Summary: This article outlines some key factors and ingredients to consider that should help your videos get accepted and experience commercial success.
As a stock marketplace, in addition to our technical and quality requirements we are specifically looking for content that has real commercial demand and utility. If we don’t accept your content, it is not to say the photos are necessarily poor quality or do not have inherent or artistic value, but simply that they are not quite right for our marketplace and customers.
While there’s no guaranteed recipe for success, here are some key factors and ingredients to consider that should help your videos get accepted and experience commercial success.
In all of our research and experience, the one thing customers want most in Footage is authenticity. At the same time, it’s also one of the most challenging things to define, and even harder to capture!
In most cases it’s actually easier to identify when something feels inauthentic, so watch out for red flags like overly posed, staged, or cliche subject matter, unnatural or forced facial expressions on your models, noticeably artificial lighting, or scenes and scenarios that you wouldn’t realistically expect to find in daily life.
Authenticity also comes from the quality of the image you're able to produce using the equipment you have available. While we may occasionally accept footage that was captured on a mobile device or action camera, we prefer to see high quality, cinematic visuals with strong composition, lighting, subject matter, depth of field, and many other important factors. While these traits can certainly be achieved using a wide variety of devices, try to avoid submitting footage that has a 'home video' appearance.
You should always strive to capture natural, genuine, believable content at the highest quality possible.
Both examples work as Stock Footage, and there's nothing inherently bad about either. But comparing them allows us to highlight points relating to the commercial viability and authenticity of each clip.
The primary subject matter of both videos is obvious, but the first example appears much more staged and inauthentic. The first clip is slightly overexposed and feels unnatural, even though it was captured outdoors. While the creative composition, depth of field, and natural lighting in the second clip helps sell the authenticity of the footage, by making the viewer feel as though they're right there on the field with the players.
Envato has recently increased the quality standards by which all Footage submissions are reviewed, and under these new standards, the clip on the bottom stands a much greater chance of being accepted.
Use Natural Lighting
The lighting in footage can be artificial, but the use of natural light as much as possible is preferred as it usually better reflects the reality we live in, making it easier for the audience to connect with the image. Shooting with natural light often requires careful planning for the time of day/conditions to get the best results, but is worth it.
When shooting with artificial light, you should attempt to make the light appear as natural as possible.
Be in the moment
Most importantly authentic shots need to feel like the footage was spontaneous (i.e. not staged) even if, most of the time, it was. It shouldn’t feel like the scene was planned to perfection, but that it was simply captured at the perfect timing, and we are witness to that special moment.
Depth of field
While some may see shallow depth of field as a passing fad, it is often a hallmark of authentic footage. Using shallow depth of field can make a video feel more three dimensional, less flat, and mimic the way our eyes see in reality. It can also help draw our attention toward a particular area, or subject, which can further lend to the sense of being on location or physically present during that captured moment in time. Still, it doesn’t always make sense for every shot, so be sure to use it thoughtfully.
Real people, real expressions
Facial expressions can make or break a video's authenticity, and anything that feels forced or unnatural is unlikely to sell. More and more customers are looking for footage that features real, believable people, that are true to the subject matter and scenario, rather than the traditional model look you might expect.
Try revisiting existing concepts and themes that have been staged to death with a fresh pair of eyes, and bring them back to their most simple, natural form. Although there are infinite types of content you can capture, the stock industry is generally very competitive. It’s important to bring your unique perspective to the work you submit and always try to ensure your Footage is able to stand out from the pack.
One easy way to tell that footage isn’t authentic… is if it isn’t actually footage! Envato offers two Stock Video categories, Stock Footage and Motion Graphics. Stock Footage is generally reserved for any/all live-action video that was captured in the real world with a camera. Whereas Motion Graphics is home to any computer generated videos and animations. Although keep in mind, there are some exceptions to this.
- We will accept computer generated content within the Stock Footage section if the rendered results appear photo realistic and it's extremely difficult for the viewer to identify that it was not live-action.
- We accept mixed-media submissions in the Stock Footage category, where motion graphics content is overlaid or composited into live action footage. The standards for mixed media submissions are very strict, so keep in mind that the motion graphics must be well designed with strong animation and rock-solid compositing.
