[Stock Photography] Yuri Arcurs Explains How To Sell Stock Imaging

We've featured Yuri Arcurs, the worlds most successful micro stock photographer, many times here on Fstoppers. In a time when people complain that the value of photography has gone the way of the buffalo, Yuri has created an empire on images that cost less than $1. In this video Yuri explains exactly what makes a great stock image and what it is specifically that clients are looking for in a good image.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the lighting, the theme, and creating something unique but often times what sells is really just an approachable face in a common scenario. Infact, it's hard for me to listen to Yuri without thinking about Peter Hurley and how important an approachable yet confident face is for marketing. I know from our Facebook Group that there are a lot of very talented photographers here on Fstoppers but there is always something to be gained listening to other photographers talk about their success. I hope this video offers a fresh reminder on how important clean and crisp images can be for your own portfolio.

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Bogdan Radu's picture

I don't know but it feels like he's mass producing and selling Photography on a conveyor belt at a very cheap price... kind of like China did to the world... while this surely benefits him and made him successful and rich, is this having a positive impact on the photo and now video industry?

A very valid point, But at the same time he's out to make a living for himself. If someone gave you the option of promoting the "art" of photography and being poor or making many millions of pound with production line photography what would you do? I know what I would do. 

 Its cheap to buy and use, but certainly expensive to conceive and produce and are of very high quality. Don't you enjoy affordable and high quality engineering like the computer you're typing on right now?

great point

 wow, that's awesome thoughts. image become cheap but still have great qualitys through his work. and it is easier to build his frame by this type of work, cheap and get world known and also published. then even individural work that need him as photographer from agency work. he can gain additional different money and get rich

@google-496bdfada8e1d9d5777e91333a665318:disqus it's a global market  and we have to find a way to compete.  I can't blame the guy for finding a niche and doing well within his niche.  

This guy makes me feel inspired and pissed at the same time. He take FANTASTIC images and then sells them for a dollar with unlimited rights. But I used to do the exact same thing. And, if I were in his shoes I would do the exact same thing. It's easy to sit back and be angry that he is destroying the photography market but at the same time we have to be honest and admit we would do it too, we just aren't good/disciplined enough. 

I have watched Yuri Arcurs for the last 3 years since I had a contract with Gettyimages to provide stock images for all their microstock agencies. This  man makes it possible for 50 or more people to earn a living, does you photography do that? He finds the models, creates stunning images and retouches them with simplicity and perfection. He's been a the top for a while and he knows how to stay there! My hat is off to him!

Yes that is very true he does employ tons of people BUT you could also argue that he is putting thousands of photographers out of business by selling quality work for pennys. 

I do respect Yuri for his entrepeneur skills, but there will be simply no competition in some years. He will continue like this until someone will realize how unfair will become his business, forcing to regulate that specific market. Or not.

awerllow's picture

Didn't notice it until today, but the photo of one chic on the Eye-Fi ad displayed here on Fstoppers is one of Yuri's. She's actually his girlfriend. Anyway, though I can't help but feel pissed also for seeing AWESOME photos sell for dirt cheap, but I can't blame the guy for doing what he's doing. Lee is sooo right.... I would definitely do it too if it was me. Would probably do it unapologitically with zero regret.

Bogdan Radu's picture

He took his fantastic images and give them away for peanuts on a mass scale..
I have nothing against stock photography there is a place for that.. I just don't think his images belong there...

We should all be as talented as Yuri, Buy a Hasselblad and produce high quality photography like his, then to compete with him we should sell it for 50cents a piece :)

I do not employ 50 people but I'm sure there are more then 50 potogs who are not getting the calls like they used to ...and its not because their work is not as good as yuri's but because they can't afford to sell it for 1$

Don't get me wrong people.. I think Yuri's work is amazing... I just wish he wouldn't turn the art of photography into a Dollar Store. There could be enough work for everyone if we stop being so greedy. I look at fotogs like Chase Jarvis, Joe Mcnally, Jeremy Cowart and many others who are very successful and have done very well for them self's all without hurting the industry or making it harder for the ones yet to come.

