Key findings from galleri5’s survey on online photo sharing

Since the beginning of human evolution, communication has been visual first and foremost. In today’s interconnected digital world, the mobile & social revolution is leading to an explosion of digital visual content at a pace never imagined before. Nearly 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared on social media every single day from everyday users like you and me.

This power of user-generated visual content had both intrigued and excited us at galleri5. With more mobile phone devices than people around the world, and with smartphone cameras becoming more and more powerful and popular, mobile users are generating vast amounts of exciting visual content than at any other time in history. Motivated by this thought, we conducted an online survey to understand whether the emergence of user-generated photos is redefining our online social experience. The data showed us:

  • ~85% of all respondents want to discover photos on topics of interest posted by everyday users, even if they are not within their friends / social circle
  • ~70% believe they take amazing photos on their smartphones at least once a month
  • ~50% want their amazing photos to be seen and recognized by a wider audience outside of their regular friends / social circle

The above data coupled with detailed user interviews that we conducted as follow-ups to this survey, have led us to a couple of interesting insights: (a) user-generated photos are fast taking over from professional / stock photos, which many users find unauthentic, generic and out-of-touch, and (b) users are looking for a platform that focuses solely on visual content discovery. For such a platform, providing the right context would be the key differentiator.

About the survey

Our online survey was conducted between 20 July and 20 August 2015. Nearly 1,000 internet users, mostly between the age of 20 to 30 years took this online survey (see Survey Demographics below). The survey asked respondents whether they believed they took great photos on their smartphones, and whether they would like to share and discover photos more widely than just their friends or followers/following on social media. We also optionally asked respondents to submit a few such photos so that we could feature them in a coffee table book. ~70% of the respondents had found the survey link on social media / internet forums and participated. The remaining respondents were approached offline in restaurants & offices in Bangalore for participation.

Survey Demographic

Key Findings

Finding #1: ~70% respondents believe they take amazing photos on their smartphones at least once a month.

This partially validates the shift in user behavior that we had hypothesized – because of easy availability of a good quality photography device in terms of a smartphone, a huge majority of users regularly take photos that they are fond of.

Finding #2: Every second respondent would like their amazing photos to be seen and recognized by a wider audience outside of their regular friends / social circle


49% users said they would like to showcase their photos more widely to people outside of their friend network. This also indicates a shift in privacy preferences of users. In fact, the viral growth of Instagram, a platform that by default makes all your photos publicly visible, shows that users are increasingly comfortable in getting their photos discovered and recognized by an audience that goes beyond their friends and regular social circle. It has been a long-held belief that most internet users are paranoid about privacy. This seems to be changing. It appears that users would like their photos and stories to reach the right audiences who share similar interests, some of whom may not be known to them.

Finding #3: About 9 out of 10 respondents want to discover amazing photos on their topics of interest, posted by every-day users, even if they are not within their friends / social circle


This is an extremely interesting finding since users are overwhelmingly telling us that they prefer to discover content based on their topics of interest irrespective of whether the content was generated by someone within their friends or social circle. This implies that for a content discovery platform, “context” plays a far more important and critical role than building another social network.

Finding #4: Travel is a hot topic of interest among user-generated visual content, but there are several other specific topics that are also in-demand


It is not a surprise that ~70% of the users like to consume travel / tourism related visual content generated by other users. It is a topic that most people can relate to, and something that most users create and consume on a regular basis. Discovery of user-generated visual content, therefore, lends itself very easily and readily to travel and tourism.

A closer examination of the data also reveals that there are distinct user segments for other specific interest areas. 34% like fashion related content, 28% like cooking / food, 27% like home decor, and 34% also relate to topics which we couldn’t enlist in the survey. Understanding the users and providing them the ability to discover content through definitive interests would be a major differentiator.


This survey shattered quite a few myths for us:

(a) The age-old 1–9–90 rule seems no longer true in the age of mobile and user-generated content. The spaces of social and mobile are merging, allowing users to seamlessly generate vast amount of visual content directly on their mobile phones and upload them to various social networking platforms. It is giving an opportunity to users anywhere in the world to create powerful stories through visuals and distribute it to a wide audience. Photos are mostly language agnostic and can easily communicate with today’s consumers who are inherently impatient. What is missing is an effective distribution and discovery platform for such content.

(b) The stories that normal users like you and me tell from our everyday lives is something that no professional or stock photo can truly capture or encapsulate. It is felt that stock / professional photos do not depict reality. Ultimately content needs to be authentic for it to engage users, which is why user-generated visual content is fast emerging as a priceless resource.

If the survey left us with any doubt, we also received more than 300 photos from survey respondents, who liked the idea of their photos being featured by galleri5. Several of these photos were fascinating because they all had amazing stories that were being told from the eyes of the users. The fact that ordinary users, most of them without a DSLR or any detailed theoretical knowledge of photography, had produced such breathtaking photos, was a revelation. We earlier felt it might be a challenge to collect enough good photos from every-day users to produce a nice coffee table book. Instead, in the end, we had a rather tough time shortlisting photos from a vast beautiful collection. The book, titled “On the road with galleri5”, feels like a road-trip through the moments, stories, emotions and the smiles behind the photos shared by the respondents of the survey. We have sent out exclusive hard copies of the book to some of the select contributors as a small token of our appreciation. The online version can be found here. We hope you will enjoy going through it!

This article was originally published in galleri5 diaries on Oct 17, 2015, which can be accessed here:

Photo by gags9999

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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