Photo trends on a video platform seems counterintuitive—but here’s how photographers on TikTok are finding creative ways to share their work.
By now, you know that TikTok is an immensely popular video app that allows users to create and share fun, short videos. But, did you know it’s also the perfect platform for photography?
You may think the platform is only about dance videos, lip-synching, and challenges, but dive a little deeper into TikTok and you’ll find thriving communities built around specific niches and fields. This is why, if you’re a photographer, you should be paying attention to photography trends on TikTok.
Since TikTok is a platform driven by trends, here’s the latest formats we’re seeing on TikTok—and how you can tap into them yourself.
The Basics of TikTok
- The algorithm: TikTok’s mysterious algorithm has yet to be explained. But, know this: the app tends to group together related videos, then recommend those to users who it thinks will enjoy them. This is helpful when it comes to exploring niche interests like photography.
- Collaborations: Creativity between creators is integral to the TikTok experience. You’ll often hear the term “duet” thrown around. It’s been described as a remix to a song and involves adding onto another creator’s work.
- Transitions and sounds: Videos that use these features are more likely to be discovered in the TikTok app.
- Trending songs: TikTok videos lean heavily on the use of specific songs (which is why they tend to go viral on the app). Using a trending song is one way TikTok creators can hack the algorithm to get their content seen.
- Hashtags: TikTok heavily relies on hashtags to serve up videos. By clicking on hashtags, you can easily discover what people are using to get to the “For You” page (a.k.a. the homepage of the app).
- Challenges: TikTok challenges take many forms. The key is that they’re catchy, easily replicated, and compelling enough to recreate.
- Memes: TikTok is an ever-rotating source of memes. Understanding memes on TikTok will give you a better idea of how to tap into the culture of the app.
TikTok Trends for Photographers
For photographers, creating content on TikTok means following the latest trends and adapting them to your creative work. Here, we explore eleven of the top trends for photography on TikTok, and how you can use them to market your photography business.
Note: These are just some of the suggestions to follow when it comes to creating content on TikTok. For even more tips and tricks on getting started on TikTok as a photographer, check out this article.
TikTok Photography Trend #1: Tutorials
One of the most surprising aspects of TikTok is how effective it is as a learning tool. The hashtag #LearnOnTikTok is a treasure trove of edu-tainment.
What do tutorials look like for TikTokers?
As photographers, you can use TikTok’s short-form format to impart valuable advice, tips, tricks, and resources. Unlike YouTube and IGTV, which favor the talking-head format, TikTok creators are limited to three minutes (up from one minute), allowing for a more visually-oriented lesson.
Bonnie Rodriguez, a Miami-based photographer, teaches posing hacks (often by forming a triangle using your body). Her poses help photographers capture subjects in a more flattering and artful way.
A Simple Formula for Creating a TikTok Tutorial
- Introduce your video: Caption your video using text that offers context into what you’re sharing.
- Before & afters: Whether you introduce your final shot at the beginning of the video, end with it, or do both, your viewers want to see how you got from point A to point B.
- Behind-the-scenes: Show multiple angles, your camera setup, and other tips and tricks that go into creating your final stunning shot.
- The editing process: Give your viewers an inside look at how you edit and process your images. You can caption this section with text, or offer concise narration while you film your computer or screen record. Make sure to speed up your video so you can quickly capture your entire workflow.
TikTok Photography Trend #2: Photography Hacks
Building on the idea of tutorials, we’re seeing TikTok creators share photography hacks—usually DIY ways to achieve high-concept and creative photography effects. This is often geared more towards maximizing the camera on your smartphone, but it can apply to DSLRs, too.
If you’re a pro photographer and you’re thinking no thanks to these photo hacks, you might just be surprised at the lessons they impart. This hack is all about leveraging everyday objects and ingenuity—two things that could help you level up your next shoot.
What does a photography hack on TikTok look like?
Let’s take the spotlight hack as an example. This trend uses an empty toilet paper roll to create a spotlight on your subject. Here’s a TikTok that explains how to achieve this effect:
TikTok Photography Trend #3: #ForThePhoto/ Behind-the-Scenes
Unlike other apps where you see the final image but rarely the creative process behind it, TikTok is all about pulling back the curtain. Sharing a simple still image is no longer what drives engagement. Instead, what people want to see are fun videos about the shooting process.
In this case, there’s an entire hashtag built around this: #ForThePhoto. Here, viewers can see and learn first-hand how a photographer achieves an image. And, for creators, showing your behind-the-scenes process can help to build trust, transparency, and credibility.
TikTok Photography Trend #4: Sharing Secret Spots (On Location)
On TikTok, photographers will often create videos showing life on set or location. Like Instagram Stories, these real-time moments highlight the working life of a photographer—which serves as inspiration for budding professional photographers.
Plus, they’ll often break down how and where to access these locations. For this trend, you’ll want to share your favorite locations, then follow that with images you’ve taken from each location.
TikTok Photography Trend #5: (Photo) Challenges
You can’t write a TikTok article without mentioning challenges. Here are some of the challenges we’re seeing pop up in the photography world lately. (Keep in mind, by the time you’re reading this article, they’ll have likely already changed!)
TikTok Challenge: The Star(light)
The concept is simple. Cut shapes into cardboard or a piece of paper and use it to manipulate light in your photography. Genius!
TikTok Challenge: The Puddle
This challenge involves faking reflections using water and glass on a previously shot image.
