Photography trends and the demand for types of images are ever evolving. Staying up to date on current trends and looking to the future is a great way to stay relevant.
Following trends blindly or being what some call a “copycat” photographer won't help you find your own photographic style. However, being aware of these trends and learning how to forecast future trends is an import strategy that photographers should incorporate into their specific genre and style.
There will always be mainstays and images that have a long shelf life in stock photography, but for a lot of the fast-paced clients like advertisers, designers, and bloggers, there is a constant need to be at the leading edge of trends and even predict or guide future demands.
What Makes Something a Trend?
Trends exist in every facet of human culture. It takes a variety of factors to coalesce something into a trend. Sometimes it's sparked by leaders in an industry or a celebrity endorsement that trickles down the chain of competition and followers. Sometimes it's a current event that influences what ideas and products reach a broader audience. Anything and everything from politics, movements, and pop culture can have an impact.
There are two types of ways to capitalize on trends with your stock photography. The first, incorporating aspects and popular themes into your existing work to give it a more current appeal to clients, helping you to stay relevant within your genre. The second, predicting and being on the leading edge of what clients will want, leading to more demand for your images as a result. The first is by far the more reliable and long-term strategy that will help you to build a large catalog that also stays up to date. Whereas the second requires lots of research and taking chances that may or may not pay off big in the short term.
So How Do You Find and Predict Trends?
Honestly, you are probably already doing it and not even aware. Go online and do a few specific searches for terms within your niche. Read a newspaper, watch a movie, television show, or just listen to what people are talking about. That's the first and easiest step. We as content creators often forget we are also content consumers. If everyone in your circle of friends is talking about the latest popular TV show take notice. If everywhere you look, on social media, on the news, and in conversations you see the same buzzwords write them down. These are the building blocks for what can dictate future visual trends.
Movies, TV, Music Videos
I love movies. I've been a movie fanatic since I was a kid. Not just for the enjoyment of watching them but for the way they can influence and popularize different themes and ideas in our culture. Over the last few years, there has been a steady rise in the success of fantasy and sci-fi genres. Genres that often come and go in minor popularity for the mainstream audiences. This rise has seen the revival of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises as well as successful TV shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Stranger Things. This has had a massive influence on design, advertising, and even photography trends. This is evidenced by almost all of the major agencies predicting Fantasy and Sci-fi being popular themes for 2018.
The fashion industry is no stranger to trends and is responsible for some of the fastest changing trends as a result of the "fast fashion" industry. If your photography is selling to clients that put an importance on how their market audience looks and dresses, then knowing what is popular and what is going to be popular is vastly important. Likewise knowing what trends to avoid so as to keep your images looking fresh while also timeless is very important. With the rise of Instagram, we have also seen more and more trends in advertising that attempt to move away from the polished models of the past and embrace more natural and diverse people and situations. Watching what influencers and fashion companies do on Instagram can show where the industry as a whole may go. You can also check out any clothing store and see what is being displayed on mannequins. This quickly can give you an idea of what people are more likely to be wearing for any given situations.
Design, Illustration, Advertising
Second to only fashion the design and advertising world is packed full of research, analysts, and data about past, current, and future trends. Not only is there a wealth of information to draw inspiration from but in most cases, these are the largest sources buying stock and hiring photographers. Producing content in line with these industries that anticipate the very trends they predict will give you an edge or at the very least keep your work feeling fresh and current. I pay attention to how photography is being used in design work both in editorial pieces as well as magazine and web ads. Understanding how creators will utilize your work within current trends allows you to create work that will appeal to more potential buyers. Philip VanDusen, the founder of Verhaal Brand Design, put out a great prediction video of graphic design trends for 2018. It gives lots of examples of just how photography might be used in popular design work.
Other Industry Trends
Look for trends in other industries that you can take advantage of. Start with your specific genre of photography. I shoot a lot of outdoor lifestyle, so I pay attention to new products, destinations, and rising activities that might become popular in the future. If I see something I think will be in demand or talked a lot about in anticipation I try to create images that will fill that need. Bloggers in all industries need to constantly be creating content that is fresh and on the leading edge. This often creates a lack of images that can clearly describe or go along with what they are writing about. Anticipating these needs puts you at an advantage if you have the only relevant images. Shooting work outside of your own specific genre can create niche work that meets an industry's needs that might not have a lot of current content available. The tech industry, medical, manufacturing, finance, and even social media all need imagery for articles, blogs, other editorial sources that often are boring and outdated because the imagery isn't following current trends in those industries.
Trend Reports and Predictions
Most big stock agencies will put out current trend reports and predictions for the following year. These can help to point you in the right direction of what might sell well but can also be a good source of inspiration. Finding unique ways to incorporate predicted trends into my existing work often leads me down new themes and styles I might not have tried otherwise. I don't jump on the trend wagon but instead look for fresh ideas that fit within my personal tastes and genre to move my work forward. Evolving as a photographer in this industry that is filled with talent can sometimes be difficult. If you find inspiration from sources that also make your work more relevant to new clients you're moving in the right direction. Adobe Stock put together an interesting visual trend forecast for 2018 that keyed in on several concepts that I have seen quite a lot this year. Themes like:
- Silence and Solitude
- Touch and Tactility
Be sure to watch out for their 2019 predictions on Adobe Creative Connection blog in the coming months.
Reinvent Old Cliches
Social media, stock catalogs, and even some advertising are full of outdated and stereotypical images. How often do you see boring old-fashioned family portraits on product shelves or that classic businessman in a suit with a newspaper? Images like this are abundant because it is easier to follow cliches than find your own style. Instead of copying outdated but successful images try to reinvent them with a trendy twist. The industry will always need these cliches so why not create images that push them into new areas of creativity. Mix up your subjects and make sure your fresh ideas stay diverse. VR is a popular tech topic for 2018 and stock representing it is in high demand. Imagine combining family photos with the use of VR to visualize a future where VR has become more commonplace. This is something that is often being written and talked about in the tech space. Find new ways to represent the same old images and those images won't get lost in the crowd.
The current photography industry is very competitive and full of increasingly talented individuals. Doing whatever you can to stand out from the crowd will always be a sure way to get consistent work. Keeping an eye on current and possible future trends is a great way to stay ahead of the game and find new inspiration that can lead to more sales and work. This is even more important with stock photography as the ever-increasing demand and changing environment mean images often don't have the shelf life they once did.
Start capitalizing on photo trends now by signing up and submitting your images to Adobe Stock.