Popular Photography Trends 2018: Discover the Most Trendy Images!

Photography Trends 2019 - 2019.01.28
This report is from last year. If you wish to see the latest trends in the visual field, check out our new and fresh Photography Trends 2019 Report, with the 45 main styles and themes to explore this year! 

If you would like to know what was trending in 2018, keep reading!

Around the end of one year and the beginning of next, the online creative world is crowded with Photography Trends. We’ve always joined the hype for sure, with our annual Photography Trends Report, which you can check right below: Photography Trends 2014Photography Trends 2015Photography Trends 2017 + Best Selling Images of 2016

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Now that we’re a few months into 2018, we want to not only review the top trends in the photography industry for this year, but to show you how new trends in visual communication evolve over time, and what that means for your business.

Will the trendy photo you’re buying today still perform well next year? Is it possible to tell the life expectancy of a trend? How to know which photo trends are worth embracing? That’s exactly what we’re about to answer. 

Update! Most Downloaded Images in 2018 - 2018.11.08 November marks the final stretch for the year and some conclusions on the most trendy and popular photos can already be drawn! We collected and compared the top 10 most downloaded photos in 2018 from the top 6 stock photo agencies to help you see how many trends actually picked up across the market and inspire your upcoming designs with 60 beautiful and best-selling photos! 

Photography Trends 2018 and Historical Photo Trends in the Stock Photo Industry

We’ll give you a tour of what the main players in the market say is selling like hot bread this year. But this time around we’ll shake things up a bit (it’s fun!). We will also review the visual trends each agency highlighted in recent years, giving you a greater grasp on how this whole trends thing works and how you can exploit it to your benefit. And this is all very relevant info, as it comes from agencies listed in our great Guide to the Best Stock Photo Sites. Here we go!

StockPhotoSecrets Shop: Vintage Rebirths and Outer Space

StockPhotoSecrets-Logo-WhiteIn 2018, our StockPhotoSecrets Shop‘s top trends go from retro nostalgia to very current topics with futuristic inspiration, all rooted in distinctive colour schemes. Check their creative trends of 2018:

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Neon Fleuro

Neon lights designs make a comeback to satiate Millennial's nostalgic cravings. Rather than the Vegas strip and similar bold and chaotic styles, 2018's neon reminiscences the 20's. It's a hint to a past time that aligns with Pantone's colour of the year: ultraviolet. Our experts see this trend mainly in the form of isolated, single lines of text or colour, related to a minimalist look.

Copyright: Ingram Images – StockPhotoSecrets

The trend involving neon, be it in bold colours or effects for photography and/or video, is also recollected by other experts and agencies, which speaks of its relevance. Last year our shop had listed bold colour as a trend, in a style that involved shocking tones in high contrast.

So it seems while now it's a retro, minimalist feel, the use of vibrant palettes keeps its appeal and it's well worthy to be exploited in your designs.

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Minimalist Pastel

Another style with retro references, this time a hail to the 50's. A palette of milky versions of original colour, with soft pinks taking a strong focus. These pastels are dubbed the “ice-cream trend” for it's clear connection with ice creams, candy, cupcakes, baked sweets and sprinkles. We see it often used in colour block canvases, making the perfect Instagram images.

Copyright: Ingram Images – StockPhotoSecrets

Candy-like pastels are a trend identified by other major players in the photography industry too, and just by checking your social media newsfeed you will see they're already everywhere.

This trend's connection with one of the most massive social networks make it a trend worth exploring in your designs.

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Cosmic Universe

The current space development technologies (i.e SpaceX), pop culture, film and TV (Star Wars, MCU, etc.) are creating a visual trend based in outer space. Pantone's colour of the year, ultraviolet, is also strongly linked to this concept, that presents deep purples and powerful orange tones in futuristic, fantastic imagery.

Copyright: Ingram Images – StockPhotoSecrets

Again this is a theme picked up by many analysts in the field, which is a clear indicator of how relevant a trend it is. Interestingly, our experts pointed VR and immersive technology as a major trend last year.

It is evident that the latest tech developments keep influencing visual trends, so you better keep an eye on them and stay up to date!

Buy images at StockPhotoSecrets Shop with our exclusive 99club plan, and also try our great monthly subscriptions and image packs!

And if you are a photographer who wants to show off their portfolio, check out these nice WordPress photography themes.

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Shutterstock: The Past and the Future Unite

Shutterstock’s 2018 trends combine futuristic imagery with tribute and nostalgia for the past. Check our more info about this agency in our Shutterstock review. Have a look at their visual trends 2018:

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The technological innovation in astronautical science (Thanks, Elon!), and the rich sci-fi production of our times, are bringing in a demand for space-related imagery. Overwhelming, dystopian and challenging visuals from out of this world are very sough-after this year.

