User Generated Content

Posted on 7/31/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Forbes Magazine has a story entitled “Move Over Stock Photos, It’s Time For User Generated Content.” There certainly is an increasing demand for User Generated Content (UGC) and the market is being flooded with it, but there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding how much it is likely to take over the stock photo market.

The “Move Over Stock Photos” idea seems to indicate that professionally produced stock photos won’t be needed anymore. Certainly all the major stock photo agencies are sucking up all the user generated content they can get their hands on and their collections are now flooded with UGC.

Anyone who wants to try to make money from their UGC needs to get it where customers can find it and that probably means some kind of stock photo agency. So agencies may be protected.

Of course, if money is not something that interests the creators, they can put their UGC on free sites. A lot of free images are being downloaded (see here), but it is unclear how much of it is actually being used commercially.

There is a problem in determining what is UGC (created by someone using a particular product or service) and what is a candid look created by a professional in an effort to make it look like UGC. What would be interesting is if some of the professional distributors (Getty, Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock, Alamy I hope you’re listening) would do some analysis of sales to determine whether their customers are actually purchasing a lot of the UGC.

My guess is that most of what is actually being purchased are carefully planned images that the photographer’s research has shown are of subject matter in high demand. The photographer has carefully organized the subject matter so there are no confusing, unneeded elements in the picture. The photographer may have arranged the picture so it looks candid and natural, but the shoot was organized and carefully planned. A huge percentage are not new images, but ones that have been in the collection for a long time and been licensed many times. If there are people or products in the pictures, releases are available. I may be wrong.

Of course, one of the big problems for the user who goes to the free sites looking for the perfect, natural shot that perfectly fits what he/she is trying to say is that there are too many choices. The more people who think the photo they’ve just taken might be of interest to someone, the more photos get uploaded. Most won’t be well keyworded so they will be very hard to find unless the searcher happens to be lucky.

In the long run it may be harder for the customer to find something useful on a free site than to go to a site that charges a fee and is better organized. Time is money. Most image users don’t have unlimited time to search for what they want. Of course the paid sites mentioned above are flooding their collections with so many images that they make it hard of customers to find anything useful there either.

The Forbes story focuses on Sarah Stenhouse who reviews some of the 95 million UGC photos uploaded to Instagram each day and selects certain she thinks are "authentic" and might be of interest to professional users. She then contacts the image creator and obtains permission to represent the image on the creator’s behalf. If releases are necessary, she makes sure the creator has them. Then she posts the image on her site for potential customers to review.

Searching through OODLS is a lot easier than searching Instagram because there are lot fewer choices. Of course, the “right image” still might not be there. And then the problem is making potential users aware that OODLS exists. But maybe a story in Forbes will solve that problem.

Copyright © 2019 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:  


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