19 May 2011 Monkey Business Images – Serious Business Microstock

Monkey Business Images logoWe don’t hear of many examples of people with a background in traditional stock flourishing in microstock.   Monkey Business Images is the company that makes up for it.   Despite quietly going about their own business, they haven’t been able to avoid becoming well known in the industry for their success.   They were cited in the popular Micro Machines article on PDN (subscribers only), had one of the top selling images on Fotolia for 2009, and spoke at the CEPIC New Media Conference last year. But there’s more to the Monkey Business Images story than lots of high selling photos.


Cathy YeuletMonkey Business is owned by Cathy Yeulet. Her first stock photography business was a premium Royalty Free collection called Banana Stock which she launched with royalties from her Rights Managed stock. As the impact of microstock became more apparent she sold Banana Stock to Jupiterimages in October, 2005.   After a two-year non-compete agreement, she assessed the landscape and decided there was money to be made in microstock – not a common conclusion for people with her background.

With 12,000 images already produced, Monkey Business Images signed up their microstock accounts in March 2008.

The Team

Monkey Business has a staff of 8 full time employees covering production, post processing and distribution. Cathy manages the business and directs the shoots. Sales and Marketing Director, Mark Butler, is responsible for growing sales through their distribution channels and third-party representations.

Very little is outsourced at Monkey Business. Cathy does the production, styling and art direction herself, keeping costs low. All retouching and post-processing is kept in-house to ensure consistency.

Microstock Production

Monkey Business Images started producing stock in 2008 and now has over 22,000 images in their microstock portfolio.   As you can see below, the level of quality throughout the portfolio is very high by microstock standards.

Extended family in living room smiling Senior couple on cycle ride Elementary school class outside
Woman at clothing store smiling Couple Enjoying A Game Of Golf Senior man giving woman piggyback ride

Production is a serious business for Cathy and the team. They produce multiple shoots each month with a full production team. They use mostly professional models who are all paid an hourly rate. The teams travels to locations for most shoots, though the top selling Fotolia image was shot in Cathy’s back yard.

Monkey Business will also be launching a premium priced RF collection in May, expanding their production back to the non-microstock stock photo market.


Monkey Business Images is a non-exclusive microstock producer. They have accounts at all serious microstock agencies:

iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime, BigStock, 123RF, CanStockPhoto, Veer, Crestock, and PantherMedia.

Not content with all those businesses, Monkey Business Images have started producing content for a new premium priced RF collection to fill the void of new content at traditional stock photo agencies. They’re doing this in addition to their usual microstock production. The new collection marks the start of plans to broaden distribution to all levels of the stock photography market.

The really interesting part about the Monkey Business Images distribution is what they’re doing with their images, and the images of other top microstock producers, in the traditional stock photo market. That’s what the StockBrokerXtra product is all about.

StockBrokerXtra Cross-Market Distribution

StockBrokerXtra is a business owned and operated by Monkey Business Images; essentially just a separate brand. The business distributes the portfolios of top microstock contributors to agencies in the traditional stock photo market. The company currently uses 70 distributors who sell the microstock content alongside traditional RF and RM at higher-than-microstock prices.   Invited contributors can simply send in their portfolios by hard drive. Monkey Business will then check the images to ensure all required releases are available and prepare the images and metadata to the various requirements of the distributions, which are substantially different to those of microstock agencies. Feedback from those participating so far is very positive and Monkey Business is open to hearing from microstock contributors interested in participating.

Additionally, StockBrokerXtra contributes images from traditional stock photographers into its own microstock accounts, providing an easy microstock entry for those with the skills to produce the content but not the inclination to handle microstock distribution themselves.

How’s it all Going?

Fotolia top selling photo of 2009While reserved about actual figures, Cathy reports that business is going very well for Monkey Business Images. If you take a look at the publicly available measurements you see a clear picture of meteoric rise through the ranks of microstock contributors:

  • Black Diamond rank at iStockphoto with over 290,000 downloads
  • Ranked 16th at iStockphoto by iStockcharts.de
  • Second-top selling non-exclusive contributor at iStockphoto
  • 6.07 sales per image at Dreamstime, which is particularly impressive with over 23,000 files
  • Ranked 3rd at Fotolia
  • One of the top selling images at Fotolia in 2009 (shown at right)

The StockBrokerXtra distribution business is also traveling a positive line. It’s growing in size and reach, creating a positive growth in revenue for both the business itself and its contributors.