We should all work hard at improving and finding original ideas for our craft in order to stay competitive.. but lets not drive the value of our work into the ground....

Robert's picture

Good point, i agree

You could argue that Chase, Joe, and Jeremy are hurting the market with their DVDs, speaking tours, books, etc. They are educating the pro-sumer market, which takes away jobs from the pros. (I don't agree with this but it's just an argument you could make)

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mikenewton's picture

I think we should all remember that the entire industry is quickly changing.  The internet has brought a worldwide audience to us all and unlike the traditional media companies struggling in todays world, we should all learn to adapt to new models and distribution channels.  The music industry wasn't happy about itunes disrupting their business, but we all now appreciate the convenience of individual songs on demand.  Take a cue from the great business minds who disrupt entire industries and provide more convenience at a better value to the masses.

I just keep thinking that if he is making a buck an image, how much could he make if he only did rights-managed stock.  His imagery is good and he definitely has his system down to a machine.

There is still money to be made in rights managed and I would think that dud could mop it up.  

I'd think he'd rather take 3,000 images and license them for $100 each than to shoot 300,000 for $1 each.  Either way you end up in the same place.


Russell Graves

Patrick Hall's picture

The thing is hundreds of people will buy the $1 image over and over for years and year.  Once an image is sold for $100, I have to believe less companies will want to license that.  Super high end publications want an exclusive image so at some point a single image at a higher value might not sell but once or twice.  

But a single image at a higher price still gets you to the same point as a $1 image sold hundreds of times.  Like most all stock images (rights managed or royalty free) visual trends and clothing and hair styles change so the chance of a stock image with people in it selling for years and years is, in my opinion, slim.  Instead, those images have to be updated on a regular basis.

In the end you'd be surprised at how often even rights managed images will be licensed.  Either way, as I mentioned before, two downloads at rights managed prices gets you to the same point as hundreds of downloads at royalty free prices.

I think we are essentially in agreement on this, Patrick.  I may not be explaining myself all that well.

Russell Graves

I'm not sure you evaluation of the market is accurate though.  Arcurs is a smart guy, and like a lot of others he's realized that the market at $1-10 is exponentially larger than at $100+.  If I'm hearing right, it sounds like he's bringing in $1million or more a year...  I don't know of many/any traditional stock photographers that are doing that.

Remy Musser's picture

Microstock photography is just an evolution of the photographic market.

Magazines don't have the same budgets anymore, most of websites have very limited budgets....
That all came with the raising of the internet.

I used to work on assignments for over 8 years and then switched full time  to microstock, and trust me I have no regrets. I even regret not starting earlier... FYI We are not only selling photos for $1... they can go to much higher prices as well.

He deserves his success.

I can't help but notice the giant chasm between Yuri and myself (and most other photographers I'd bet). What he does requires massive amounts of efficiency and organization, and those are qualities you won't often find in artist types. I don't even really consider myself an artist, but he's doing things on such a massive scale and I couldn't easily handle that. Nice work Yuri!

The photo biz has and always will change...  We can either leverage the change for our business in a positive way or be steamrolled.  Either way, change comes.  

I think yuri does the right thing, personally is a source of inspiration, we can take pictures of microstock in each region producing what we have at hand, I I live in mexico and in many places require good pictures but they can not get right photos for each type of market so those nations can be generated for specific markets, can not put a picture of a blond person for Latin people.

Good luck to the man.

Nobody says a word about the hundreds of thousands of crap photographers
selling their crap images for peanuts...
My point is: Arcurs didn't
start in microstock as an excellent photographer dropping his prices to
take the market. Arcurs simply discovered one day that there exists a phenomenon called microstock and then he jumped in as one of the countless crap photographers that don't sell a
dime. Unlike most of them though, he had the will, the discipline and the dedication to learn
and become better and better, and by doing so, he ended up being what he is
today. Blame him? Don't be ridiculous.