online marketplace that’s open around the clock to a worldwide roster of clients.

Shutterstock offers several advantages over competitors, including transparent pricing for video and image licenses, as well as nonexclusive licensing and distribution, which means that you also can use other venues to maximize profits from your clips. They offer subscription-based rates to attract a considerable fan base of creatives alongside base rates for web clips at $19, standard definition at $49 and HD at $79. Video clips are watermarked by Shutterstock, and they also offer iPad and iPhone apps for browsing and selecting files. Shutterstock accepts videos that are between five and 60 seconds each. These clips can be licensed for use in videos, television, advertisements, websites, presentations, broadcast, education and much more.

New content will appear on your portfolio within 24 hours of acceptance, with a submission and approval process that’s curated by professional reviewers. (This can take up to seven days.) They leave keywording and categorizing up to the uploader, with footage offered as previewable clips in a browser-like interface that can be further filtered by resolution, category, contributor and editorial or noneditorial use. Shutterstock offers several resources for their contributors to learn the ropes, with tricks and tips for selling stock footage and images while tracking trends and developing an understanding of the needs from the clients’ perspective. These include the contributor forum (, the Shutterbuzz contributor blog ( and a free Contributor Success Guide (

Unlike most shoots where you have a specific clip or shot in mind, stock will let you leverage all of those outtakes that weren’t right for the original concept, but may be a perfect fit for someone else’s needs. So while the general approach to putting together videos for stock is the same, there are several considerations you should explore when curating your library of offerings.

This also speaks to the quality of content that Shutterstock is looking for. Imagery can be refused for several reasons, from poor lighting to bad compositions to potential trademark or copyright infringement. Recognizable people and locations will always require a release unless they’re slated specifically for editorial use, and even then, they could be rejected. Public domain material isn’t accepted, and audio should always be limited to ambient sounds. Any prerecorded material or dialogue will be refused.

There’s a Stats section in each account for monitoring sales and downloads. The most popular search terms, downloads and portfolios are continually updated for tracking trends as they happen. Payments for still imagery is based on a number of sliding-scale factors, including downloads, lifetime earnings on the site and licensing, but footage is much more straightforward. Shutterstock pays 30% of the sale price of footage, with minimum payouts when licensed to subscription-based clients of $2.50 for low-resolution clips, $8 for standard definition and $13.25 for HD downloads. You also can receive 10% of the sale price for video downloads from referrals you’ve sent to Shutterstock, with similar sliding-scale payouts for subscription-based clients. On top of earnings from video licensing, contributors also can earn customer and contributor referral bonuses simply by bringing in clients and creatives to the site.