For most photographers, microstock is a useful way to earn a little extra income. It lets them turn their images into cash and get a kick out of making a sale. For a few photographers, it’s actually an important part of their revenue. They shoot stock-quality images regularly, work at improving their portfolios and try to maximize the amount their pictures earn.
For Danish photographer Yuri Arcurs, however, microstock is even more than that. It’s a business that employs him and twelve assistants. Together, they upload around 400 images a month to seven microstock sites. Each image is sold on average 100-120 times during its first year online, adding to a portfolio that generates an incredible 40,000 downloads a month. (If you’re starting to calculate the sort of income that creates, bear in mind that all those assistants cost money. “This is a daily concern to me,” Yuri told us by email. “I try to reduce the expenses that I have, but since this is Scandinavia, and people in Scandinavia really don’t want to do work for less than $20-$30 an hour, it’s not easy to keep the expenses down. I spend around $10,000-$11,000 on salaries for my staff monthly.”)
Those figures might suggest that many of his staff are working part-time — and Yuri himself is a psychology student at Aarhus University — but they also add up to one of the world’s highest-selling microstock photographers. In fact, Yuri’s status as the top-earner at both Crestock and Shutterstock, and download figures of almost half a million images a year (as much as iStock’s leading photographer has sold in her entire career) suggest that he could well be licensing more microstock than any other photographer.
So if anyone knows what makes a microstock image sell, it should be Yuri.
“The content of a picture — ‘the feeling’ is the real seller,” says Yuri, who shoots a huge range of images from business to biology, but prefers photographing people. “I try to instruct my models a lot and get them in the right mood when on a shoot. If my pictures look artificial or staged, I will be just another microstocker trying to produce stock material. I try emphasizing genuine feelings and expressions so that I get pictures that look photojournalistic but with better lighting and better quality control.”
And of course, that quality is important. Each image that Yuri uploads goes through seven steps and takes two to three hours to produce. “When doing fashion shoots some pictures take as much as four hours divided over a couple of weeks and spread between first, second and senior editors,” he explains.
All images are spot-cleaned for sensor dust and facial impurities before uploading, but it’s the focus of the image that really requires work. “[This] is the hardest aspect to master, the one that costs the most money in equipment and the one aspect about photography that requires the most self-discipline,” Yuri says. “It is also the number one factor that get pictures easily approved.”
What all that attention to detail means — apart from rejection rates as low as 1 percent — is perhaps the most important part of being a successful microstock photographer: returning customers. Yuri reports that around half of his sales come from buyers who have bought from him in the past and trust him to create the images they need. “They want a Yuri Arcus picture,” he says.
[tags] yuri arcurs, microstock [/tags]