What does the future hold for stock photography? Discover where these seven pro photographers see new opportunities in this growing creative industry.

The world is full of images. Last year, people around the globe captured an estimated 1.2 trillion digital photographs, far more than anyone could have anticipated just a decade previously. For comparison’s sake, the annual number of photos was a mere 80 billion back in 2000. And the demand for imagery keeps growing. Earlier this year, Shutterstock reached more than a whopping one billion licenses sold. Another 5.5 images will be licensed every second you spend reading this.

All these statistics got us wondering: what frontiers remain uncharted? What topics are stock photographers looking forward to exploring in the future? Hundreds of millions of images are available at our fingertips, but what kinds of pictures will buyers search for in the next few years? We asked seven top contributors to weigh in on some of the niche areas that haven’t been covered just yet. Read on for their thoughts.

1. “Demonstrating original thinking and a little bit of humor can lead to unexpected conceptual designs.”

Victor Zastolskiy

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Unexpected Concepts

Image by Victor Zastolskiy. Gear: Canon Mark II camera, 24-105L lens, 3d software, such as Blender, Corona render, 3ds Max. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/125 sec; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is my picture of an elephant in a café interior. I like the elephant and café themes separately, but alone, these are common topics in stock photography. But think of an elephant’s adventures in a restaurant. Here, you have an interesting image and a practically empty niche.

Pictured: [1] Victor Zastolskiy [2] Victor Zastolskiy

Victor Zastolskiy:

Today, nearly any topic in the stock photo industry is represented by thousands of pictures, but one way to find your niche is to combine the “uncombinable.” Demonstrating original thinking and a little bit of humor can lead to unexpected conceptual designs.

There are a lot of niches in stock photography that haven’t yet been filled, and I believe the niche of truly original pictures will never be completely filled. Demand for such ideas will always be high. In addition to photography, I also use 3D visualization, which makes artistic freedom practically unlimited.

Pro Tip

Think outside the box.

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2. “In my opinion, most stock photographers, including myself, try to shoot neutral photos that would please customers all over the world.”

FamVeld

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Keep the Customer in Mind

Image by FamVeld. Gear: Canon 5DS R camera, Canon EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/2000 sec; f2.5; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Spring is the most beautiful time in Holland. I never miss a chance to shoot the blooming tulip fields. This year was no exception. I selected a traditional Dutch dress for my daughter, bought a bunch of fresh tulips (of course, you are not allowed to pick them in the fields), and took a couple of trips across the provinces, searching for the perfect location.

I was looking for typical Holland landscapes and the things that pop into a person’s mind when they think of Holland: tulips and windmills, and of course, the right lighting. I thought that I would have to use photo editing software to combine the windmill and the flower field, but then I saw it: a windmill in the most gorgeous tulip field with enormous yellow blossoms. Just breathtaking.

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Offer Local Flavor

Image by FamVeld.

FamVeld:

In my opinion, most stock photographers, including myself, try to shoot neutral photos that would please customers all over the world. In many cases, it is difficult to guess in which country a photo was taken. I think that, as a stock photographer, I should try to also cover more of my local lifestyle, traditions, and culture. I want to show its beauty to the world without constantly rationalizing the economic value of my work.

Pro Tip

Tap into what makes you different and unique.

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3. “According to estimates, the self-care industry for men increases exponentially every year in most countries.”

Josep Suria

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Subvert the Status Quo

Image by Josep Suria . Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f4; ISO 250.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This image was part of a session where the main theme was a man getting a massage. Because we were in a spa, we decided to do some more shots with the model, directing the action just as we would with a female model. The model’s beard also helped to emphasize that contrast between the masculine and the feminine. The result was this fantastic shot. Today, the image continues to be a top seller in my portfolio.