Mixed Media Examples
This shot contains motion graphics that are clearly computer generated, but it was integrated into the background footage well enough that it had strong commercial utility and we were able to accept it into the library.
Here, the motion graphics was composited into the clip well enough that it almost appeared feasible. Realistically, the technology demonstrated here does not exist, but the clip itself is believable and very useful.
Speaking of 'actual footage', it's important to highlight how we handle static footage. Footage needs to contain movement in some form, otherwise it could be confused for a photograph. Not that this is bad in any way, just that it would be better suited to live in Envato’s Photos collection instead. We expect to see motion or movement in one of the following forms for all submissions:
- A static camera capturing the motion of moving subjects within a scene
- A moving camera capturing a scene with very static subjects
- A moving camera capturing moving subjects within a scene
While you're shooting, if you happen to notice that your scene appears mostly static, with the subject showing little to no movement the best thing you can do is try to integrate a camera movement such as a tile, pan, or zoom to help bring motion to your shot and avoid it appearing as a photo. We actually advocate for camera movement in all shots, including those that contain subjects in motion.
Strong camera movement requires skill and precision. It can easily turn a good video into something we cannot accept. Avoid shooting handheld as much as possible, keep the subject well framed and stable, and try to minimize camera shake or sudden shifts and jitters whenever possible. We will accept footage with minimal handheld movements if the scene calls for it, which can sometimes work stylistically, but we're very selective and it must be done in a way that’s not distracting.
Hopefully these pointers have given you a good sense of what makes footage appear authentic, but for further help here are a few examples.
This video lacks a sense of depth and contains seven people, all positioned on one end of a table acting out somewhat generic 'business' poses.
In this example, the woman on the right is holding paper unnaturally with printed graphics up in the air, positioned towards the camera, pointing randomly at different parts of the graphic. The woman on the left seems to be shifting papers in her hands without any substantive reasoning behind her actions.
Both examples above have sold well in the past, and there's nothing inherently wrong with either of them, but both examples feel very staged. The atmosphere and activities do appear to match the 'business' theme the authors were going for, but all of the movements and actions feel exaggerated. The primary subjects are sharp and well-lit, but the overall images are somewhat flat. Also, the medium to close-up shots provide very little breathing room for the scene, effectively forcing all of the actors and actions into a very tight space.
The actors sell the activity being performed, and appear to actually be two men at work discussing content on the screen. The lighting actually makes this shot feel like it was filmed in the evening to give a sense of people working late into the night. And while both men are dressed formally, the lack of jackets makes this shot feel slightly less polished and artificial.
This shot utilizes strong depth of field to pull the viewer's focus directly onto the plane where the actors are seated. The staging of the office, and the wardrobe choices helps to align this shot with a slightly less traditional corporate feel, which matches the business casual trend we're seeing adopted across many businesses today. The lighting feels very natural and almost appears as though the sun is shining brightly through a window to the off-screen right, and the framing is close enough to really focus on the actors, while providing some breathing room above them to show more of the background in the scene.
These two examples portray very similar 'business' themes as the previous videos, but they come across as being far more natural. Both examples feel more like they were shot spontaneously, and instead of watching people work or do business, they help the viewer feel like they're right there with the actors in the scene. These examples utilize depth of field to pull the actors off of the background and employ camera moves to show more of the scene highlighting where the viewer should be focusing. The lighting feels very natural even though some artificial lighting was likely used.
To niche, or not to niche
It can be difficult to decide what material to shoot and where to focus your efforts for the best chance of commercial success. The good news is that generally all of our research and analysis points to the fact that customers are looking for a very broad and diverse range of photos, so chances are someone out there is looking to license and use what you shoot. There’s no one single genre, style, or characteristic of a photo that is king (other than authenticity of course!), and generally customer demand is spread evenly across this wide spectrum of content.
Cream of the crop
While there’s definitely broad need for all types of footage, there are still some areas and aspects that tend to float just above the rest.
- Footage on the subjects of technology, corporate, business, family, lifestyle, fashion, architecture, nature & travel, education, health & medical, and food.
