As 2023 comes to a close, it’s essential for both amateur and professional photographers and videographers to keep an eye on emerging trends in the world of stock photography. After all, staying ahead of the curve could be the difference between a portfolio that’s bursting with downloads and one that’s gathering virtual dust.
In this article, we’ll explore what has been popular in 2023, what’s falling by the wayside, and what you should be focusing on for the year ahead.
What Worked in 2023: A Look Back
Food and Culinary Trends
From home cooking to fine dining, food-related images were a hit. The rise of cooking at home and the continued interest in world cuisines made this a lucrative theme for stock photographers.
With the increasing focus on climate change and sustainability, images depicting eco-friendly lifestyles, green technology, and renewable energy were highly sought-after. Brands were eager to project an eco-conscious image, and stock photos that catered to this narrative saw a considerable uptick in downloads.
Cultural diversity and inclusivity were also high on the list of popular themes. Stock images that featured various ethnicities, body types, and age groups found a wider audience as brands sought to represent the diverse world we live in more accurately.
Local and Community Focus
As more people embraced local businesses and community engagement, images highlighting local culture, markets, and social interactions gained prominence. This trend was especially beneficial for those who captured the essence of small communities or unique local traditions.
Remote Work and Home Office
With the continued prevalence of remote work, images portraying well-designed home office spaces, virtual meetings, and work-life balance saw a steady demand.
Mental Health Awareness
As the conversation around mental health became more open, there was an increased demand for images that depicted emotional well-being, self-care routines, and supportive interactions in a sensitive and respectful manner.
Pet and Animal Content
Pets and animals saw their day in the spotlight as well. Images showcasing the human-animal bond, or animals in a natural habitat, had more downloads than ever, partially fueled by an increase in pet adoption and attention to wildlife conservation.
Outdoor Adventures and Nature
With travel restrictions easing in many parts of the world, there was a resurgence in demand for outdoor and adventure-themed images. From hiking and camping to water sports, photos that captured the essence of the great outdoors were highly popular.
Interactive Learning and Online Education
As e-learning platforms continued to grow, so did the need for relevant images. Stock photos depicting online classes, educational webinars, and interactive learning modules were in high demand.
Authenticity Took Center Stage
In 2023, stock photos that exuded authenticity were the real winners. The demand for genuine, relatable images grew as content creators sought to connect with their audience on a deeper level. Posed, unnatural photos became a relic of the past, while candid shots with a raw, human touch gained traction.
By understanding what worked well in 2023, photographers can build on these successful themes while innovating and adapting to meet the ever-changing demands of the market.
What’s Fading Away: Themes to Retire
Overly Edited Photos
With authenticity reigning supreme, photos that have undergone heavy post-processing or feature exaggerated filters are losing favor. The demand is shifting toward more natural-looking compositions.
Stereotypical Corporate Imagery
The days of generic corporate shots with people shaking hands in front of a skyline or sitting in a sterile conference room are long gone. These kinds of images are considered outdated and not engaging enough for modern audiences.
Think of photos depicting a speech bubble to symbolize an idea or a staged, overly-happy family at the dining table. These clichéd concepts have saturated the market and are considered passé.
Images that showcase clichéd travel destinations or activities, like posing in front of the Eiffel Tower or lounging on a tropical beach, are seeing less demand. People are interested in unique experiences and off-the-beaten-path adventures.
Synthetic, CGI-Based Images
While CGI has its place, it has been overused to create unrealistic, too-perfect images. People are now seeking photos that capture real life, not something out of a 3D-rendering program.
The flatlay style had its moment, but it has been done to death. A generic overhead shot of objects neatly arranged on a table doesn’t stand out anymore.
Static and emotionless portraits are becoming less popular as people look for images that tell a story or capture a candid moment, which evokes more emotion and connection.
Images Lacking Context
Photos that are too general and don’t fit into a larger story or theme are losing their appeal. Content creators are looking for images that offer more narrative depth.
By being aware of these fading trends, photographers can avoid wasting time and resources on producing images that won’t resonate with their target audience.
Trend Predictions for 2024
Human and Technology Synergy
Images that showcase the seamless interaction between humans and advanced technologies like AI, VR, and IoT will likely be a significant trend. These images reflect the growing integration of technology into everyday life.
Hyper-Realism Meets Artistic Flair
As we move into 2024, a blend of hyper-realistic photography with a touch of artistic flair is expected to dominate the stock photo landscape. Think of images that are so detailed they border on the surreal, yet retain an element of artistic license that makes them uniquely captivating.
Interactive and Dynamic Imagery
As technology advances, we can expect a rise in the demand for more interactive or dynamic images—think 360-degree views or photos with embedded metadata that allows for a more engaging user experience.
Mixed Media Compositions
The lines between photography, graphic design, and digital art are blurring. In 2024, expect a demand for stock images that incorporate elements of all three, offering a composite visual experience.
Niche Interests and Subcultures
Subcultures and niche interests like e-sports, van life, or urban gardening are gaining mainstream traction. Capturing these in a meaningful and authentic way could be a goldmine for stock photographers in 2024.
Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid
- Do Your Research: Before venturing out with your camera, make sure to research trending subjects and themes.
- Quality Over Quantity: A well-composed, high-quality image will always trump a larger number of mediocre shots.
- Avoid Overediting: Keep the editing to a minimum to maintain the photo’s natural appeal.
- Be Mindful of Representation: Avoid stereotypes and aim for diverse and inclusive imagery.
- Test Different Angles: Don’t limit yourself to conventional viewpoints. Experiment with different perspectives to make your images stand out.
- Follow Legal Protocols: Always obtain the necessary permissions or releases for images featuring identifiable people or private property.
- Optimize for Search: Make sure your images are easily discoverable by using relevant keywords, tags, and metadata.
- Check for Noise and Grains: Ensure your images are noise-free, especially if you’re shooting in low-light conditions.
- Keep an Eye on Composition: Follow the principles of good composition like the Rule of Thirds to create visually appealing photographs.
- Adapt to Market Feedback: Always be willing to pivot based on the performance metrics of your portfolio. Keep an eye on what’s getting downloaded and adjust your focus accordingly.
Staying updated on stock photography trends is crucial for anyone serious about succeeding in this ever-changing landscape. As we move into 2024, focus on capturing authentic, diverse, and technologically advanced images while letting go of outdated and overused concepts. Keep these trends and tips in mind to ensure your portfolio stays relevant and continues to see a steady flow of downloads.
Stay ahead of the curve and let 2024 be the year your stock photography portfolio truly shines.