AI Takes the Throne: Adobe Stock Profits Soar with Synthetic Images Leaving 'Real' Photographers in the Dust

Adobe Stock

In the era of technological advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) has permeated various industries, transforming the way we create and consume content. In the world of stock imagery, a recent analysis of Adobe Stock has revealed a fascinating trend: AI-generated images are outperforming their 'real' counterparts in terms of revenue generation. Stock Performer, a renowned stock media analysis group, has referred to Adobe Stock as an "AI goldmine" based on data collected from 2022 to the present. This article delves into the findings and implications of this study.

AI's Financial Success on Adobe Stock

According to Stock Performer's analysis, AI-generated images on Adobe Stock are associated with an average revenue per image per month (RPI/m) approximately 4.5 times greater than non-synthetic sources. This translates to an estimated revenue of US$0.17 for AI-generated images, compared to just US$0.0375 for 'real' photographs. These numbers clearly demonstrate the significant financial advantage that AI-generated content holds over traditional photography.

Furthermore, the revenue per download (RPD) for AI-generated images was calculated at approximately 1.59 times that of non-AI sources on Adobe Stock. AI content achieves an RPD of US$1.94, while "any other file" generates an RPD of US$1.22. This discrepancy highlights the higher value placed on AI-generated images by customers on the platform.

A Closer Look at the Sell-Through Rate

While AI-generated images demonstrate substantial revenue generation potential, it is crucial to consider the sell-through rate (STR) to gain a comprehensive understanding of the market dynamics. The STR represents the percentage of images with at least one sale. On Adobe Stock, the overall STR remains consistent at 13% for all content. However, when corrected for synthetic media, the STR drops to 9%.

Although the STR for AI-generated images is lower than that of non-AI content, it is important to interpret this data with caution. As the study focuses on a subset of Adobe Stock users who are also Stock Performer customers, it does not encompass the entire user base. Moreover, this emerging field of analysis is still in its nascent stages, and further research is necessary to draw definitive conclusions.

The Transition from 'Real' Photography to AI

A noteworthy observation from the study is the categorization of Adobe Stock users who upload AI-generated content. There are two main groups: those who continue to contribute predominantly non-synthetic images, comprising approximately 90% of their uploads, and those who have almost exclusively transitioned to AI generators. This dichotomy suggests that 'real' photography in commercial stock imagery may be experiencing a decline, although the extent and broader implications of this shift require additional investigation.

Implications and Future Prospects

The findings of this analysis shed light on the evolving landscape of stock photography, emphasizing the growing significance of AI-generated content. The superior financial performance of AI-generated images on Adobe Stock indicates a changing preference among customers, who are valuing and purchasing such content at higher rates. As AI technology continues to improve, the quality and realism of generated images will likely surpass current standards, further bolstering their appeal in the stock imagery market.

However, it is crucial to recognize that the study's conclusions are based on a limited sample size and focused on a specific subset of Adobe Stock users. Broader research is needed to validate these findings and provide a comprehensive understanding of the market dynamics. The impact of AI-generated images on the future of stock photography remains an area ripe for exploration.


The analysis of Adobe Stock data by Stock Performer indicates that AI-generated images have proven to be highly lucrative compared to 'real' photographs in terms of revenue generation on the platform. The significant difference in revenue per image and revenue per download highlights the financial advantage of AI content. While the sell-through rate for AI-generated images is lower, further research is needed to fully comprehend the implications of this shift. As technology progresses, AI-generated images are poised to play an increasingly prominent role in the stock imagery industry, challenging traditional photography and transforming the way we perceive and create visual content.

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