Flickr made the announcement with pride.
“Video! Video! Video! The rumours are true and ‘soon’ is now. We’re thrilled to introduce video on Flickr…”
And apparently the thrill hasn’t gone away. Flickr’s home page is still screaming this message to its users a month-and-a-half after the original announcement, as though the rest of us will be as excited about the rise of video as the site itself.
In fact, Flickr’s videos are pretty restrictive. Calling them “long photos,” the site restricts videos to 90 seconds and only lets pro members upload them. (If you’re wondering what you can shoot in 90 seconds, you’re not alone.) In the meantime, users looking for images have to be careful to click the “photos only” tickbox when searching for stills.
For Flickr, the decision to allow videos is unlikely to have been a hard one. While photographers are making money on the site, Flickr is really meant for sharing, not selling. Videos are just another way of letting others in on an experience. Instead of capturing a moment, they capture a moment-and-a-half.
Nor was Flickr the first to try to bridge the gap between photographers and videographers. The New York Times, no less, instructs its photographers to shoot video for its website, a demand that has sparked some discussion among photojournalists.
But what about people who love photography — and would like to earn from it? Does the rise of video, whether on websites, news sites, Flickr or YouTube mean that we should be playing more with our cameras’ video feature… or even shooting movies and pulling stills from the footage?
Photography Looks Safe… for Now
A look at the market seem to suggest that still photography, while perhaps feeling a touch squeezed, is in little danger — at least for now. An increasing number of sites might be hosting videos but the clips seems to take the place of content rather than the images that accompany that content. While it’s true that a blog that uses a two-minute video to communicate a message is unlikely to demand an image as well, there’s also little chance that it will make much of a demand from a videographer either. The sort of videos found on most vlogs — and even on video-sharing sites — still seem to consist of one man or woman, a web cam and a book to rest it on. Even The New York Times, for all its interest in Web-based video news, still has some outstanding photographic slideshows with a range you’re unlikely to find even in the Sunday print edition.
Some stock sites though do see an opportunity. In addition to offering still images, iStock, Stockxpert and Shutterstock all offer video clips, usually at prices that begin at around $10 — a significant increase on the standard $1 starting price for stills. But even here there’s little evidence that the sites see this market as a replacement for their usual buyers — designers looking for images for the Web, for ads and for the sort of print demands that video just can’t meet.
It’s safer to say that stock sites are hedging their bets.
After all, the infrastructure for hosting and offering video is largely the same as that needed to sell images, so there’s little cost and some potential benefit to be gained for stock sites should video truly take off.
And that’s the attitude that photographers might want to take too.
What Will Video Be When it Grows up?
Video as a commodity is still in its infancy. Even Google appears to be struggling to earn decent returns on the ads embedded in its YouTube content and only distributes them to publishers who can win more than a million viewers a month. Those ads also currently take the form of text at the bottom of the screen rather than the sort of video commercials you can find interrupting your television viewing.
But video does seem to be growing more popular and for people interested in earning from imagery, the market might be worth testing. Some of the stock footage on Shutterstock, for example, is very similar to that offered by still photographers, and can include landscape and road scenes as well as people and objects. Once you’ve shot your still images then, it might not take a great deal of extra effort to shoot a few minutes of video and offer it to that market too.
Videographers, of course, would probably disagree. They would likely point out that while there is some overlap in the skills and knowledge needed to shoot video and stills, the two do demand different talents. A photographer has to know how to freeze a moment; a videographer has to depict movement.
But one of the biggest benefits of the new photography era is that there are few penalties for trying and failing, and plenty of fun to be had in the process. It’s still likely that for the foreseeable future at least you’ll find it easier to earn with stills than with video but if you’re a photographer who finds both enjoyable, it should be worth keeping an eye on the opportunities on the other side too.