Copyright: Shutterstock

In Shutterstock trends 2017, this agency had “Technology and Future” at top of their trends list, with concepts like the 4th industrial revolution, the omnipresent Internet and the emerging VR tech as the most demanded topics. This year science and technology have taken a leap into the final frontier.

Modern technology is an ongoing trend that you must keep up with: never use photos with dated or out-of-hype devices, unless you're working on a retro/vintage theme. Now, how to blend a space theme in graphics for your dog grooming services business, I'll leave that up to you!

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The hit tv shows and films of recent years -think of Game of Thrones or the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies- have brought up this trend that focuses in dreamland universes with idyllic landscapes, and mythical creatures like unicorns or mermaids.

Copyright: Shutterstock

This is an interesting trend because it's purely artistically inspired, coming directly from mass entertainment productions.

You can trace this trend back to 2017 when Shutterstock saw VR as a hot topic, for augmented reality plays a role in the craving for immersive, fantastic experiences.

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Natural Luxury

In terms of patterns, Shutterstock says people are now more interested in elegant designs seen in luxury natural elements. Marble or agate are amongst the favourites.

Copyright: Shutterstock

This is not a new trend, but rather a slight upgrade from 2017's trend that revolved around “natural design”. While marble was already listed as a sought-after pattern back then, that time it included more noble and earthy elements too, such as tree rings.

The craving for natural patterns has been rising for a while, and take note: marble-inspired visuals will be trendy, and likely will also perform well for a long time.

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New Minimalism

The clean aesthetics of minimalism are reinvented this year with an array of vibrant and exciting colors, and simple yet powerful patterns, such as continuous lines and neon circles.

Copyright: Shutterstock

Last year, the agency already told us minimalism was all the rage, but that time it was revolving around “white texture”, with patterns that ranged from nature inspired to complex 3D designs, but all predominantly white or light toned. So:

Embracing neon colours in 2018 is your choice, but clearly minimalism is well received since a while and a minimalist styled  image can perform better with your target market!

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Linked to natural luxury trend, the agency reported an obsession-like increase in searches for images of cacti in all colours and shapes, celebrating their desert culture and survivor symbolism.

Copyright: Shutterstock

What's interesting here is that last year the company marked tropical nature as a trend, with lushy and exotic vegetation and fruits at the core. That's quite the pivot in organic-related imagery.

What's cool about cacti is variety, so you can adopt this trend finding images that better connect with your brand or business. But as for the longevity of a cactus photo as trendy, it might not be much.

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Holographic Foil

Shutterstock claims 2018 will be the year of holographic patterns. The searches for this topic were rising so much at the beginning of the year that they were confident this style will be amongst the most popular, especially because it has the flexibility of fitting into both retro and futuristic styles.

Copyright: Shutterstock

This is the first time we've heard of holographic style in a while, so it's certainly an exciting trend to watch. It's relation with Pantone's colour of the year (ultraviolet) and some other major trends like both futuristic and retro styles, opens it up to lots of design possibilities.

Whether this trend will catch or not might be too early to tell yet, but keep in mind if you're an early adopter, your visuals could outshine the rest in a heartbeat. 

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Punchy Pastels

They see a new configuration in the pastel palette, this time around focused in sweet candy tones (pinks, light blues, yellows) that add an element of vibration to traditionally tranquil colors.

Copyright: Shutterstock

Pastels are not news, but knowing which tones are hot this season comes in handy to be up to date with your visuals.

Candy pastels are very present in social media. This is a trend worth adopting in your social channels, even more if you're catering to a young, Millennial-based audience.

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A Global March

This trend is a visual representation of the current political and social affairs, that are joining people around the world in activism for common causes.

Copyright: Shutterstock

This is a highly social topic, and as such, it covers many sensitive matters. The lasting of the trend depends on how much and how long the media keeps covering these issues.

If the current state of things is any indicator, socially aware images will be trendy for considerably longer, although the topics will likely evolve. Make sure to have a sensitive eye when using this kind of photos, and that you're fully understanding your audience's positions.

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The digital economy is now a daily talk. From the media to our friends and family, everybody is talking about Bitcoin and new forms of virtual money. It makes perfect sense that images that somehow represent this will be in high demand this year.

Copyright: Shutterstock

This is not a new concept, of course, but it is a new topic of public interest. If you run a business, you may already be exploring ways to benefit from cryptocurrency, and that extends to your visuals.

You don't need to be an expert to know the digital economy is the way of the future. If your area of expertise connects with it, it would be wise for you to start representing it with cool trendy graphics.

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Digital Crafts

Shutterstock said that in 2018 graphic design will be highly influenced by digital representations of old art forms and handcraft, such as embroidery or paper art. It's going to be all about tactile textures and color combinations.

Copyright: Shutterstock

While this trend might bring in something new to graphic design, it's worth noting that other agencies and experts are seeing the same elements rising.

