Whether you know it or not, you’re a content creator. When you snap a photo of your dog (or perhaps a stranger’s dog) being adorable, when you share your latest culinary creation, or when you take part in the Millennial right of passage that is Instagramming a pop-up, you’re creating content.

UGC – as we refer to it in the industry – stands for User Generated Content. It’s when fans of brands push content to their social followings that features products or services. Again, you may not know it, but in all likelihood you’ve done this.

Brands that take social seriously eagerly await your UGC. They want to engage directly with you and share your work to their massive networks. Why? Because it’s an authentic use of their products. It represents a real connection – something that traditional advertising regularly fails to capture.

If you want to get your images, videos, and GIFs recognized and shared by your favorite brands, here are some tricks:


What Not To Do

Don’t Forget to Feature the Product: The product has to be the hero of the shot. If it’s too small, if it’s in a koozie, or if the label is obscured, it won’t work.


Don’t Include Competing Brands: Make sure no other brands or logos are in the shot! Budweiser probably wouldn’t be stoked about having Stella’s logo in their image.

Don’t Get Lazy: The image has to be in focus. This may seem obvious, but with all these crazy filters, sometimes images end up really soft, almost blurry. These are unusable.


Don’t Stray From The Brand: Speaking of filters, don’t add a ton of crazy filters to images if you want brands to use them! Edit like the brand does. Check out their Instagram to see what their editing style is like. Or, just keep it simple with a little light editing and – “artsy” color toning.

Don’t Break The (Obvious) Rules: Different types of brands have to follow different rules. For example, alcohol brands won’t show anyone under 25, and there are other restrictions based on the brand, which may include the use of flags, icons (like Santa), any trademarked media, and public figures. So that photo of you and your baby with a bottle of proseco might be cute, but no matter how good it is the brand simply can’t use it.

Don’t Forget to Interact With the Product: Don’t just post your face with the product. Your face might be cute, but it doesn’t do a great job of showing context of how you use the product or why you love it.



What To Do

Shoot a month ahead: Brands are planning their calendars in advance, and one of our biggest problems with UGC is not having anything for the upcoming season. If you’re shooting Fall beers in September, for instance, that’s both rare and amazing, and your images are more likely to get used by the brand. Those Summer Ale images are beautiful, but they won’t work for most beer brands once Summer Ale is off the shelves!

Include your friends (both human and pet!): Many brands love to see their product as part of social situations, and we all know pets perform super well on social. So, bring on the pets!




Shoot more UGC! It’s the most efficient way to show appreciation for your favorite products (and for brands to reciprocate the love). Many of us are walking around with state-of-the-art cameras in our pockets. Now is the time to hone your skills as a photographer, get recognized for your work, increase your following, and give brands the justification they need to keep making your favorite stuff!

The imagery used in this article comes from ISL UGC-inspired photoshoots. For more, check out our work: VW, Prestige Brands, Facebook, and Sheetz.