There’s a reason why London is one of the world’s most visited cities: the capital of England is a sprawling cultural kaleidoscope full of rich history, culture and entertainment. These aspects make it a particularly appealing place to capture imagery – both from those living in and visiting the city – and it’s often used as the backdrop for many campaigns.
Finding pictures of London has never been an arduous task, and a quick browse on various stock photography websites reveal thousands of images. But one of the driving factors behind London’s beauty is its people, and it’s those people taking authentic photos in real time that capture the true essence of the city.
A different type of photo
User-generated content (UGC) has risen in popularity over the years, and there has been an increase of companies using photos and videos that have been taken by everyday people. That’s not to say it will replace professional photography – far from it. There will always be a space for professional photographers, especially when hired for a specific project. UGC acts to offer an alternative to stock websites, while also complementing professional photography.
The appeal from the photographer’s side is two-fold: non-professionals who like to take the odd photo for their social media accounts have a chance for imagery to receive exposure, but there’s also a space for aspiring and established photographers to display their work through social media and other outlets.
One thing is certain: there is a demand for something different other than tried and tested stock photos that, while looking pretty, don’t tell real stories about the images they represent. This is where UGC and other niche photography services offer an alternative that can add new layers to a brand’s campaign.
Consumers are starting to demand more from brands and, whether it’s something as simple as using an image for a blog article or a full-on marketing assault, UGC affords the opportunity to see the picture through a different lens. Excuse the pun.
The rise of the independent photographer
The type of content that a brand uses to reflect their project comes down to the exact details required in the brief. If selling the lifestyle of London is high on the agenda, then imagery and videos that represent the aura captured in the city on a day-to-day basis could offer more validity than a staged photo.
There are few better places than London to capture high-quality moments, either through photos or videos. The city’s range of architecture makes it the ideal backdrop or perfect feature for an image, and it’s hard to argue against the authenticity of a picture taken by someone in the heart of the moment. You only need to type London-related hashtags into Instagram to get an idea of the true authenticity behind the visual content.
This is where UGC acts as a powerful tool when it comes to engaging with people. Inclusion is a vital aspect of UGC: people feel more like they’re a part of something, rather than simply being the endpoint of a sales campaign, when being actively involved in a brand’s output. Burberry and Coca-Cola have embraced this method in the past, with fashion giants Burberry successfully using UGC for a campaign to launch their trench coats.
One of the issues that have been brought up in the world of UGC and independent photography is copyright. The owner of the photograph needs to give permission for their work to be used, whether selling their content or agreeing for it to be used in other capacities.
There are also websites that bring UGC together in one place which safeguards photographers from having their work stolen, paying them a fee once their content has been purchased. This avenue also saves the content buyer time, removing the need for them to search various hashtags on social media.
New avenues for professional photographers
There are some elements of photography where the demand for a professional photographer will still be high on the agenda, especially when it comes to venues, property, corporate events and weddings. Searching social media and UGC websites for photos of event spaces might not be the best use of time – although AI and machine learning is making it easier to find images at a faster rate.
The real winners here are the photographers themselves, as they find multiple avenues available for their work to be showcased. There is no reason why a photographer looking for work would limit themselves to one outlet; there are an array of options available for photographers to showcase their work, which can only be a good thing for the industry.
The goal is to provide options, and these newer methods offer genuine alternatives to websites like Getty, Shutterstock and iStock. Authenticity is the keyword of 2017, and it’s important that brands and companies include authentic content in their work.
Lobster is an AI-powered platform which allows brands, agencies and the press to license visual content directly from social media users and could archives. Follow them on Twitter here.