Fstoppers Interviews Shutterstock Creative Director Terrence Morash About Industry Trends

Fstoppers Interviews Shutterstock Creative Director Terrence Morash About Industry Trends

If you're a photographer or videographer, keeping abreast of creative trends is pivotal to best positioning yourself to continually evolve and turn profits. Fstoppers spoke with Shutterstock Creative Director Terrence Morash about how creative trends are analyzed and predicted and how photographers and videographers can use that information to their advantage. 

If you work in a creative industry, you undoubtedly notice fads coming and going (HDR, anyone?), but predicting and harnessing those trends takes attention and devotion. Earlier this year, Shutterstock released a report detailing what we can expect in 2017, such as an increase in nostalgia-based themes, self-reflection, wanderlust, and muted color palettes. What makes Shutterstock's report so interesting, though, is that beyond the qualitative examples, there are hard percentages and statistics (the mathematician in me is jumping for joy) to provide deeper insight. 

Being able to collect hard data on seemingly quantitatively nebulous things such as nostalgia really piqued my interest. Morash notes that this is accomplished by Shutterstock's design, video, and music experts analyzing global download and search data from the previous year. With billions such searches conducted across a catalog of over 125 million images every year, the data is robust, and from that, increases and decreases in the needs of designers, marketers, and more are readily identifiable. For example, Morash notes: 

In the case of nostalgia, customers are literally searching for imagery using that keyword or similar in other languages.

While ideas such as nostalgia might seem a bit abstract when it comes to identifiable actions that can be put into practice, specific, easily enactable trends are also measured. For example, the top view video trend has taken off. No doubt, you've seen those minute recipe videos on your Facebook feed that take advantage of that perspective to create compelling and digestible how-to content. This, in tandem with the flat lay trend of 2016, has evolved to create an "artisanal, experience-driven tone" in which the filmmaker actively manipulates on-camera objects, something that Morash expects to continue to grow in 2017, particularly with drones becoming more mainstream and normalizing said perspective. Not only is the trend expanding in popularity, its nuance is evolving as personal styles are showcased through it. 

The top view perspective is becoming increasingly normalized and popular.

Some trends surprise even the experts, however. Morash notes that the seemingly diverging binary nature of this year's trends is really surprising:

The trends oscillated between the real world and our digital lives, between nature and tech, and between the past and the future. As technology creates a new world around us, we seek comfort in familiar symbols and natural styles. But the thrill – and uncertainty – of the digital age remains a driving force behind the trends shaping 2017.

The ability to capture both expected and unexpected trends in a succinct, quantified way is important to Shutterstock, as creatives (especially those working in the stock industry) are constantly looking to increase demand for their work. As such, I asked Morash for his advice on how photographers and videographers can practically implement these trends into their work. He recommends taking a look at the complete list of keywords and considering "all the trends, from cultural to global, social and visual trends around the world because they are all unique in their own way." From there, one can create a comprehensive plan that considers those specific to their locale and areas of expertise and design their creative contributions going forth in 2017. All of this translates to creating content with the aim of anticipating and satisfying the aesthetic expectations of customers, thereby translating to increased sales and and success for stock contributors. The key is that content consumers are always looking for fresh looks that can rise over the veritable din of a culture of bombardment, and identifying and integrating trends is a key step for the content creators to make such looks that are available while something is popular, instead of being created reactively once the movement has passed.

By taking in hard statistics on what stock customers are looking for, creatives can in turn gear their work toward those trends and see an increase in profits.

When asked about what he anticipates beyond 2017, Morash expects to see "continued divergence and disparity as the world diversifies," though he doesn't expect the stark contrast of 2017 to necessarily be repeated. Personally, I think there is a tremendous opportunity for nuanced artistry. Dichotomy and polarization are themes at the heart of so many great pieces of art in all realms, and I find it exciting that content consumption is gaining a nuance for deeper themes. The opportunity to go beyond first-order creative processes that are literal representations and explore secondary and tertiary themes while still maintaining practical emphasis that translates to financially successful work is probably stronger than ever, and that in turn creates happy consumers, self-actualized artists, and promotes a culture that lauds subtlety and nuance.

We can make art and make money doing it!? Life is awesome!

Morash notes that while the data is tremendously useful in guiding creative decisions, it's important to keep one's ear to the ground by watching real-world manifestations. For example, the glitch trend ("distorted images that represent the darker side of new technology") is already picking up speed in the mainstream, as can be seen in one of the trailers for "Ghost in the Shell":

Seeing these real-world examples can help guide creatives in integrating them into their own work and bridge the gap between trends like self-reflection and the ephemeral Internet and practical decisions, such as what visual effects to add to a sequence or what camera angle to use. 

If you haven't seen the full report, I highly recommend checking it out and absorbing its details. It's a great way to distill the constant influx of culture we're bombarded with on a daily basis into a succinct list of trends and considerations to make when creating future work. Whether it's how the fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally alter our lives or just the fact that Americans really seem to be into jalapeños this year, it's a very illuminating read that should spark ideas. If you have any questions or examples of how you use creative trends in your work, be sure to leave me a comment! 

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John Naccarato's picture

Great article thank you.

Brian Pernicone's picture

Hey Alex, just wanted to take a moment to thank you for all the content you produce for Fstoppers. You are prolific, no doubt, but most importantly, you're informative. From a former journalist and current photo pro, thanks for your good work.

Alex Cooke's picture

Hi Brian, I truly appreciate the kind words, particularly coming from a former journalist! It's my pleasure!!