Images are a means of communication. And just as spoken and written language adapts over time, visual language does too. Successful stock contributors keep their portfolios current and optimized to serve the needs of image buyers.

So where do you go to find trends and inspiration? Start with a paper notebook, a tablet computer, a smartphone, or any desktop, and keep an idea journal or mood board of what you find. Here are some places to get ideas for the imagery you create.

I love photo | Close-up of water drops, with rainbow

1. Social Media and Online Tools

What topics are trending? Who are the most influential people in news and culture? What causes do they believe in? What issues are controversial? How could they be illustrated conceptually and literally?

2. The Newsstand

Scan the latest headlines. Are there any common themes? What are the political issues that will carry into the next election? Are there any emerging or inspirational aesthetic or visual trends?

3. Home Furnishings and Fashion

What colors are most popular? What looks were popular in this year’s fashion shows? What styles are popular in home and garden magazines?

Pablo Scapinachis | Interior design scene with modern chair and Calla Lilly. 

4. Technology

What are the coolest new gadget trends on the technology blogs? What types of products and technology make headlines at the electronics trade shows? How do popular products today, like cell phones or computers and tablets, differ from ones seen in previous years?

5. Demographics

What is changing about ethnic and cultural diversity? How is your neighborhood changing?

Tukaram Karve | Childhood friends in Salunkwadi, Beed, Maharashtra, India

6. The Calendar

What are the anticipated news, social, and cultural events that will be coming up in the next year or two?

7. Your Street, Your World

What’s different about your neighborhood? The local food? Local fashion? Architecture? Religion? Cultural events? There’s increasing demand for “local” and “authentic” images.

8. Holidays and Celebrations

What are the popular holidays and celebrations around the world or in your town?

9. Contemporary Art

You should never copy the work of other artists. But you should keep an eye on what’s interesting and new in the world of art, including photography. What problems, issues, or concepts are contemporary artists trying to explore? What new techniques are available? Take a look at gallery shows, as well as art blogs, books, and magazines.

Hugo Felix | Umbrellas coloring the sky in Agueda, Portugal

10. Classical Art

Sometimes the old ways are the best. Museums and art shows that include traditional paintings are great sources of timeless inspiration.

This article is an excerpt from the Shutterstock Contributor Success Guide. To download the complete guide in multiple languages, visit this page.

Interested in becoming a Shutterstock Contributor? Sign up now »