TikTok Challenge: The Frames
This incredible photo trick involves taking a set of empty frames to a location and playing with perspective to give the impression of a surreal art exhibit.
TikTok Challenge: The Vogue Challenge
The Vogue Challenge involves taking a Vogue-esque image and sharing what the cover would look like with the font and logo from the famous fashion magazine. Anyone can be a cover star with this one.
TikTok Photography Trend #6: Slideshows
This one is also pretty simple. To create a photography slideshow, just pick your favorite images to share, choose a song, play with different transitions, and use bright, bold text to caption your slides. That’s it! A simple, but fun, way to show off your work.
TikTok Photography Trend #7: Photo Collage
With only fifteen seconds, sixty seconds, and (now) three minutes on the clock, it’s a race against time to showcase the variety of your work in one video.
This is where utilizing photo collages can really come in handy to present a wider variety of your portfolio.
A third-party app like PicPlayPost is an all-in-one collage maker and video editor available on Android and IOS. You can choose from several automated templates, the transition speed, and adjust the aspect ratio for TikTok. You can also bypass templates altogether to create a custom slideshow.
TikTok Photography Trend #8: Memes and Comedy
When it comes to TikTok photographers, you’ll find videos that poke fun at the client-photographer relationship, the editing process, and other industry-specific humor. Like most videos on TikTok, these are fun, silly, relatable, and, best of all, easy to do! This is a chance to show off your personality alongside your humor and work as a photographer.
TikTok Photography Trend #9: 3D Effect
If you’re up-to-date with TikTok, then chances are you’ll already be aware of the latest craze taking over the trendy video-sharing app: the 3D photo effect. The effect, created entirely outside of the TikTok app, transforms two-dimensional photos into three-dimensional landscapes, breathing life into the subject to achieve some truly eye-popping results.
Here’s how to give it a 3D makeover to any photo from your portfolio:
- Download the app CapCut.
- Open the app and import a photo.
- Click on Edit.
- Click on Style.
- Click on 3D Zoom
- Save to Camera Roll.
TikTok Photography Trend #10: Stop Motion
To create your own TikTok animation, click on the effects feature on the bottom-left, and tap the Stop Motion icon in blue and black. From there, the Animation Creator screen will appear, which gives you a quick rundown of how to use the feature correctly.
TikTok Photography Trend #11: iPhone Editing
TikTok users are always coming up with new creative ways to enhance their photos. So, perhaps it comes as no surprise there’s a must-try iPhone editing hack everyone is raving about. The results? Glowing golden-hour photos.
Adjusting the various aspects of your photo—like brightness and contrast in a specific combination—can help (even photo novices) create a dazzling end product. Partaking in TikTok hacks might be against your ethos as a photographer, but a professional take on this much-hyped photo gimmick might be just what the internet needs.
Here’s how to do it:
- Set highlights to -35.
- Set shadows to -28.
- Set contrast to -30.
- Set brightness to -15.
- Set black point to 10.
- Set saturation to 10.
- Set vibrance to 8.
- Set warmth to 10.
- Set tint to 39.
- Set sharpness to 14.
- Set vignette to 23.
Best Cameras for TikTok
Most videos on TikTok are captured using a smartphone camera. But, just because you’re shooting videos that will be viewed on a smartphone doesn’t mean you should sleep on DSLR or mirrorless cameras, which offer better image quality, superior lenses, and the camera’s built-in stabilization.
The ability to change lenses makes it possible to experiment with different effects, including shallow depth of field, motion blur with slow shutter speeds, lens flare, faster frame rates, or slow-motion effects. All of these effects can enhance your photos on TikTok.
That said, DSLR and mirrorless cameras do come with an added element of complexity. For example, you’ll have to get files from your camera to your computer for editing. You’ll have to make a point to shoot vertically versus horizontally based on how TikTok content is viewed. Otherwise you’ll need to go in during post and edit the footage to fit vertical phone screens.
While some extra steps are required, the creative freedom you gain makes up for it. Here are only some of our favorite cameras on the market for TikTok:
Not only does this point-and-shoot camera take beautiful DSLR photos and videos, but it also works seamlessly with smartphones. Simply download Nikon’s free Snapbridge app, and your photos will appear on your smartphone or tablet.
For newbies, the camera features a Guide Mode, which provides simple on-screen guidance. Why choose the Nikon D3500 over shooting with a smartphone? Well, the image sensor in the D3500 is approximately fifteen times larger than those in typical smartphones, meaning you’ll get much sharper, clearer, and richer details.
Canon EOS M50 Mark II
This mirrorless camera has an advanced autofocus system and the ability to capture vertical videos (perfect for TikTok’s format), as well as more traditional landscape shots. The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is capable of shooting high-quality videos—of which the colors, white balance, and exposure match those of the stills.
What’s particularly helpful for content creators is the ability to stream live to a YouTube channel via a computer or smartphone with an internet connection. The camera’s vari-angle screen offers responsible touch sensitivity.
The visual quality of the shot takes the focus, but sound also can’t be understated when shooting videos. The Sony ZV-1 camera has built-in, three-capsule microphone technology from Sony’s advanced systems, and a Clear Voice function that reduces background noise while making the sound of your voice clearer.
Keep in mind that this camera has a fixed lens (meaning lenses are not interchangeable). But, on the bright side, it features an impressive 1-inch type stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor with 20.1 million effective pixels for excellent image quality.
Top image by Javier Brosch.