Yuri Speaks

Posted on 7/26/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Yuri Arcurs has written a long post entitled “Microstock sees its first major setback in 6 years and here’s why.” In it he explains (1) why he is pulling his images out of all microstock agencies except iStockphoto and his own Peopleimages.com, (2) why he decided to go exclusive with Getty, (3) why mobile, crowd sourced photography is “a serious threat to stock photography” and (4) why he has invested $1.4 million in Scoopshot. This article is a must read for everyone in the industry.

As might be expected, I disagree with some of his conclusions.

Yuri believes that Shutterstock will be seriously hurt because he and the 20 other photographers who work with him have pulled their collections. Today, Shutterstock has almost 28 million images in its collection. Yuri and his group have pulled about 100,000. Yuri’s images may be some of the most productive on Shutterstock. According to his father they are downloaded around 4,000 times a day but that still only represents about 1.61% of Shutterstock’s total downloads.

My guess is that the Shutterstock subscription customers will not go searching for another site that has Yuri’s images, but will simply use the best alternative that is available as part of their Shutterstock subscription.

Pulling these images from some of the smaller microstock collections that are much more dependent on his images may have a greater impact. Some of these collections may go out of business, but I doubt it is going to have much effect on Shutterstock, and probably not much on Fotolia, Dreamstime, 123RF and some of the other majors.

Yuri says that microstock is no longer the “right place for the professional photographer.” Many RM and traditional RF shooters will be happy to hear this, but I doubt they will see much improvement in their revenues. The only big change is for Yuri.  

Getty As A Partner

Yuri said, “In joining forces with GettyImages/IstockPhoto we where surprised to find that pretty much all the concerns we had as professional content providers where either already taken care of, or part of upcoming releases. If not, they would be now. The corporate culture at GettyImages and their ambition of constant product refinement was a perfect match with ours… it’s great [to have] a partner that understands how to market [our images]!  For the first time in a long 7 years, we [are] impressed by our partner.”

On the microstockgroup.com contributors have pointed out that iStock has cut contributor royalties, cut prices, eliminated The Agency Collection, seems to have constant staff replacements, seems to have severe problems with day to day business operations and an inability to pay contributors (at least for Thinkstock sales). This doesn’t sound like the same “partner” Yuri is talking about.

Exclusive Images

In his report Yuri says, “PeopleImages.com will be the only site in the world with only exclusive images that can’t be bought anywhere else.” What does exclusive mean? The same images are also available on iStockphoto, at least 24,000 of the 120,000 on PeopleImages are also available on Thinkstock and available through subscriptions. We also assume that some of them will also be available through the Gettyimages.com. So PeopleImages will not be the “only site.”

Some of the new production (a small percentage of the total collection) may only be available on PeopleImages, initially. If a customer wants to purchase “Exclusive Rights” that may be possible until someone else licenses the image for non-exclusive use. It is unclear exactly what the statement about “images that can’t be bought anywhere else” means.


While Scoopshot may eventually be disruptive to the Editorial (hard news) side of the business, just as microstock was disruptive to traditional stock photography, I doubt that it will do much to disrupt the “creative” illustration side of the business that is the forte of today’s microstock and subscription sellers.  

While mobile photography may make it possible for the “crowd” to more quickly get their images where someone that might need them could possibly see them 99% of what is uploaded will be totally unusable. Someone will have to figure a way to sort through the chaff. There will be issues about captions, keywording, copyright and model/property releases, scams and stolen images. Prices will have to go up before anyone trying to earn a significant share of their income from producing images will consider shooting for Scoopshot.

Scoopshot will certainly grow as more newspaper, magazine and online news organizations find they can get some of what they need through this source. Today’s editorial photographers will lose some share of their market (and most are hanging on by a thread already). But, I doubt that it will be much of a threat to Shutterstock or other leading microstock distributors because they license a different type of imagery.

Yuri’s $1.4 million investment in Scoopshot was probably wise. Not because the company will be another iStockphoto in its heyday, or another Shutterstock, but it will grow large enough that private equity investment will come in and bid up the price enough that Yuri will make a nice profit.


Finally, it is still not clear how PeopleImages.com fits into all this. Is it still a separate company wholly owned by Yuri or did Getty get ownership of the company as part of its deal with Yuri and, at best, Yuri now gets a share of future profits?

Yuri says that PeopleImages.com is part of a “partner program” like Thinkstock, Photos.com and Flickr. Getty owns Thinkstock and Photos.com outright. They own some of the images and pay royalties to some of the contributors. They don’t own Flickr, but certain photographers are allowed to become Getty contributors just like all other individual photographers that are directly contracted to Getty.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more as time passes.

Copyright © 2013 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 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Ellen Boughn Posted Jul 26, 2013
    I agree with you Jim. For a smart guy, Yuri has made some strange and even, perhaps, erroneous statements in his statement. I have to ask what special deals did Yuri cut with Getty to make him suddenly in love with not a new partner but one that he has been with all along as an istock contributor?

  • Tibor Bognar Posted Jul 27, 2013
    As far as I know, Mr. Arcurs contributed largely to the trend of prices racing towards zero. Isn't it ironic that he's now falling out of love with microstock? But a can of worms once opened can never be closed again. Images (like so many other things) are sold below production costs, everyone trying to hang on. Where will it end?

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