The biggest recent influence on commercial photography has been the increasing take-up of social media and new technologies, which affect the way we share and consume.
However there are more nuanced changes at play, as Getty Images senior director of creative content Paul Foster has found in his work around trend predictions.
Some of Getty’s insight is drawn from analysing the search and buying trends of the image library it runs.
Foster says his creative research team works with a network of global, regional Getty offices, also looking at imagery trends in advertising and popular culture.
“These trends reflect the complexities and paradoxes we all face: modern consumers crave luxury and convenience but increasingly favour brands that demonstrate real value and purpose. We are entering an exciting and unique time for design and imagery, with a plurality of often contradictory visual styles emerging,” says Foster.
Six trends identified by Getty
“Outsider in” is a trend, which celebrates rebellion and is beginning to be taken on more willingly by brands and in advertising according to Foster.
“We will see campaigns that rabble-rouse using a sly sense of humour and outrageous design to grab the consumer’s attention,” he says.
“Divine living” will see brands take on a godly photographic perspective. Foster says, “We predict brands will need to clearly demonstrate and visualise their own ‘brand purpose’. We are already seeing this trend manifest itself through imagery representing contemplation or introspection, as well as through a ‘gods-eye view’ via aerial imagery, answering consumers search for something more mindful and spiritual.”
The slightly dystopian sounding “extended human” trend understands that technology is becoming an extension of us, increasing our ability to connect and communicate.
Foster says: “Where science fiction has always focused on our anxieties around artificial intelligence, the ‘extended human’ trend sees brands taking an optimistic view of our relationship with technology.
“In the next five years, more than 75% of the global population will own and use smart phones, with 5G internet in development for commercial use by the same time.”
The “messthetics” trend identifies brands breaking away from the idea of perfection often created within advertising.
Foster says: “It can be seen as an extreme evolution of authenticity – messy, grimy, sweaty, visceral, beautiful and ugly. It comes from our desire to break away from the sanitation and predictability of everyday life and revel in the physicality of human nature.
“Its chaotic, splashy style is partly a throwback to the era of punk. Consumers feel increasingly disillusioned by advertising where beauty and perfection rule. We want to be surprised, shocked and jolted out of the everyday.”
“Silence vs noise” is an antithesis to messthetics. It sums up a simple and minimalistic visual language – “Succinct, uncomplicated but beautifully executed,” says Foster.
Foster’s team has also noticed a lot of “Surreality” influenced by “dreams, the subconscious, and of course the original surrealist movement of the last century,” he says.
Shutterstock on the look and feel of photographs
Stock library Shutterstock’s customers are designers, art directors, marketers, filmmakers, advertisers, bloggers, media organisations and businesses.
Shutterstock design director Philippe Intraligi says: “These customers are often licensing images and video weeks or months ahead of an advertising campaign going live, which gives us a unique perspective as to what is trending.”
Like Getty, Shutterstock produces its own research. This has thrown up some trends which have a lot to do with look and feel.
Flat lay, also known as Knolling in the late 80s is a photographic style. Typically it takes a bird’s eye view of multiple objects and its return has been buoyed by the rise of Instagram and food blogs.
Boho, which is inspired by the ’60s and ’70s is making another appearance. Stylistically it is characterised by flowing styles, paisley patterns and fringing, particularly in fashion but within photography this means soft florals, intricate patterns and a muted palettes.
Searches for the term Boho increased 153% year-on-year in the last two years, according to Shutterstock.
What Intraligi terms “sacred geometry” are the “designs, which emerge at the point where mathematics, nature, and spirituality meet.” In particular these are shapes and structures taken from nature and used in Eastern and Western religious images.
There has been a large increase in the popularity of photography featuring Metallics, which can be appropriated to achieve “industrial, glamorous, retro or futuristic effects,” says Intraligi.
Their use has been noticed at all sorts of red carpet events and at the launch of the Apple Watch. “Now it’s making its way throughout design and brand campaigns,” Intraligi says.
While Shutterstock takes a broad view of global trends, it also has an insight into regional patterns.
In the UK the word “polygonal” has increased in use by 265% year-on-year in the last two years according to Shutterstock.
Polygonal is – in mathematical terms – a shape with three or more sides. In photography they can be used to add texture and a sense of depth.
Adobe on photographers as “content creators”
Adobe has recently invested in Adobe Stock as it integrates stock photography with its Creative Cloud programmes such as Illustrator and Photoshop.
Adobe’s principal solutions consultant of digital imaging UK, Richard Curtis, says: “Photographers are having to think of social as a way to promote their brand, but there is an opportunity to increase their value by creating and supplying content with high quality production values. Social imagery is becoming more high quality as new opportunities open up for creatives to contribute to stock photography portfolios, such as Adobe Stock, which in turn also adds a new revenue stream to their income.
“With photography as a changing form, there is an opportunity to create compelling moving images as well as still stock content. Therefore it is important that we embrace emerging technologies such as AR and VR.
“Designers and photographers are constantly augmenting high quality stock imagery – video or stills – for high quality composites and with more and more businesses relying on high quality imagery to promote and sell their brand, it is crucial that they produce exclusive content, which will drive the need to have more exclusive stock content.”
Curtis says that photographers are rapidly becoming “high quality content creators” – but what does this mean for designers?
“It will be much easier for designers to add stock imagery into their workflow, with a higher reliance on using stock for composites, for example using smaller parts of the image within a larger piece,” Curtis says.
He adds: “There will be more variety of imagery, from higher-end photographers or image makers with increasing production value and improved quality.”