In 2021, photography will see a dramatic shift towards emotional storytelling, realness, and a return to nature. Here’s our top trends.
Every year, visual trends emerge that challenge what we thought was popular and well-liked, and motivate us to innovate and try new things when it comes to photography and photojournalism. Covid-19 changed how visual arts and freelance artists worked, and our photographers had to adapt to the changing times, too. How production took place, and how visual imagery was created, drastically shifted in this new normal. Big teams became smaller, and production became localized. In 2020, stock photography saw a boom as more and more creatives looked to license their imagery in innovative ways.
Today’s article explores five new photography trends that we anticipate seeing in 2021, along with tips on how creatives can market and challenge these new trends with the imagery they create.
1. Authenticity Stripped Down
Authenticity is nothing new. For years, authenticity (hello #liveauthentic) has rained strong on social media and marketing platforms. However, if there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, it’s that life’s essential moments have merits. In 2021, we anticipate a resurgence of authenticity, but even more raw than we’ve seen in the past. The essentials are what we’re focused on now, and coronavirus has given us time to reflect on the things that matter the most.
Stripping down to the bare bones of who we are will translate visually through emotional photography that tells stories. People around the world are adjusting to this new normal, and feelings of isolation are on the rise. As such, people are going to turn to visuals to show a less glamorized version of who we are. Instead, people will look to photographic visuals to showcase real life in all its gory glory. Less makeup, less editing, and more emotional moments captured as they happen. In stock, we see this trend in all forms of marketing. Not just messy homes, but chaotic lives unfolding in front of the lens.
Explore more images from The “Unfiltered” Aesthetic image collection.
2020 was the year for tough conversations, and conversations that were long overdue. From the much-deserved spotlight of the Black Lives Matter movement to the continued conversations about diversity and inclusion for the long game, 2020 was about remembering we’re all in this together. In the past few years, an increasingly large amount of visual trends focused on empowering minorities and marginalized communities. However, we don’t anticipate this going anywhere this year. 2021 is going to be about togetherness and community, forming those bonds even deeper—ones we worked to create and maintain in 2020.
Amplifying issues of systemic racism, visual imagery will modernize through photography, showing a world together as a whole. Beyond genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and body types as differentiating factors in visual imagery, we see 2021 visual imagery as not just inclusive of these terms, but mandatory to depict the real world we live in. In 2021, we anticipate and hope that creatives will continue to depict a world of togetherness and inclusion in all visual imagery submitted to the Shutterstock marketplace.
3. Dramaticized Normality
As kind of a juxtaposition to the authentic and realness trend, we’re also depicting a flip side of this with an increasing emphasis on vividly dynamic and intense imagery. Emotion is deeply important to photography, and in a visual world that has been dominated by minimalism and simple styles in recent years, we anticipate a movement back to powerful studio imagery that shows high-impact and technical skills in photography.
In stock, we discourage heavy photography manipulation that seems in-genuine. However, this doesn’t mean that an image can’t be enhanced through colorful props, bold colors, and an intense story that leaves you wondering, “What exactly is this image?”
In this visual trend, we see photographs with high contrast and a significant focus on the subject of the photo. The backdrop adds depth, and how the image tells a complex and compelling story leaves the viewer in complete and total awe.
4. Natural Moments in Nature
If Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore albums are telling of visual trends, it’s that a return to nature is what we all need. In this visual trend, we anticipate a return to the soft flow of a natural landscape in visual imagery. Whether you’re creating product, fashion, lifestyle, or travel imagery, less is more with this trend. Let the backdrop of your surroundings speak for itself.
Nature allows the viewer to return to the environment. It focuses on the beauty of the world without a focus on the superficial moments in-between. For products with a natural focus, using nature in photography is key. In fashion photography, nature provides an easy backdrop for depicting a simple, homey feeling. For travel, there’s nothing better than a beautiful landscape image to tell the story of a place as being merely stunning, in and of itself.
5. Going Vertical
As we continue to see a growing use of vertical imagery on social media, we anticipate this trend trickling into stock photography more. Instead of just creating visuals in horizontal format, take and upload vertical orientation imagery. Often, for customers searching for imagery on stock marketplaces like Shutterstock, having a vertical image will allow them to use the image better on Instagram Stories, TikTok, IGTV, or other vertical platforms.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are working and consuming content from home and often from their phones. Vertical content is showing no signs of slowing down, and we don’t anticipate it going anywhere in 2021.
Photography requires you to constantly look ahead and anticipate the next big thing. We always suggest that photographers who are creating content for stock look to our Creative Trends and Color Trends for new and innovative ways to create in the upcoming year. A key resource for photographers is the Shot List, an up-to-date monthly resource on the top content being searched for by customers on our marketplace. We can’t wait to see what you create next.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these articles:
- 10 Business Tips for Photographers Heading into 2021
- 5 Inspiring Prop Trends for Still Life Photography in 2021
- 14 Best Tips for Styling Your Home for a Photo Shoot
- How to Create a Mood Board for Your Next Photo Shoot
- Introducing Shutterstock’s Grant Program: The Create Fund
Top image by Street style photo.