Yeulet: From BananaStock to Monkey Business Images

Posted on 6/22/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

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. On July 1, 2009 images from Monkey Business Images had been downloaded over 52,000 times on iStock alone. At that point, Yeulet’s company was 254th on the list of most productive iStock contributors. Now, the company is 37th from the top, with 180,000 to 190,000 total downloads, or something in excess of 128,000 downloads in the past 12 months.

Yeulet's experience says that it is not necessary to have a large portfolio, or to have been an early adopter to be successful in microstock.
Yeulet has accomplished that with only 1,865 images in her iStock portfolio. Obviously, it is not necessary to have a large portfolio, or to have been an early adopter to be successful. Yeulet’s most downloaded image was uploaded to iStock on January 12, 2009; it has been used 7,700 times and viewed more than 116,000 times.

Monkey Business Images are available through iStock and most of the other major microstock and subscription brands. Yeulet also sells directly through the company Web site. At the recent CEPIC conference in Dublin, she provided some background on her company and operating philosophy.

“I love stock, because it’s always exciting and changing and offering new approaches, or

I hate the stock world because it’s always changing and taking away opportunities from me,” she said.

“Your future in this business is shaped on how you see things. I personally love stock and have always been willing to accept change and see how it can work for me. Micro is really working for us. One of my colleagues once commented that recent developments in stock are ‘a race to the bottom’. Some people may say that royalty-free started at the bottom in comparison to rights-managed, and look how quickly RF grew.

RM picture

“I, of course, started in rights-managed, where high prices and high commission were a given. Royalty-free came along, and all that changed. Instead of 50% and 60% commission we were used to, royalty-free companies only offered 20%. On top of that, they sold 100 images on CD for the prices of a single RM sale.

“Many of my colleagues talked of how it cheapened photography and exploited photographers—which sounds familiar today! But many saw the opportunity and gave it a go. For example, it would cost £15K to produce 4 CDs, and they returned over £600,000. I still receive regular commission payments today, many years later, from those same CDs.

“The moral of the story is: ‘Always see the bigger picture’. If a model is working for someone, then it can probably work for you!

BananaStock – Monkey Business

"People ask me all the time, ‘How do you make money out of microstock?’ The simple answer is that I do exactly what I did before—produce good quality images that clients want to buy. The difference is clients buy loads of them."
“After founding BananaStock from the revenue I was receiving from commissions, everything ticked along until microstock and subscription began to appear. The time had come to take a hard look at the market and cash in my RF chips as market changes appeared to be inevitable.

“Even after a two-year non-compete, the weight of opinion was that I shouldn’t go into microstock. (However, when I visited PACA in 2007, everyone was doom and gloom about royalty-free.)

“People ask me all the time, ‘How do you make money out of microstock?’ The simple answer is that I do exactly what I did before—produce good quality images that clients want to buy. The difference is clients buy loads of them.

"This image [of a family] is our most downloaded shot in microstock. It was done in my garden in Oxfordshire, U.K.

“These two images, with thousands of downloads each, are both the result of an afternoon spent visiting local businesses in our town, offering free pictures in return for the use of the location.

“I still shoot in the U.S. and Cape Town, because I make enough money to do so just like the RF days. I still do all the styling, production and art direction, which of course keeps costs down. We still get new pictures reaching the top of search engines within a few months.

Post production

“Time spent on post production will bring dividends—of all the different distribution models I have worked with, microstock is by far the most demanding and critical in terms of image quality and metadata standards. We have developed an efficient post production workflow based on keeping image processing, retouching, keywording and metadata production in house in order to achieve consistency.

“Unlike many of the photographers that have spoken today, at present I am only concentrating on microstock. By doing this, I never have to choose a licensing model that is most suitable for the image. All our good stuff goes into microstock.

“Instead, we have developed our areas of distribution by supplying both the microstock sites and the traditional channel with the same images to fulfill a growing requirement of low-cost photography.

“In the future, I see microstock agencies selling higher priced images on their sites and traditional distributors selling low-priced images on theirs. This integration seems to be the way forward."
“In the same way that the rights-managed and royalty-free strands of the industry became closer and closer, we see the same happening with microstock. We are now working with other microstock photographers, like Yuri Arcurs and Andres Rodrigues, to supply their images to the traditional distribution network, where many are looking for quality low-cost content to meet client requirements. At the other end of the spectrum, we are also representing images from traditional photographers who want to produce images and submit them to microstock.

“In the future, I see microstock agencies selling higher priced images on their sites and traditional distributors selling low-priced images on theirs. This integration seems to be the way forward.

“As a producer who has strong connections in both the traditional and microstock markets, we are in a great position to meet both their requirements and, in turn, help photographers to maximize their return per image at a time that many are finding it difficult!”

Copyright © 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, 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:  


  • Rahul Pathak Posted Jun 22, 2010
    Hats off to Cathy & the crew at Monkey Business. Congratulations on your success and ability to adapt.


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