Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

An example of Adobe Stock’s Creative Democracy trend Adobe Stock

Now that 2019 is here, data from the biggest searches in 2018 can help photographers, videographers, and other creatives determine which projects will resonate most. Stock photography companies like Adobe Stock, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock are looking to search data from 2018 to pinpoint the year’s trends. Knowing what images people search for also provides a glimpse into our collective feelings about what’s going on in society, what events are most important to us, and the commonalities that draw us together.

Many of these predicted trends tie into a humanitarian, holistic thread using imagery to make a statement on social issues. Others point to the increased importance of authenticity and inclusion, while also showing changes in the industry like an increasing coverage of news and the faster pace of content creation. Other trends point to trends from decades past seeing a new resurgence.

Identifying trends isn’t just about knowing what’s popular; it offers actionable intelligence to the world’s creatives, giving them an idea of the types of content they should focus on. “By understanding visual trends and becoming visually fluent, creatives can apply these findings and add fresh, timely elements to their own work,” Adobe Stock’s Brenda Milis told Digital Trends.

From self-expression to brand ethics

As varied as the predicted trends for 2019 are, Adobe Stock’s all carry a similar humanitarian theme for both self-care and care for the world around us. On reviewing Adobe’s predictions, Milis said, “I was a bit surprised by how holistic the trends are for 2019. At the outset, the four trends [Natural Instincts, Creative Democracy, Disruptive Expression, and Brand Stand] present as rather unique and separate. Yet when you take a deep dive into each, what you see is growing commitment among consumers to care for both themselves and the world, as well as growing interest to express this commitment publicly.”

Natural Instincts, the first of Adobe’s 2019 predictions, captures the natural world as a way to escape from the increasingly digital one. The trend is one that goes beyond just imagery, Adobe says, with more U.S. consumers looking for products that use natural resources.

While the first trend shows an escape from the technological world, the second exaggerates it. Creative Democracy is a trend toward authentic images with vivid color, in a nod to the increasing way individuals create their own content. The trend is influenced by social media, as well as mobile-first tools like livestreaming. Images and video following this trend, Adobe says, have bright colors and diverse subjects.

Extreme self-expression encompasses the Disruptive Expression trend, from protests to disruptive images without an agenda that are simply eye-catching enough to stand out in the noise. Adobe says the trend is about embracing identity and celebrating individuality, but with intensity.

Brand Stand is Adobe’s final 2019 trend prediction, and is based on a study suggesting almost half of millennials believe companies should take a stand on social issues. Brands are either taking a public stand, Adobe says, or helping consumers make ethically-aware decisions. 

Authenticity and diversity

To pinpoint upcoming trends, stock image company StoryBlocks looks for spikes in the number of searches. “We see a huge push toward authenticity and inclusivity within the creative community,” StoryBlocks CEO TJ Leonard told Digital Trends. It’s a prediction the company also made for 2018 that is now riding a strong tailwind into 2019.

“The cable wars and ‘fake news’ movement have content creators hungry for material that better represents the world they identify with — one that is diverse and inclusive,” Leonard said. “We see this trend play out everywhere from stock media to big-budget films like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians.”

StoryBlocks data also shows an increase in searches related to diversity. The term “Islamic” is up 185 percent, “African” 176 percent, and “elderly” 121 percent.

Along with authenticity and diversity, searches have increased for templates and audio surrounding breaking news, suggesting more creators are looking to produce journalistic content as consumers become wary of fake news.

StoryBlocks also noted a surge in searches related to current events, trends that typically don’t pop up right away. The number of users searching for “trial” soared by more than 700 percent, particularly around the time of the Kavanaugh confirmation. Increases for weather, Facebook, and elections were also noted.

Finally, the platform noted a jump in the number of searches for elements that help save creators time, like “easy-to-use templates,” typography templates, and video effects. “The mega trend we are watching is the evolution — and consolidation — of the creative workflow,” Leonard said. “Time-saving tools and new content types are just a couple of ways storytellers are looking for support as they see a huge uptick in shorter-form projects.”

As content is forced to become ever more digestible, Leonard said it has led to an increase in demand for templates, which allow creatives to produce bite-sized content more efficiently. But perhaps what’s most interesting about these predicted trends is that creatives specifically trying to capitalize on them may fail. For example, if you’re trying to appear authentic just to be on-trend, you aren’t really being authentic — and viewers may see right through it. On the other hand, a drive toward authenticity may make it easier to simply be yourself and focus on what’s important to you.

What’s old is new again

Shutterstock’s top-three predicted trends for 2019 echo past design trends, modernizing some resurgent retro trends. At the top of the list, shared on January 15, is “Zine Culture,” which grew thanks to search terms like “contemporary art collage” jumping by 1,376 percent in searches. The trend, Shutterstock says, mixes the homemade aesthetic of magazine paste-ups with a digital vibe. Paper cutouts, noise, and layers with clearly defined edges are all part of the trend.

On a similar retro note, “80s Opulence” is also predicted to be popular this year. The trend centers on elegant but retro patterns seeing a resurgence in searches, including chain print, “elegance pattern,” leopard print, peacock, and other textures. For this trend, Shutterstock says, it’s OK to mix patterns.

In keeping with the same retro resurgence, images centering on vintage technology are also proving popular in searches. Shutterstock says terms like synthwave, retrowave, and duotone also skyrocketed in searches.

Along with the top-three trends, Shutterstock also noted a handful of rising trends, including Beyond Plastic, Kawaii, Kalamkari, Rococo Romance, Prism, Hypnotic, and Everyday Futurism.

“Even the most talented creative professionals sometimes want a little inspiration for their next big project and our Creative Trends report is here to help,” Lou Weiss, global chief marketing officer of Shutterstock, said in a press release. “With over 1.5 million fresh new assets added weekly and millions of searchers using our platform, Shutterstock has volume of search and download data to predict the hottest trends and newest fads being driven by the design world. We can’t wait to see these 2019 design themes come to life everywhere, from ad campaigns, to the catwalk, and in movies. This year, our top -three trends are influenced by the bold design principles of years past, so it will be particularly interesting to see how they evolve with modern interpretations best suited for today’s digital platforms.”

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