Authentic content is in: 2018 photography trends fuse reality and creativity

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Photography has long ditched the trend of business-suit perfection for images of people that could have come straight from our social media feeds, but 2018 could mix the trend toward authenticity with an opposite but equally dominant trend: Creativity. As 2017 comes to a close, stock photography companies tally data from the previous year to predict what imaging styles are going to dominate in the next year. The reports help not just stock photographers but photographers, videographers and other creatives in a number of different disciplines pinpoint what will help their work make an impact on viewers.

While there are a few unique trends to different platforms, the reports suggest a mix of two big but opposite qualities, authenticity, and creativity, will be driving the biggest 2018 photography trends, as well as trends in video and other visual content. Trends also follow the idea of escaping from the news cycle and a growing sense of appreciation for global culture.

2018 photography trends

Growing from 2017: StoryBlocks search data suggests diverse, authentic content is still on the rise

StoryBlocks (formerly known as VideoBlocks) has tallied up data from around 64 million searches then compared the keywords with the previous year to see what topics, looks, and qualities are skyrocketing on the platform. While the data reflects 2017 search data, the numbers offer insight into trends that could continue through 2018.

While authenticity was also part of the company’s trends list last year, searches suggest people are still looking for images that are real. VideoBlocks suggests that real people, as a category, is one of the fastest growing trends. Searches for “real people” jumped by 58 percent, while LGBT skyrocketed 782 percent, candid street photography 162 percent and the still-relevant authentic up by 134 percent.

While authenticity is an ongoing trend, searches suggest getting more creative with color and content is also on the rise. Duotone searches were up by 117 percent, for example. Creativity doesn’t necessarily mean lots of stuff either — essentialism is another category the company identified, with increases for searches with negative space (29 percent), wide shots (110 percent) and shapes (1,189 percent).

2018 photography trends

Searches for cities also saw a dramatic 1,285 percent increase, while landscapes went up by 215 percent and cinematic by 315. For video-specific searches, slow motion increased by 23 percent and space (the celestial kind) by 136 percent. Additional trends include a slight rise in junk food and related terms, and a 486 percent increase in the flat lay style.

TJ Leonard, StoryBlocks CEO, says that the trends reflect day to day inspiration. “Today, because of the heaviness of the news cycle, people are aspiring to a simpler and lighter life, they are looking more to those day-to-day connections to give them fulfillment and happiness,” he said. “If the outside world is represented by these weighty topics and personalities, in some ways, we aspire to be more regular. I think that’s really different than marketing trends over the last 50 years. My advice [for photographers and creatives] would be to look for the day to day for inspiration, to look what gives you inspiration in your life, and that’s the type of content that people are looking for their own projects.”

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Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

Looking forward to 2018: Adobe predicts creative reality, fluid self as popular ideas

Adobe looked to both its own stock content as well as other visuals from around the world, including galleries and campaigns, to put together a list of predictions for the type of images that will be the most in demand for 2018. The list of six different categories attempts to pinpoint the types of visual art that will resonate the most with viewers, and a handful continue the idea of mixing real content with creativity.

Creative reality, Adobe says, is a growing trend of turning a scene that exists in real life into a fantasy, blending what’s real with some imagination. The category uses a number of different techniques to create that mix, including the crazy colors of infrared photography, double exposure, software manipulation, unexpected colors or simply props that wouldn’t be normally paired together in an image.

“We’re living in a time when there’s so much uncertainty, so much is in flux. Many people are becoming politically active, but there’s also a type of creativity that envisions escape,” says Brenda Milis, Adobe’s principal of creative services and visual trends. “We’re seeing idealized, alternate worlds—they’re lush, tropical, almost utopic. There’s a reverence for the natural world, but with an intensity, an almost psychedelic twist. These artists are asking us to consider what is beautiful, and what is alive.”

2018 photography trends adobe stock storyblocks 2018adobestockvisualtrends thefluidself
Adobe Stock

Authenticity continues to be part of the trends, but Adobe is taking that idea a bit further with a category named the fluid self. The idea encompasses the thought that identity isn’t something that’s fixed, but something that can change beyond just abilities and age. “Just consider the fact that Facebook has 71 gender options now. There are endless permutations of individual identity,” Milis said.

A growing global culture also made the list with a trend called multi-localism as many choose to prioritize spending on experiences and travel rather than things. History and memory, Adobe says, is another growing trend that reflects either modern art inspired by the past or work that mixes the here and now with the past.

Touch and tactility, Adobe says, encompasses the trend toward including a connection in the image, whether that is contact between the subject of the photo and another person or object, or images that emphasize the texture of the objects in them.

As the number of digital distractions increase, art that embraces silence and solitude is also growing, Adobe suggests. Images that turn the lack of sound into a visual representation encourages a slowdown from the busy pace of life for contemplation.

“As an artist, especially, it’s easy to feel isolated in your work. Trends can give you confidence, and data, about where interest is growing and why,” Milis said. “For artists and brands alike, trends are a critical tool. They’re about more than what people are enjoying or fascinated by at the moment. They’re a look at where we are as a culture, and as a world, so you can really understand what makes an image resonate.”

2018 trends aren’t just for photos

While Shutterstock will be publishing their complete 2018 photography trends report later in January, Grant Munro, the general manager of Shutterstock Custom, shared a few insights into what the stock platform expects for 2018 — and video will play a big role.

Shutterstock saw a 185 percent in the number of requests for video. Not only that, but Munro suggests that social media will drive more demand for vertical video. While the smartphone-shot vertical video is a pet peeve for many traditional videographers, the portrait orientation better fits smartphone screens for social media, Munro says. Social media is where 78 percent of the content from Shutterstock Custom ends up, and while video is growing, still photos are still responsible for 85 percent of the requests for custom content on Shutterstock. Video also isn’t just video in the traditional sense but any moving pictures, including GIFs and cinemagraphs.

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