Professional Stock

In the microstock market we’re used to hearing about successful microstock contributors who were designers or hobbyist photographers. We’ve all learned a great deal from the professional stock photographers in the traditional market.   The rapid rise of Monkey Business Images through the ranks of microstock contributors demonstrates that most of us still have a lot to learn.

The Monkey Business Empire

Monkey Business Images has a very powerful position in the microstock, and wider stock photography markets. Their own contributor accounts are possibly the fastest growing accounts in the market. Additionally, they control one of the largest channels of microstock content into the traditional stock photo market.

Given the company has achieved all this in under three years, it’s going to be fun watching their trajectory over the next three.

  • Vitezslav Valka
    Posted at 00:44h, 20 May Reply

    Nice piece! Great job Cathy!

  • Sean Locke
    Posted at 07:13h, 20 May Reply

    After distributing content through a redistribution distributor who then distributes … , how much, in the end, does the contributor make through the Xtra service?

    What is the yearly overhead cost for the business compared to the income? ie, 8 staffers and everything are X% of the gross profit, so net is %Y.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:09h, 20 May Reply

      Hi Sean, you can ask around if you like. The contributors I’ve spoken to about it are “very happy” with the extra earnings.

      Cathy doesn’t disclose the finances of her business, so we can only guess. Based on the wording of your question, I think your guess would likely be different to mine. 😉

      • Sean Locke
        Posted at 06:54h, 21 May Reply

        Interesting. Must be hard to keep track of all those contributors on 70 resellers. Guess it must be worth it for them. What is a “distributor” though? Is that an actual end reseller, like a small traditionally priced online agency in X country, or some other type of middle man? I wouldn’t have thought there would be so many agencies that actually made any money out there.

        My guess is paying 8 full time wages, plus benefits, plus more expensive shoots including staffing, and especially travel, would eat 70-80% of the gross.

        • Lee Torrens
          Posted at 14:42h, 21 May Reply

          I’m confident they have a computer to keep track of many contributors across 70 resellers. SuperStock have even more resellers, and each contributors’ content goes to a different combination of resellers too. But it’s amazing what you can do with computers these days.

          Yes, the distributors (or ‘resellers’ – I”m using those terms interchangeably) are smaller (and bigger) traditionally priced agencies, all around the globe. I’ve seen the list, and there’s a combination of well-known names and not-so-well-known ones, and obviously more of the latter. It’s a business model of ‘scale’. Individual resellers don’t add much in isolation, but when you have 70 of them (or 100+ in the case of SuperStock), it adds up very nicely.

          And yes, there’s LOTS. CEPIC says it has 600 member agencies / libraries / distributors. When you see the attendance lists for their events, and that of PACA, you realize just how big the market is (was?).

          My guess is that they wouldn’t have put on eight full time staff if they couldn’t afford to do so and maintain a healthy level of growth and profitability. I know quite a few other businesses doing the same, and they all seem to maintain profitability and growth without breaking much of a sweat. I also think most of them would be very happy with 20-30% margins, especially as revenue is generated independent of whether the costs are incurred.

  • Sil Boratti
    Posted at 10:05h, 20 May Reply

    Very nice work, love it!

  • Mike McDonald
    Posted at 13:43h, 20 May Reply

    Very cool story. Interesting to see how someone from the traditional RF market took a shot at microstock and so quickly turned it into something big.

  • Brooke
    Posted at 09:50h, 03 June Reply

    Nice article – I enjoy hearing microstock success stories.

  • Brian Weck
    Posted at 09:58h, 05 December Reply

    Small groups can make money in microstock, because they have less overhead. It’s easy if your business model is set up correctly. StockFuel.com has been in the black for some time.

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