Will User Generated Content Kill Stock Photos?

Posted on 6/17/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Matt Munson, CEO of Twenty20, recently made the case for why User Generated Content (UGC) will be The Death Of Stock Photos. He argued that “stock photos do not depict reality” and that “brands that use them risk coming off as generic and out-of-touch” with consumers.

He also said that stock photos are the antithesis of telling “meaningful stories that catch people’s attention and engage them.”

This kind of attack on stock photography is becoming more and more common, but it surprised me coming from someone who is trying to make his living operating a website that licenses stock photos. I decided to write him a letter. So far he has not responded.

Dear Mr. Munson:

I’m confused. I would like to understand how “user-generated content” (UGC) differs from “stock photos,” or at least the user-generated content Twenty20 is offering and licensing.

I presume you would agree that the people creating stock photos are creating content and are also users of content. I’ve met a lot of stock photographers and I have never met one who isn’t a “user of some type of content.”

Of course there are some stock photos that are well crafted and useful in informing the public while others are crap. The same is true, as far as I can tell, of user-generated photos. If anything, I think a greater percentage of the UGC photos, compared to those created specifically for licensing as stock, fit the latter definition rather than the former.

Does a UGC photo have to be created with a cell phone? I don’t think so, but many of them are. Does a UGC photo have to be of something that just randomly occurred in front of the photographer, or can the UGC photographer set out to find something specific to photograph?

Does a UGC photo have to be one that is created by an amateur? Part-timers or amateurs create a huge percentage of the stock photos that are currently available. These photographers earn some money from licensing rights to their images, but usually not anywhere near enough to support themselves or to be considered professionals.

Does UGC have to be free? I can understand why the clothing brand Free People, or Apple with its iPhone 6 would much prefer to get the images they use in their advertising for free rather than pay for them. And if people are willing to give those images away for free, more power to them. Some of these same people who make their images available for free might complain if someone came to their place of work and offered to do their job for free, but I won’t make that argument.

Given the way you use the terms it seems that if it’s a bad photo it is a “stock photo” and if it is a good one then it is “user generated.”

What I don’t understand is how all this fits in with the business of Twenty20. As I understand it you are in the business of licensing photos produced by image creators. You charge $10, $20 or $50 for a single photo depending on file size delivered. You also have subscription options that are effectively more expensive than those of Shutterstock or a lot of other microstock image suppliers.

It seems to me you are advocating killing your business. I don’t understand.

Maybe “user generated content” is another one of those phrases in the English language, invented in the Internet era, that has absolutely no useful definition or meaning.

Copyright © 2015 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.  


  • Thomas Winz Posted Jun 22, 2015
    now i am paying for a question without an answer . Great

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff