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The question on how you shoot a stock footage is very common. But the right question is how to shoot it right and professtionally.

1.) Always think about rights issues. To keep your shots from being flagged by skittish network or studio legal types, don’t frame them around a single entity. Instead of taking a picture of one building, compose a nice shot including three or more. Instead of shooting a single person on the street — unless you’re willing to secure a model release (see below) — shoot a crowd of mostly unidentifiable people. If you really need to highlight a specific structure or person, seek permission. “If you don’t get permission, even though it’s legal, the lawyers will make you kill it,” said cinematographer Mark Forman.

2.) Always shoot the highest quality possible — preferably 4K or better. Light Iron CEO and founder Michael Cioni showed a chart depicting the relative size of different screen formats. The image was familiar but it made a crucial point: with word last week that Red Digital Cinema’s Dragon sensor was in the field, 2K resolution is decidedly closer to the right-hand (lower quality) side of the chart than it is to the left-hand (higher quality) side. There are lots of reasons to shoot in HD or 2K, but future-proofing footage and preserving its value as stock is most definitely not one of them. (B&H’s Michel Suissa shot some 4K video of the event with the Sony F55 and then played the clips out on an HP Z820 workstation running Assimilate Scratch within minutes, just to show that 4K can work comfortably in the real world.)


3.) Think twice about shooting time-lapse for stock. Shutterstock’s Tom Spota said time-lapse is a popular footage category, but Forman argued shooters should consider whether the potential revenue is worth the significant time investment required to babysit a camera for 12 hours or more. “Unless you want to do [time-lapse], it’s not worth it financially,” he said.


4.) Go the extra mile: work with a model. Spota indicated that model-release footage is among the most in-demand among Shutterstock’s customers, along with imagery related to business, healthy lifestyles, and education. Just make sure you get the proper clearances, a task your agency can help you with by providing the appropriate forms and other guidance.


5.) Stay up-to-date with camera technology. Yes, that’s easier said than done. But Cioni noted that sensor technology improves so steadily and surely that whatever camera is on the market with the newest sensor is likely to provide the nicest images. Keep your eyes and ears open for any chance you might have to shoot with the latest and greatest and hang onto some footage for your own purposes. thats it