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
- Introduction and overview (10:31)
- Choosing the right agencies (10:51)
- What to shoot (24:08)
- Commercial vs Editorial (5:23)
- Preventing rejections before they happen (8:18)
- Technical specifications (10:52)
- Selecting the right camera (and other gear) (13:28)
- General shooting tips (3:04)
- Post-production: footage ingest and sorting (21:17)
- Post-production: clip editing (30:10)
- Post-production: clip grading and enhancement (34:34)
- Post-production: clip export (15:12)
- Post-production: portfolio management (8:01)
- The importance of excellent metadata (5:51)
- Fast and efficient meta-logging (26:13)
- Description and titles (12:01)
- Editorial descriptions (7:03)
- Keywords (13:09)
- Categories (8:35)
- Releases: Model and Property (5:02)
- Metadata management and submission prep (6:18)
- Clip uploading (Shutterstock) (4:39)
- Final clip submission (Shutterstock) (3:30)
- Clip uploading (Adobe Stock) (6:27)
- What to do after your clips have been reviewed (8:32)
- 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.
- 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:
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.
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!
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)
Should you do decide to take the course please let Doug and I know how you get on!
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