For the most part, photographic images on the internet are poor and cheaply done, and they look like it. But as the internet matures I believe the photography will to. Its like years ago when everyone was using a 35 mm film camera and all of a sudden a little 110 compact pocket camera became available and everyone bought one because of convenience. But we sacrificed image quality for convenience. Same thing with the web, its convenient now and cheap photography is accepted, but it will become more competitive and mature and really good photography is going to be required. Generic photographs done on white paper are not going to cut it.
Jakob Nielsen, a web site consultant has concluded that random photographs and stock images for internet use online are completely ignored by users, add more clutter to a page and does not help from a business standpoint. His eye tracking survey found that these filler images of stock photos or generic people photos are intentionally disregarded by the consumer, while actual photos produced for a specific intention ( an actual photo shoot, professional photographer = $ ) and a picture is specific and real, users will engage with the image for an extended period of time. Jakob Nielsen also states that "most sites are full of fluff - of which there's too much of that clutter already on the web." Bottom line is this study concludes that people ignore generic images online. See full story HERE at New York Times. See Jakob Nielsen's "Photos as web content" HERE. Mr. Nielsen concludes with advice to those using the web to hawk products, services or content, "Invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add fortune to your web site's business value." I guess you get what you pay for!