How Successful Photographers Do It

Posted on 7/14/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Looking for some vacation reading material? Here are some suggestions. If you want to know how successful stock photographers do it, here are links to a series of interviews done over the last couple years. There are lots of different strategies. Some of these photographers are among the world’s most successful. Other’s like Todd Klassy and Holger Mette are relatively new to the business, and have adopted unconventional strategies that may be the wave of the future. At least their strategies are providing them with a lot of personal satisfaction.

It is interesting to compare Yuri’s comments in 2010 with what he was saying two-and-a-half years earlier. This provides some sense of how the microstock industry has changed. For a different perspective see the three Ron Chapple interviews in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

Also included at the bottom is Jerry Kennelly’s recent interview with Jonathan Klein about his assessment of the future of the stock photo industry and John Lund’s interview with me earlier this year about where I think the industry is headed. Not surprisingly they are two very different points of view.

Yuri Arcurs - 2010
Anyone who has heard the term microstock has probably heard of Yuri Arcurs. He is recognized as the worlds most successful microstock photographer, but is much more than just a photographer. He is a brilliant businessman adept at marketing, self promotion and managing a large staff. He is a production company with a full-time staff of about 30 and another 20 part-timers who work at least 10 hours a week. Included as part of his staff are 4 or 5 other photographers who actively shoot and whose work is marketed under the Yuri Arcurs brand. Don’t forget to check out where he was in 2007.
    Yuri Arcurs – 2007
Tom Grill
Tom discusses his strategies for success in stock photography with advice for both new and established stock photographers. Tom was a founding partner in Comstock, one of the most successful agencies in the catalog era of the 80s and 90s. He is one of the photographers who founded and own Blend and owns Tetra. He discusses what to shoot, the importance of RPI, selecting agencies and even what gear he uses.
Jim Erickson
Jim Erickson breaks all the stock photography rules and yet is one of the world’s most successful sellers of stock images. Pick any strategy that everyone agrees is the key to success in stock, and Jim Erickson is probably doing the opposite. He sells stock to clients rather than through agencies. Erickson never licenses rights to an image for less than $350, and the average license fee is about $1,800. He produces an annual print catalog and distributes it to only 20,000 top buyers. His gross revenue from stock sales in 2008 was over $2 million and he couples his stock business with an assignment business that grosses an additional $2 million. Read more about how he does it.

Bill Bachmann
Travel photographer Bill Bachmann is an ardent advocate for basing stock image pricing on usage (the rights-managed model), not on file size (the royalty-free and microstock models). In 2009, Bachmann is on track to earn almost $1 million from licensing his travel and lifestyle images. Over 80% of Bachmann’s income will come from more than 50 agencies that represent his work around the world; the rest is from direct sales. For most of the last 25 years, he has grossed over $1 million in stock sales per year.

Rick Becker-Leckrone
Rick Becker-Leckrone, CEO of Blend Images, is interviewed about his background, the success of Blend Images, and the state of the stock photo industry.

Cathy Yeulet
Don’t tell Cathy Yeulet that you can’t make money in microstock. She operates Monkey Business Images, one of the most successful microstock production companies. However, unlike many microstockers, she is not new to stock photography. For many years, Yeulet operated a successful rights-managed business in Oxfordshire, U.K. When traditional royalty-free first began to take off, she created the BananaStock brand, which she sold to Jupiterimages in 2005 for approximately $19 million in cash. She started uploading images to iStockphoto in March of 2008.

Ron Chapple
After great success at producing and selling traditional rights-managed and royalty-free imagery for more than 25 years, Ron Chapple started producing microstock in 2006. He uploaded 5,000 images in February 2007 and aggressively produced images for microstock until early 2008. By September 2008, he had about 15,000 images in his iofoto collection, available on a non-exclusive basis through a number of microstock distributors. In October 2007, we did a story outlining his early experience with microstock and in 2009 we took a look at the results after two years. Don’t forget to look at these two stories.
    Ron Chapple: Two Years in Microstock – 2009
    Ron Chapple and Microstock - 2007
David Scott Smith
While the transition from still photographer to television commercial producer is difficult, David Scott Smith’s odyssey illustrates that an image creator and storyteller can find satisfaction in shooting and producing video.

Sarah Golonka
Photographer, Art Director and Editor Sarah Golonka shares her knowledge and tips on succeeding in stock photography.

Todd Klassy
Is Flickr a place for a professional photographer to display his work and sell images? Todd Klassy thinks so. Right now he is an amateur devoting maybe 3 hours a week to shooting and another 6 in post production and studying photography. After the first of the year he intends to quit his job of 17 years and start working full time as a photographer.

Holger Mette
This is an interview with Holger Mette, an Australian photographer who's been traveling the world for two years earning his living from a small portfolio of photos he distributes in the microstock market. We discuss travel, photography and microstock, with example photos and links to his microstock portfolios.

Jonathan Klein
Jonathan Klein is CEO and co-founder, with Mark Getty, of Getty Images and the most influential person in the global stock photo industry. For fifteen years he led an aggressive acquisition campaign which positions Getty as the leading source of still and moving imagery as well as footage and music. He is a passionate believer in the power of the image to create change in editorial as well as creative photography. In this exclusive CEPIC DAILY interview, he gives frank answers to some tough questions posed by Tweak founder Jerry Kennelly. It gives an intriguing insight into Getty as a privately held company and their vision for the future of the industry.

Jim Pickerell
Jim Pickerell has a long history in stock photography as a stock shooter, an agency owner, and an industry analyst. He is the publisher of Selling-Stock and  In this wide-ranging interview he shares his experience and insight on the future of stock photography.

Copyright © 2010 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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