Almost 4 years ago, I created Free Nature Stock Photos and have shared over 1,360+ photos since then. I’ve received lots of thankful messages, had the opportunity to improve my photography with practice, and currently earn about $200/mo through ads (more than I ever made selling stock photos).
This week, I’m excited to announce the launch of Free Nature Stock Videos, which is a new addition to the site where I’ll be sharing free stock video footage with the same CC0 license. While the video collection is fairly small at the moment, I’m aiming to keep the quality very high and will be adding new footage each week.
In tradition with my previous article, I thought I’d go over some of the decisions I made while creating this project.
How it was made.
The original Free Nature Stock site was built as cheaply as possible using Tumblr. While that CMS has served its purpose and continues to do so, it’s also very limiting and I’m concerned about the longevity (how many people do you know still using Tumblr?). For both of those reasons, I chose to build the new Videos collection on its own subdomain and on a different CMS.
At first, I considered moving all of my Tumblr posts to WordPress and creating a new combined Photo and Video site but it was a nightmare migrating everything. For starters, the official Tumblr Importer plugin is outdated and does not correctly handle Photo posts. With almost four years worth of daily photos, I couldn’t afford to manually redo all those posts.
Eventually, I did choose to use Squarespace but began with a fresh start on a new subdomain. While I would have preferred to have Photos and Videos on one site, this was the best compromise for the sake of time.
In my opinion, Squarespace is one of the better all-in-one website solutions available. My main business is custom web design and development but not all clients have a need or budget for that level of quality so I’ll often recommend Squarespace to them. However, using their service again reminded me of exactly why I prefer hand-coding websites from scratch. Here are a few minor annoyances I’ve run into so far:
- The first template I chose looked decent but there was no way to add a Search field and Categories drop menu on the Blog page (or Videos page, in my case). It’s such a basic feature to want but couldn’t be done with the template I was using.
- I also wanted to include a small ad location below the header and above the main Blog content. That should be easy, right? Nope, not possible, at least not with the templates I tried.
- How about choosing the number of Blog posts shown per page? In most templates, yes, but for some obscure reason, you can’t do that with the Farro family of templates.
- There are also no backups, at least not ones that are downloadable by site owners. And no staging to test changes before pushing them live.
I suppose you could modify any Squarespace template using their Developer Mode but there’s a big warning saying your template will no longer be supported if you do that, which defeats the purpose of using a managed, set-it-and-forget-it service like Squarespace.
Don’t get me wrong; I do believe Squarespace offers a lot value at a low cost and can be up and running in no time. Just don’t expect very much freedom to customize your site. Since Free Nature Stock is a side project, saving time was one of the most important factors for me.
Hosting the videos.
Video files are heavy. When it came to displaying and downloading the footage, I knew it would cost a fortune on my own server.
I settled on using Vimeo to display videos and to deliver the download files. For the most part, this has worked perfectly but there was one hiccup the night before launch.
There’s a setting in Vimeo that says whether or not their servers should retain your original source media after a couple weeks. This setting is off by default! After uploading my videos earlier this month, the download links started unexpectedly disappearing. Once I changed that setting and re-uploaded everything to Vimeo, it’s been smooth sailing.
Lessons learned from the launch.
It can be disheartening when you invest loads of effort into creating free stock resources and very few people help spread the word. To put it into perspective:
This single Milky Way time-lapse is comprised of 398 photos taken with a 15-second exposure and a 3-second buffer in between each shot. That’s just under two hours spent capturing the photographs. Next, I imported all of those images into Lightroom, edited them for color correction, contrast, noise, and so on before exporting them again. I then reimported each image into Final Cut Pro to stitch the whole time-lapse video together and spent another 16 minutes rendering the final MP4. About three hours total went into making that video.
How long does it take to upvote on ProductHunt? 5 seconds? As of today, a total of eight people (not including myself) upvoted this project.
If I could do it all again, I would make sure to give more notice of the upcoming launch — I think that was a big mistake on my part. I should have teased the launch months ago and tried to build excitement before throwing it on ProductHunt.
Mike has been a tremendous support from the beginning and gave me a lot of solid feedback while reviewing the site early on. He’s also the first advertiser on the site, which is obviously a huge help since I’m offering all of my videos for free.
Similarly, Liam has been an amazing source of encouragement and ideas. He’s helped brainstorm some great enhancements for Free Nature Stock and also caught a couple needed site tweaks. On top of that, he helped share the launch on just about every social media platform there is.
Last but certainly not least, Sarah put a lot of work into reviewing the site as well and generating traffic on launch day. Since she’s my wife, she also has to put up with me bringing my camera on every family trip to capture more Free Nature Stock footage :)
To these individuals and everyone else who took the time to share on social media, thank you!