How to Make Money Shooting Stock Footage – Review of Master Workshop by Doug Jensen

Doug Jensen, from Vortex Media is a professional in the television and video production with over 35-years of experience working with major corporate clients. More recently, he has translated his extensive broadcasting experience towards achieving financial success as a stock footage contributor.

Numbers don’t lie, Doug earns on average $2,700 a month ($279/hour) by working part-time and submitting his mainly wildlife/nature clips to a handful of agencies, including Shutterstock (he has agreed for me to provide a link to his SS port) and Adobe Stock.

Too good to be true? Let’s find out…


How to Make Money Shooting Stock Footage Master Class

Doug has recently published a comprehensive 5-hour / 26-chapter Master e-Class, entitled “How to Make Money Shooting Stock Footage” on the Vimeo platform. With the newly acquired knowledge fresh in my mind, I’m happy to publish the following brutally honest review. I’m confident you’ll find useful should you wish to take your stock footage business to the next level.

“Stock footage isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme where you can shoot some video, upload it to the web and watch the money roll in. It’s easy but not that easy! You’re going to need some training if you want to do it right, and that’s where I could help you.” – Doug Jensen

Please read until the end and you’ll be able to take advantage of a 20% discount on the course, only through the Brutally Honest blog.

Brutally Honest Review of “How to Make Money Shooting Stock Footage”

First things first, I would suggest to watch the following 18-minute long trailer Doug has put together outlying his e-course and making the case for shooting stock footage:

Topics covered and their respective lengths

  1. Introduction and overview (10:31)
  2. Choosing the right agencies (10:51)
  3. What to shoot (24:08)
  4. Commercial vs Editorial (5:23)
  5. Preventing rejections before they happen (8:18)
  6. Technical specifications (10:52)
  7. Selecting the right camera (and other gear) (13:28)
  8. General shooting tips (3:04)
  9. Post-production: footage ingest and sorting (21:17)
  10. Post-production: clip editing (30:10)
  11. Post-production: clip grading and enhancement (34:34)
  12. Post-production: clip export (15:12)
  13. Post-production: portfolio management (8:01)
  14. The importance of excellent metadata (5:51)
  15. Fast and efficient meta-logging (26:13)
  16. Description and titles (12:01)
  17. Editorial descriptions (7:03)
  18. Keywords (13:09)
  19. Categories (8:35)
  20. Releases: Model and Property (5:02)
  21. Metadata management and submission prep (6:18)
  22. Clip uploading (Shutterstock) (4:39)
  23. Final clip submission (Shutterstock) (3:30)
  24. Clip uploading (Adobe Stock) (6:27)
  25. What to do after your clips have been reviewed (8:32)
  26. Monitoring your sales and income (8:44)

Who would benefit from the course

This course is aimed at photography stock contributors who would like to diversify their income with existing equipment towards stock footage, as well as experienced videographers who have no such experience in stock footage and would like to earn a “passive income”.

I must stress that this is much more of a “how to build a successful stock footage business” course than a technical course on how to shoot for stock footage. Doug does cover “what and how to shoot” but he’s focused more on the workflow from pressing the record button to collecting payments and everything in between.

For a more hands-on technical stock footage shooting tips, Doug recommends Robb Crocker’s, “The Stock Footage Millionaire“, available on Amazon.


Which lessons did I find most useful and why

Without giving too much away, I found the following chapters to be most useful for the following reasons:

  • Post-production: clip editing (Chapter 10)

After weeding out some less-than-commercially-desirable clips in the previous chapter, Doug selected some of his 20 unedited clips to be trimmed using Da Vinci Resolve. Now, trimming is nothing new to me (and I’m sure to you), but the way he explained where to cut and why took the lesson to another level. Doug continuously stressed to “let the action dictate the duration” and the key is to “put yourself in the shoes of a potential editor”, with all clips needing to tell a story with a “beginning, middle and end” in mind.

A further valuable advice was to sub-divide longer clips into shorter individual clips when the action and content of the clip permits. For instance, instead of having a long 45-second clip, see if it can be divided into three 15-second clips that use different parts of the action. Having three similar (same scene), but different clips of the same subject (such as wider and closer-up takes) may triple your chances of your clips being seen and subsequently purchased when a customer does a search.

  • Post-production: clip grading and enhancement (Chapter 11)

Doug recommended using Da Vinci Resolve by Black Magic Design to grade his clips (which is free on a basic version). He is a strong believer that everything must be trimmed and enhanced in post before submitting to offer the customer a quality product.

