The 4 Key Sources of Visual Content For Marketers

Marketers everywhere are shouting it from the mountains: visual content is king.

The facts don’t lie. By simply adding images to promotional content you get this: 


(Stats source: HubSpot)

The images you choose to use on your social media, in your ads, your website, and whatever other digital channels you have, can mean the difference between a “so-so” response, and a slam dunk.

Now, all that stands to be discovered is where a marketer like you can go to get visual content. 

These are 4 key sources of visual content every marketer can tap into right now: 

1 | User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content is anything that your community (and not you) creates around your brand. For example, if you’re a destination marketing organization, these are the photos people have taken in your destination and then shared online. 

Once an overlooked resource, marketers have since realized that UGC visuals reveal a window into the “real life” experiences customers are having with their products or destinations.

According to eMarketer, 65% of social media users from ages 18 to 24 take information shared on social networks into account when making a purchasing decision, and ComScore found that brand engagement rose by 28% when consumers were exposed to a mix of professional and user-generated content.

The best part? The constant influx of UGC on social media makes it a dynamic, ever-changing well of images. Our client, Visit Eau Claire, shows a fantastic gallery of user-generated visuals right on their homepage, which updates itself to showcase the best food and drink, local art, and popular locations visitors are currently enjoying at their destination.


And it’s more than just nice to look at: site visitors can click into each photo and see the original post and the original caption — which translates into a longer time-on-site and higher engagement as well as providing relevant context to the photo.

But marketers should note that quality and size of user-generated photos can vary quite a bit (for example, Instagram photos are generally smaller, and Facebook photos lose some of their clarity upon upload). And, you’ll need to give attribution as well as ask for permission from users before re-posting or repurposing their content, depending on the platform’s terms and conditions.

Still, UGC is an amazing source of visuals that you can tap into.

Where can you use UGC visuals?

These images are great when you want to involve the community in your marketing:

  • Sharing on social media
  • Embedding on your website
  • In your ads and media kits
  • In small size print materials

2 | Stock Photography

Stock photography is one way to get a quick, high resolution visual content, without spending too much money on an individual photograph. These are the photos people have taken for the express purpose of being used by marketers and brands. 


The best thing about stock photos is that there are so many available, for pretty much any topic. Want a picture of an office meeting? A lunch date? A kid using an iPad? There’s a stock photo for that. And while some sites require royalties to use their photos, they’re not often very expensive, and many others are free.

Keep in mind though: some pictures have already been used in your industry. Use the same photo accidentally, and you’ll look generic. Our advice? Keep a note of any “frequent flyer” stock photos you spot in your market research and day-to-day article reading, so you know which images to avoid.

And because stock photos can look over-posed and cheesy, they’re not the best option for feature images, or anywhere you want your visual content be the center of attention.

Where can you use stock photography?

Any place you need a quick, high resolution image taking the backseat:

  • Presentations where the copy is front and center
  • Background images on your website with copy placed on top
  • Title header images on a text-focused blog post

3 | Commissioned Photography

Of course, you can go the traditional route and hire someone to take photos for you. Have an event coming up? Planning a printout brochure, media kit, or billboard? Then professional, commissioned photography is best the way for you to go.

We understand it’s easy to (initially) balk at the idea of searching for and hiring a professional photographer, and then spending $1,000+ on a professional shoot. However, when it comes to aspirational visual content, bringing a pro on board is the best way to get high-quality images with the exact look and feel you want.

Do you want your brand to feel adventurous? High-end? Breathtakingly detailed? A great photographer can bring that vision to life.


The Royal Ontario Museum, for example, commissions photographers to take high resolution photos of their exhibits. They have a certain feel they want to portray on each exhibit’s feature page, and by commissioning these visuals, they have complete control.

While hiring a professional does come with the usual risks of hiring an outside contractor (i.e. the quality of work may very from their portfolio, you have to trust them to deliver images and abide by contract conditions, etc.), the payoff can increase your credibility and perceived value exponentially.

Where can you use commissioned photography?

Anywhere you want high-quality and specific on-brand visuals:

  • TV ads
  • Event promotion
  • Large print assets

4 | In-House Visuals

Have a designer or creative lead on your team?

Then you already know this is one great source of visual content that doesn’t create additional overhead cost. In-house visuals are the images you create yourself.

Creating your own visual content means you have complete control over each tiny detail of how it looks. When creating infographics, for example, or other branded visuals, you can really put your brand’s personality (like your fonts, colors, and tone of voice) into it.

The downsides are that making these in-house visuals does take time out of your day, and you do need to have some sort of design savvy. But there are also sites like Canva and Pablo that’ll help those who aren’t quite so artistically inclined create beautiful visual content.

When can you use in-house visuals?

These images work best for projects that require unique branded visual content: 

  • Presentations
  • Blog visuals and infographics
  • Explainer videos

Now, it’s time to put those 4 sources of visual content to work

You don’t need to be a miracle photographer to get amazing visuals for your marketing. Tap into these 4 sources and you can make them work for you.

A mix of UGC, stock photography, commissioned photography, and in-house creations can help your readers stay engaged and vying to give your destination a visit.

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Header image photocreds: @prachymohan