Asude: Welcome Steve, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you! As edelkrone, we admire the work you are putting out there and we’d like to share it with our community, too. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us when and where were you born?
Steve: Start with the tricky questions! I was born in the early 1950s in northern England. At that time, the home to endless cotton mills spinning and weaving cotton for clothing (the area is very rainy and that apparently stops the cotton threads from breaking as easily!). I recall walking to my early schools and the freedom of just getting on a bike and cycling onto the moorland surrounding the valleys in that part of the world and that perhaps triggered my love of the outdoors and nature in general.
A: You’re an accomplished stock photographer and have recently moved on to video stock footage. Could you please tell us how did it start?
S: Yes, videography is a relatively new passion. I got my first camera (beyond the use of the family Box Brownie) in my teens - a Russian made Zenith with F2 lens. Very solid SLR and it served me well for many, many years! I got involved with the college newspaper during my time at the University of London, photographing some of the live rock shows held at the college. Anyone remember the Incredible String Band? Well, perhaps not! As I got more involved in my career as an engineer in the telecoms field, my photography took a backseat and I really only took some holiday photos and, of course, photos of my family. But thoughts of this being more than an interesting hobby were far from my mind. Being an engineer, I was always interested in technology and so when the first digital cameras started appearing in the 1990s, I was smitten and I was an early adopter of those 2M pixel cameras and with them, a keen user of Photoshop. Finally, I started traveling around the world a lot more as I moved into the world of International Telecoms and taking a camera on my travels seemed like a natural step. With some skills now under my belt, I asked the typical question - some of these photos seem pretty good to me - how can I make some money from them? And, that led me to start with stock photography in early 2008 as the microstock revolution was taking hold. That has become my life now and I just celebrated my 100,000th download from just one of the agencies I support - Shutterstock. Hard to imagine just where all those images have been used! Well, as many will know, stock photography has got harder over the past decade as many more photographers have decided to give it a go. But, stock video is an order of magnitude harder to do well, and so I decided to branch out and learn some video techniques that I thought would help me create some interesting stock video clips and earn the higher dollars that such clips command.
A: Stock photographers & videographers have a different way of working and earning money. How did you start earning money from your stock clips?
S: As I purely work at creating my own clips and licensing them, I don’t have to be concerned with marketing myself, dealing directly with customers, or even working to a set schedule. So, while my early stock videos were pretty poor technically (and probably artistically) some of them started selling around 2009 onwards. At that stage, I was mainly taking a photo and then thinking - aha, I can take a video and see if that works for this scene! Some of the early ones were a bit of a cheat, to be honest. I would find a good still photo and then pan and zoom into it to create an HD video. Still, it met a customer need and that is all that matters.
A: Even though you’re relatively new to the stock video, it is starting to make a difference to your earnings. Could you share your background in videography with us?
S: Primarily self-taught. I’ve never had any issues in picking up a book about Adobe Premiere, for instance, and reading it from cover to cover and generally remembering most of it! That does get harder with age, but I still prefer reading things rather than sitting to watch a YouTube video. I always feel I can quickly skip through the pages to the bits that are interesting - it is always harder to do that with a video (at least for me). So I voraciously read blog posts, magazines and, books about video. Although I do travel videos on my various trips, I’ve become more successful at creating clips that people actually want to license using more of a studio setup and it was in trying to make my close shots more than just a static image that I came across edelkrone and specifically the product originally known as the SurfaceONE.
A: How would you describe the style of your clips?
S: A mix of both travel shots - usually from a tripod and a static viewpoint - and more complex studio shots, often close or even macro images of items that are used to illustrate concepts that are in the news. I always take a GoPro with me on my travels as well and with a suction mount have taken some interesting clips on narrow roads on Maui, for instance as well as timelapses using one of those simple clockwork rotating tripod heads. I’ve also focused a lot more recently on 4K stock video - again because it is harder to do well, and there are less supply and hence more interest in my clips.
A: You obviously consider different topics prior to the production process. Could you tell us some of the preparations you make before you begin filming?
S: The hardest part is undoubtedly the concept. What is likely to be the subject that creatives will want to license over the next year? What style might work for them? I devour the news and try to find topics that are just getting into the public’s eye and are likely to remain there. I saw the early interest in the Bitcoin story back in 2017 and “invested” in 20 of the gold coins that a Chinese entrepreneur had created to illustrate what a Bitcoin could be if it was a physical item. If I recall, they were about $1 each! I took some macro still photos of increasing complexity and then tried to pan and rotate around the coins for a video with a bit of interest. I tried small rotating trays, moving the camera on a slider, but at macro distances, even the slightest judder or movement becomes really obvious and I got some “acceptable” but never great shots. In fact, my first bitcoin video was actually a static shot but with my hand coming into the frame as I counted more coins onto a stack. That licensed for the princely sum of $47 in early 2017, but I was hooked. Around that time I saw the edelkrone SurfaceONE and it seemed to be the answer to my prayers. Rotations, pans, sideway movements, forward movements, rotation around the subject - all were now within reach! As the heady days of the Bitcoin explosion hit every TV channel and spread across the internet, my photos and videos became hot sellers. So, my preparations are rarely technical - they are trying to spot trends and then come up with concepts that illustrate those trends. Since then, I anticipated the opioid epidemic coverage in the US with some close shots that illustrate that, and more recently still, the e-cigarette questions about marketing to teens. It is a never ending saga!
A: So, it seems that it requires some kind of different research. What would be the best advice you could give to other videographers that are interested in stock photo & clips?
S: I’m in such a specialism that I hesitate to give advice to people who have a much wider skill set than me. I would say that anything is possible if you approach it with the right mindset and you need to look at the best examples of stock video that are out there and emulate it. I do maintain a pretty active blog (Backyard Silver) where I try to encourage new photographers and videographers in the art of stock work, so perhaps I could say that my advice is to read my blog, or my book, Getting Started in Stock!
A: In terms of camera equipment, does someone in stock photography & videography business prefer buying or renting the equipment?
S: Buying. Partly because I like to offset some of the income with new expenses and partly because I never know when a new concept will hit me and I need to be ready then and there to create it.
A: Makes sense! Could you share your production equipment with us?
S: My Sony A7RIII body and whichever is the right lens for the job. Often the Sony macro lens although I often use the 55mm lens to get a bit closer to the subject. Of course, my edelkrone SurfaceONE! My lighting is usually quite simple - I have an LED light in a softbox and two LED panels that I use to add to natural lighting when needed.
A: And, what software do you use for post-production?
S: Adobe Premiere as part of the Creative Cloud. Lightroom and Photoshop for my still images.
A: What is the best advice you've ever been given in this field?
S: Always, always think about the story you are trying to tell and even more importantly, describe and keyword those clips using terms that your ideal creative buyer is likely to use. A perfect clip that is poorly keyworded will never be found and never be licensed!
A: Your book had been the best selling business photography book on Amazon for a while, congratulations on that! What’s your biggest ambition for the future?
S: To live a long and healthy life and to continue to enjoy travel to as many interesting places as I can get!