I’ve watched many tutorials on YouTube on grading/enhancement but none were directly aimed at grading specifically for the stock footage market. Although this is the longest and most comprehensive of chapters at 34 minutes, he breaks it down into bite-sized chunks, making it easy to follow along with step-by-step information, while I paused to experiment on on my own clips.

Honestly, before watching this chapter, I dared not mess with most of the dials/nodes/LUTs in my Da Vinci dashboard and now I’m slowly getting used to what each does and why. This newfound knowledge will help to make my clips stand out in a competitive stock market.

da vinci resolve
Snapshot of my Da Vinci Resolve 15 dashboard
  • Description and titles (Chapter 16)

I pride myself on my detailed titles and accurate keywords, but captions are something that I never really paid much attention as I usually just mirrored the description.

However, Doug really takes his titles to another level and then provides accurate/specific keywords (Chapter 18). This is a great lesson, even for veterans, since caption/keyword spamming is shooting yourself in the foot to relegate your clips to the search-engine dumps.

He showed numerous examples of badly titled clips, with suggested improvements, such as the following:

According to Doug, when titling/captioning, it’s often best to keep the information more generic as few buyers are searching for such specific locations, such as this Interstate 95 in Rhode Island

In addition, I appreciated his advice to include suggestions in the titles and also descriptions for how a commercial clip may be used. Again, thinking like an editor.

  • Monitoring your sales and income (Chapter 26)

This chapter drove home that earning from stock footage is a long-term game and some clips may take literally years to sell for the first time. However, once/if they do sell for the first time, the sale helps the clip climb up the search engines to be seen more regularly for certain keywords.

In addition, Doug went into detail on just how many of his 4900 clips had sold at least once, which is 16%, consistent with other contributors (including my own smallish port). However, many of those 16% have sold dozens and even hundreds of times, often in 4K, easily making up for the 84% that have never sold. Therefore, this analysis gives me hope, as well as a way to manage my expectations in this long-term business.

What about Pond5?

I asked Doug why he didn’t cover Pond5, which many stock footage contributors are making some big sales. His reply is that

“The course is focused solely on SS and Adobe. It would have been too complex to cover another agency in detail. However, I do talk about Pond5 a little bit and mention that I have uploaded a few “test” clips.  I am pleased with my early results,   but I have not had time to submit my whole portfolio yet.  So Pond5 doees gets my recommendation, but I have no specific training for it right now.  I may decide to create a new chapter for Pond5 at a later time, and if I do, everyone who has already had paid for the course will have access to it. In the mean time, having all of one’s data stored in a spreadsheet will make it very easy to submit to as many agencies as someone wants to.”

Anything I didn’t agree with about the course?

Being a brutally honest review and all, one aspect that I disagreed quite strongly with Doug was on which gear he recommended to shoot for stock footage (Chapter 7). Some of his recommended video-recorders, although excellent, may not be practical for everyday urban shooting conditions + some were upwards of $7k-$9k!

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that I’m usually on stealth / ninja mode as I venture into urban settings, airports, transport hubs and museums. As well as some potentially dangerous travel locations full of thieves.

After a few years, I had enough issues (with security guards for instance) using my Nikon D800 when out and about, so with anything larger/bulkier, I think the chances of being harassed by authorities increase considerably! One major reason why I “downgraded” in size to the Panasonic Lumix below.

Small and discreet is my preferred way to go when out in public, even if the quality is lower than shooting with a pro video camera

Doug did mention in the course that recommending gear is a touchy subject and the choice can be highly personal. He elaborated with the following arguments towards quality yet more bulky/expensive gear:

“I cannot recommend cameras in good faith that I don’t believe are the best tool for the job.  Can someone sell a few videos taken with a cellphone, an SLR, GoPro, or low-end mirrorless camera?  Absolutely.  But I think they are going to have trouble producing enough good clips  with tools like that to earn any decent money.   I feel like I would be setting people up for failure by not recommending they try to use a real video camcorder that is designed for professional video production.  There are actually some very nice used pro cameras on the market (Sony F3, FS700, FS100, F5, etc.) that would be better choices than using cameras that are primarily designed to shoot stills — and they are cheap.  Those are the kinds of cameras I think someone needs to be looking at if they truly want to create a large portfolio with diverse subject matter and high quality images without a lot of hassle.  It is critical that people have the right tools for the job.  Or they will come up short and then say, “see I knew there was no money in footage”. When the reason for their failure was not having the right tools for the job.”

I do agree that we need the best tools for the job, but it depends primarily on what you shoot. No problem to be shooting wildlife/nature with a monster-setup but for travel, I wished Doug would have suggested something smaller (and less expensive).

