Selling Stock Footage in the Age of User Generated Content

We are now living in an age where social media is ubiquitous. The quality of imaging devices has increased dramatically, while the cost of these devices continue to drop and photography and vlogging have become very common hobbies. It’s at this time that practically anyone can be a content creator and with each passing year, more and more companies are starting to leverage user-generated content for marketing and community outreach. So, why is that?

For starters, there’s some pretty compelling reasons to support this new movement.

A study conducted by The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications found that 66.3% of consumers rely heavily on user generated content when weighing a purchasing decision, and 65% of consumers trust word of mouth recommendations from other internet users over content produced by advertisers.

You might be wondering, will this trend of user generated content superseded a need for Stock Footage? It’s hard to define just how much cannibalization will occur across the two spaces, if at all, but Stock Footage isn’t going away anytime soon.

In fact, quite the opposite seems to be happening.

Consumers are starting to expect more content in the form of video and the Stock Footage industry as a whole has experienced incredible growth year over year. Industry research estimates global stock images and videos will generate in excess of $4 billion annually by 2023.

There’s one thing we do know for sure when it comes to content now, authenticity is king. Up until fairly recently, Stock Footage wasn’t exactly known for being authentic. The era of meticulously staged, over-lit scenes with gratuitously happy families in front of white backgrounds, business people in suits shaking hands, or women laughing alone with salad, is over.

Keep it real motivation by adam121

Companies that include these cliché examples within their content can be compared to leaving Lorem Ipsum in place of body copy in an article. Sure it fills the space, but it lacks substance. Consumers need to be able to connect to the content they’re consuming. It’s for this reason that footage needs to be relatable, it needs to be compelling, it needs to be believable and above all else, it needs to be real.   

If we can take some of the factors that make user generated content campaigns so successful and apply them to Stock Footage, we can help to bolster the perceived authenticity. These factors include:

Natural Lighting

The use of natural light is preferred as it usually better reflects the reality we live in and makes it easier for the audience to connect with the image. Shooting with natural light often requires careful planning for the time of day/conditions to get the best results, but it’s worth effort.

So, when shooting with artificial light, you should attempt to make the light appear as natural as possible.

Students with Tablet Pc Researching in Library by stusya and Creative Professional Working With Smile In His Face by StockHunter

Be in the Moment

Authentic shots need to feel like the footage was spontaneous and not staged (even if, most of the time, it is). It shouldn’t feel like the scene was planned to perfection, but that it was simply captured at the perfect time and that we are witnesses to that special moment.

Girl Making Apple Pie with Grandmother and Mom by Pressmaster

Real People, Real Expressions

Facial expressions can make or break a video’s authenticity and anything that feels forced or unnatural is unlikely to sell.

More and more customers are looking for footage that features real, believable people that are true to the subject matter and scenario, rather than the traditional model look you might expect. Don’t pose your models and shoot the same thing from multiple angles. Be creative, have them act out activities or experiences and just live in the moment. Look for unique perspectives, capturing their expressions and emotions.

Greeting Handshake of Young Business People Group at Working Meeting in Teamwork Office by VisualBricks


Consumers expect more from more from brands than ever before. Companies are putting their values front and center, inviting consumers to connect with them on a much deeper level. So visual content needs to be able to demonstrate clear and concise messages. Lifestyle, social justice, inclusion, diversity, sustainability, conservation, are just some examples of themes that customers may be interested in.

Choose a topic or theme and try find ways to to capture that message in your footage. Remember, the message needs to feel real.

Team of Volunteers by Wavebreakmedia

Depth of Field

While some may see shallow depth of field as more of a passing fad, it is often a hallmark of authentic footage. Using shallow depth of field can make a video feel more three dimensional, less flat and mimic the way our eyes see in reality. It can also help draw our attention toward a particular area or subject, which can further lend to the sense of being on location or physically present during the captured moment in time.

That being said, it doesn’t always make sense for every shot, so be sure to use it thoughtfully.

Back View Excited Female Tourist with Backpack Enjoying Amazing Sunset by Vadim_Key

Fresh Perspectives

Try revisiting existing concepts and themes that have been overly done and staged to death with a fresh pair of eyes, and bring them back to their most simple, natural form. Although the types of content to be captured is nearly infinite, the stock industry is generally very competitive.

It’s important to bring your unique perspective to the work you submit and always try to ensure your footage is able to stand out from the pack.

Vintage Retro Steam Engine Train Crossing Railway by selectmedias and Woodwork by The_Film_Factory

What do you think about selling stock footage in the age of user-generated content? Share your tips, thoughts and insights with your fellow community on the Envato Forums now.

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