Pictured: [1] Josep Suria [2] Josep Suria [3] Josep Suria

Josep Suria:

Currently, there is a powerful industry related to women’s cosmetic and luxury care; however, images of men in a spa and images of men undergoing treatments like body creams or laser hair removal are much less frequent. According to estimates, the self-care industry for men increases exponentially every year in most countries. More and more men are becoming aware that you have to take care of your body inside and out. I think this niche could be interesting to watch in the next few years, as I’m sure there will be a great demand for these kinds of images.

Pro Tip

Subvert the status quo.

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4. “Photographs reflecting real events and rare or disappearing places will always be relevant…”

De Visu (Dmitry Berkut)

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Photograph Real Events

Image by De Visu (Dmitry Berkut). Gear: Mavic Pro drone. Settings: Exposure 1/400 sec; f2.2; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Not many people know about this place. I specifically went to this village to take a photo of this wooden temple. The population of the village is three people. The Church of St. Nicholas, built in 1696, is the only surviving example of a steepled church of the Prionezhskiy school.

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Find Unique Places

Image by De Visu (Dmitry Berkut).

De Visu:

Photographs reflecting real events and rare or disappearing places will always be relevant, as will reportage photographs of events that will go down in history.

Pro Tip

Travel to places few people have seen.

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5. “Fashions change, and technology also evolves quickly. A good stock photographer must adapt to these changes as quickly as possible.”

Aaron Amat

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Adapt Quickly

Image by Aaron Amat. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, 85mm 1.4 G lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f2; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

We were fortunate to have an authentic Catholic priest costume, and we did a session on location and also in our studio. It resulted in unique images that have been selling very well.

Pictured: [1] Aaron Amat [2] Aaron Amat

Aaron Amat:

Shutterstock’s collection of images is extensive, and there are images of absolutely everything. Even so, there will always be gaps, especially in themes that require props or costumes that are difficult to find. For example, not everyone will have access to an astronaut suit, a priest’s habit, or an airline pilot or stewardess suit. Aside from that, the world is constantly changing. Fashions change, and technology also evolves quickly. A good stock photographer must adapt to these changes as quickly as possible.

Pro Tip

Use clothing and props that stand out.

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6. “…If you feel there is a growing interest in any particular topic, try to provide images that tap into it.”

Evannovostro

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Tap Into Growing Concepts

Image by Evannovostro. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/20 sec; f5.6; ISO 400. Photo combined in Photoshop CC with 3D images rendered in Autodesk 3ds Max 2016.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I prepared this collage after I noticed an increasing number of news stories referring to artificial intelligence based on neural networks. The very concept of “neural networks” was completely new and interesting to me. After some studying, I decided to illustrate this concept with three-dimensional structural diagrams in combination with a man’s portrait.

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Pay Attention to Technological Developments

Image by Evannovostro.

Evannovostro:

It is difficult today to find a new and uncovered niche in the stock photo industry, but technological progress does not stand still. We will always have new technologies, devices, and scientific achievements, so in my opinion, it makes sense to follow the news and find totally new terms to illustrate. When you read high-tech news, watch TV, or see new concepts, try to imagine how you can illustrate them. If it is truly a new idea, you won’t be able to find many images for it. And if you feel there is a growing interest in any particular topic, try to provide images that tap into it.

Pro Tip

Stay up-to-date on new technologies.

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7. “The world moves quickly, so follow all the new trends that are coming out.”

View Apart

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Follow Rising Trends

Image by View Apart. Gear: Sony A7ii camera, Sony FE 16-35 f4 ZA OSS lens. Settings: Focal length 27mm; exposure 1/60 sec; f4; ISO 320.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I have several images with VR devices used by everyday people. This one shows a group of friends enjoying time together through a virtual experience. This image represents the value of togetherness, even when we’re using modern devices.

7 Top Photographers on the Next Big Thing in Stock — Keep Updating Your Work

Image by View Apart.

View Apart:

I think that there isn’t one specific niche that hasn’t been filled. Instead, I think the key is to stay updated. The world moves quickly, so follow all the new trends that are coming out. My favorite, at the moment, is virtual reality.

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Top Image by View Apart.