When I further pressed Doug on the subject, he gave the following reasonable reply:

“If someone wants to get started shooting video with with a small, lightweight, and less expensive camera, they should look at the latest mirrorless cameras that offer professional video camera features such as an OLED viewfinder, peaking, zebras, internal 4K, and a decent codec. Having those features will greatly increase the odds of success.”

Would I recommend this course?

Absolutely! As mentioned earlier, I’ve already put into practice, only a day later, much of the advice dished out. $126.96 (with the discount code) is a bargain for such a comprehensive 5-hour course! No doubt you would quickly be able to pay off this small investment with the knowledge acquired.

Thank you, Doug for this opportunity!


Action time!

If you would like to take your stock footage to the next level, we’re nearly there…take advantage of an exclusive offer by the Brutally Honest Blog. When paying for the course, use the code “BRUTALLYHONEST” to receive a 20% discount.

$158.37  $126.96 (20% off)

—–> “How to Make Money Shooting Stock Footage” <——

Should you do decide to take the course please let Doug and I know how you get on!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography


  1. Very helpful – but when you say Caption, are you refering to the Title ?? Not the Description ?

    I use minimum titles as I thought the Desc. was the Important bit ?? Stu

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂

      Yes, title. Both are important apparently!

      Doug uses very very descriptive titles when uploading to SS and AS. Pond5 has a restriction on characters, frustratingly but then the descriptions can be longer.


      • As far as I know titles/descriptions aren‘t searchable on AS. At least for images they told me on the support forum..


  2. Hey guys, I’ll try to provide more information.

    I don’t know about photos (because I don’t sell photos) but for footage, Titles and Descriptions are just two words for the same thing. At Adobe it is called “title” and at Shutterstock it is called “description”. Neither of them has two fields for both. it is one or the other. So whatever you write for the description at Shutterstock is called the title at Adobe. But there is only one or there other. I hope that makes sense.

    Shutterstock is where I make the bulk of my $3000 per month, so let’s talk about Shutterstock. Adobe just tags along for the ride.

    At Shutterstock the description is vitally important for three reasons:

    1) The description is what forms the URL for the clip, thus making it searchable across the whole web. For example, take a look at this clip:

    Notice that the URL comes directly from my description:
    Two utility workers in a cherry picker fix a power pylon at night, silhouetted

    2) The description absolutely plays a role in the results a customer gets when they do a search. Go to Shutterstock and do a search for footage using “Two utility workers” and see what comes up. My clip will be the first one you see, yet the word “TWO” is not even one of my keywords. So clearly ahving “TWO” the description makes a difference. I could give you tons of other examples where the description affects search results. Do your own testing and see if you are skeptical.

    BTW, in hindsight, I probably should have add the word “two” as a keyword.

    3) When a customer does a search and the results are shown all he/she sees are thumbnails. But if they hover their mouse over the thumbnail the description is shown. That is very important!! Also if they click on the thumbnail then the description is shown. That is very important. It is my only chance to verbally make a pitch to the customer about what my clip, what happens in the clip, how it might be used, etc. I have 200 characters to make my pitch.

    I hope that helps. Both keywords and descriptions are vitally important if you want to make money from stock footage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Doug, I have a starter camera that shoots 4k, but surprisingly the timelapse videos that are created automatically saved as avi in HD. Do you think uploading timelapses in HD makes sense? What’s your take on timplapses btw?


      • Personally, I don’t want to invest any time or effort into producing HD footage. Although the vast majority of my sales today are for the HD versions of my clips, producing in 4K today will give my work a longer shelf life. HD is already become less desirable among high-end footage buyers and the tipping point will come soon where HD is as unwanted as SD is today. I’m not saying that will happen tomorrow or maybe not even for another year or two, but there is no doubt that it is coming and I want to put my efforts into clips will be commercially viable for the next 10 years not the next 5 years (or less).

        Also, the timelapse market seems heavily saturated to me and you’re going to have to have some really phenomenal footage to compete. The days of locking a camera down on a cloudy sky and letting the camera click away are over. You’re going to have to have some cool stuff that incorporates sliders and other gimmicks to set your work apart from others.

        I do shoot timelapses sometimes so I’m not saying not to spend time doing it, but just don’t count on making very many sales. If you do it for fun, that is reason enough for me. Good luck.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this honest review Alex, I was on the verge of renting the course and you have helped me make a desition, also I wasn’t expecting a discount code, how awesome is that!?


    • Hi Alex,

      It is good to hear from you and I hope you are doing well.  I don’t think Gabo has signed up for my course yet because nobody has used the code at all this month, but I will certainly keep an eye out for it.  Thanks for the heads up.

      I wish we still had the Shutterstock forum.

      Happy holidays.

      Thanks, Doug


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