The Great Debate: The Benefits of Stock Photography over User Generated Content

The age of social media has brought with it the ability for consumers to share their experiences and opinions on products with not only their friends, but the world. Simply sharing a photo of themselves using a product can give brands exposure to thousands of new potential customers without having to lift a finger. This new age of advertisement has brought some to question the effectiveness of stock photography as a marketing tool where user generated content has proven extremely effective.



The authenticity of user generated content lies in the direct interaction between consumers who intuitively trust each-other’s opinions and reviews more than any marketing tactics employed by producers/suppliers of the product. Where stock photography marketing may seem clichéd and inauthentic, often failing to provoke any emotional response from consumers, there can be nothing more authentic than the natural interaction between consumers.

User generated content has proven statistically superior to stock photography as consumers have been shown to trust in user generated content seven times more than conventional advertising. 56%* of people are more likely to buy a product when endorsed through user generated content, where 76%* of consumers find user generated content more honest than conventional advertisement.


Stock photography is a readily available form of advertisement with websites such as doing the majority of the work for advertisers by sorting and filtering images. This both ensures a wide frame of choice, a quality standard, and immediate availability of stock photos. Alternatively, user generated content cannot be immediately produced as it relies on consumer response on social networks. Manufacturing user generated content can seem inauthentic and leave a bad taste in the mouth of potential consumers.

Not only are stock photos readily available and quality assured, but their providers (e.g. also ensure that all legal requirements have been met prior to the purchase of photos. While model release forms and other such documentation have already been formalised when buying stock photos, the unwarranted use of user generated content can create legal problems for companies. 

Stock photographs are a cheap alternative to holding a professional photoshoot, especially where only a few photographs are needed. The logistical and operational costs of a photoshoot can outweigh the gain from the few photographs attained. Alternatively, while the cost of user generated content is essentially free when realised, inspiring consumers to share their experiences through ad campaigns can prove expensive and unreliable.



Through stock photography a fixed price is paid for quality-assured photos with an almost certain probability of achieving the advertisement strategy’s goal (assuming the correct strategy is implemented). A company who uses stock photography controls their image completely as they choose to show what represents them, making stock photography a safe, reliable option.

Unlike with stock photography, user generated content is left entirely up to the consumer’s discretion to share their opinion of the product. The user may share an unfavourable view, harming the product’s reputation among the individual’s social network followers and therefore negatively affecting the brand. Users might also harm the brand by associating the brand with inappropriate themes not in line with the company’s agenda for their product. User generated content can therefore be a gamble with potentially harmful consequences.

User generated content is also unpredictable in its effectiveness; a company may invest large amounts of money into an advertisement campaign with the hope of fostering positive user generated content with little or no success.  The unpredictability of social trends which dictate consumer’s interaction with products can mean that companies invest large sums of money and by chance ‘miss the boat’ on a trend, squandering their efforts.

The Verdict

In conclusion, while user generated content has proven itself to be a vastly superior advertisement strategy when effective (particularly among millennials), its unpredictability and unreliability is a significant deterrent from this strategy. Where a company can fully dictate its image using stock photos in their advertisement, user generated reviews leave potential consumer’s opinion at the discretion of an individual whose priorities lay not in the companies’ well-being, but in their personal experience. In a digital era where news spreads like wildfire or dissipates without mention, the importance of maintaining a positive brand-focussed image has never been greater; this is not a promise which user generated content can ensure. Coupled with an effective advertisement strategy however, stock photography provides a reliable and affordable quality-assured way of communicating your brand’s message to consumers.


Asia is unique, and so are we. is Asia’s 1st curated photo stock website. Powered by our proprietary ethnicity tagging Klaud9 gives access to Asia’s largest database of Asian stock photography. 

If you’re looking for the best Asian stock photos to boost your next marketing campaign, marketplace is a great place to start.

*Consumer Survey Report

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