- Footage that conveys a particular concept or mood.
- Footage with people.
While these might have greater demand, they also tend to have greater existing supply and competition, so keep that in mind and always make sure you bring something unique with your footage.
Play to your strengths (and your available resources)
While it can be tempting to simply go for what’s popular, we always recommend sticking to what you’re best at and what makes your footage unique.
Keep in mind your strengths aren’t just your skills or experience, but your physical location, connections, relationships, and available resources as well. Take advantage of subjects or settings that you might have easier access to than most other videographers. For example if your cousin is a woodworker or your best friend’s sister owns a catering company, you might want to exploit those particular subjects in greater depth.
It’s great if you’re able to build a broad portfolio across multiple subject areas, however there can also be a lot of diversity to explore within a specific genre. So when you’re ready to explore something new, try looking inward as well as outward.
For example, if you’re an expert food photographer with a portfolio of perfectly presented dishes, you can branch out to where that food comes from and explore agriculture and farming. Or you could diversify by capturing dishes and styles of cooking from different cultures. Having a diverse portfolio will usually increase your chances of success, just make sure that the diversity has structure and purpose.
With the growing needs of customers, and the increasing size and complexity of digital projects, collections of footage that are consistent and work well together are becoming more popular (e.g. multiple clips, all matching the same theme and setup, but with slightly different interactions or activities). The ability for customers to choose from a variety of footage from the same shoot is an easy way to provide them with the consistency and flexibility they need, without much additional time or effort on your part.
Customers also want to find things quickly, and sets can help them do this. If many of those scenes are identical, or of mixed quality, though, then this starts to become extremely unhelpful to customers.
We encourage you to capture and upload a selection of footage from a shoot, however it is very important to self-curate your videos before they are submitted. Choose ones that offer something unique individually (e.g. a different emotion, pose, props, setting, perspective, and/or time of day). And of course, select only the highest quality takes from the shoot.
Variations of the same video that have simply been flipped, cropped, or processed differently, or multiple takes of the same activity should not be submitted. Submitting footage or variations that are too similar will be considered spamming, and you could have your videos, upload rights, or account suspended.
Thinking again of that designer customer, it can be helpful to consider other ways that your footage might be used, edited, manipulated, processed, or combined with other visual elements. It may be tempting to grade or filter your footage to your own taste, but more often than not, these changes could potentially limit the changes customers can make on their own.
While we do permit some level of color grading and image adjustment, for the sake of quality, we ask that you provide your footage as close to the original source as possible. Corrections and grading should be applied in a neutral method so that your customers have the freedom to modify or grade what they purchase to best fit the look and feel of their own projects.
When dealing with footage meant to be keyed out, we will accept both the isolated, pre-keyed footage and the original source with the background still visible. Each of these come with their own considerations.
When you submit footage that has been keyed or has had all, or part, of the background removed, we will factor the quality of the background removal into the review of your submission. So for example, if you submit a shot of a person dancing against a green screen, and you key out the green screen. If we notice remnants of the background that impede the customer's ability to cleanly place your footage into their project (e.g. a shadow below the subject's feet), the file may not be accepted.
Footage Meant to be Keyed by Customer
If you submit footage that has a background that needs to be keyed out by the customer, we will be assessing the quality of the shot and how well the background has been configured and lit to ensure a proper key can be pulled from the footage.
For example, when submitting footage with a visible green screen, it will be assessed to ensure the background is evenly lit without any harsh lighting shifts, along with any other issues that may prevent the background removal.
Saturation and Competition
We’re not talking about making your video colors brighter and more vivid here, but rather duplicate content within our footage library. When choosing what videos to shoot and submit, it’s important to consider competitive factors and what other similar videos might already be available.
Generally the more common the subject, the more selective we will be in acceptance, not to mention the more challenging it will be to catch a customer’s eye and be successful. For more saturated subject matter, you’ll need to make sure your video is able to stand out from the crowd. You can always search VideoHive or Elements in advance to see what types of videos are lacking, as well as take note of the immediate competition and what might make your videos unique.