This trend may be short-living, but due to its hybrid nature between modern and antique art, it's possible to find creative, happy mediums that make timeless visuals too.

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Ancient geometrics

Another popular concept in graphic design for this year is that of symmetrical, repetitive patterns with geometric inspiration and mythical or cultural references, such as mandalas or arabesque.

Copyright: Shutterstock

This is a contrasting trend with that of organic and natural patterns for photography, but it's a consistent concept within the graphic design as in previous years the ancestral culture and religiously inspired graphics were all the rage.

Arabesque and mandalas have been around for a while, it's hard to tell if this is their peak of popularity, or an ongoing trend. Either way, it's a great style to explore in social media, where most trends are short-living anyways.

Sign up for free at Shutterstock to explore these and more awesome photos. Check out our article on Shutterstock pricing for more buying details.

When you're ready to download trendy images, make sure to use our exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code to save up to 15% in your purchase!

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iStock: Contemporary Lifestyle with Classic Inspiration

iStock, through parent company Getty Images’ experts, have reported three main visual trends for 2018. Their deep analysis shows this year’s hot topics are highly influenced by social movements, classic arts and visual technology. Get more info about the agency in our iStock review. Have a look at their trends:

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Second Renaissance

Contemplative images that are clearly inspired in classic paintings and art expressions from the Renaissance period. Further, they see an overhauling of minorities recreating iconic pieces of arts in an inclusive, stereotype-breaking concept.

Copyright: iStock

See more Second Renaissance images here. 

Many other agencies have picked up on this trend too, and we’re all seeing its influence in big ad campaigns around the world.

It’s not so clear if it’s going to be a long-living trend, but including it in your designs is a good way to look current, and to surprise your audience with a more artsy style.

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Conceptual Realism

Purely conceptual ideas merging with plausible reality in photography. As consumers become content creators, images perceived as “possible” are the most desired, and imperfect photography is considered more honest. This trend makes use of visual technology (like photography enhancement or graphic manipulation) to create images that look and feel real.

Copyright: iStock

See more Conceptual Realism images here.

Authenticity, always authenticity. This is the evergreen trend of our days. iStock offers an interesting twist of this concept, stating how perfectly crafted the so-called “honest” imagery can be.

There’s no doubt you should use this kind of photos in your work. Conceptual realism sounds like the perfect style to use in Instagram, where everyone tries to show their honest, yet their very best, self.

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Masculinity Undone

As millennials reject gender stereotypes for men and society as a whole crave for dismissing one-dimensional male identities, this trend is about modern, emotionally connected and prejudice-free representations of men and masculinity in every aspect of life.

Copyright: iStock

See more Masculinity Undone images here. 

Deeply rooted in the authentic imagery trend, this topic is very interesting to explore. For years gender breaking photos have focused on women (iStock & Getty Images listed it on their trends in 2017) so it’s refreshing and inspiring to play with the new representations of men.

If we are to believe our eyes, and experts, the shift in individual identities is permanent. It makes sense to think visual trends around them will be around for long too. So using modern masculinity concepts in your designs is definitely a clever move to stay current.

Sign up for free at iStock to explore trendy, high-quality photos. And when purchasing, don't forget to use our exclusive iStock Promo Codes to get up to 15% discount!

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Depositphotos: Authenticity at its Best

depositphotosThe guys over at Depositphotos identified several trends in 2018, most of them centered around the concept of authenticity (which is a constant and very important trend in the market since years – read more about authentic stock images here). You can learn more about the company in our Depositphotos review. Check out what current trends in photography they found:

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Accept Me for Who I Am

This one is also about models (we told you, photos of people are everything). The trend in people photos this year revolves around unconventionality. Models are not only real but also stereotype breaking. Diversity in all its forms is embraced.

Copyright: Depositphotos

The hunger for images we can relate to is not only satisfied with images of people we can identify with, we also want to see all kind of people, a mosaic that represents our modern, diverse society in an accurate, beautiful way.

Photography evolves along with people. If we believe sociology experts, there is no going back in terms of stereotypes and groundbreaking identities in our society. So this is a photo trend that will not fade away anytime soon. If you're smart, you're already exploiting it!

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Perfect Strangers

In 2018, Depositphotos says it's all about authentic looks. From street photography to commercial shots, all we want to see is real people. Perfect models will be girls and guys next door.

Copyright: Depositphotos

This trend reflects in lifestyle, the most popular photo category ever. And it's been around for a while. In 2017, Depositphotos listed “movement and emotion” as one of their hottest trends, based on everyday life actions of people communicating real emotion.

Photos of people are EVERYTHING in graphic design. Authenticity has been escalating in the list of the top trends for years and there are no signs of it coming down. So should you embark the real people images boat? Absolutely!

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Impact Photography

This is a trend impulsed by mobile photography and the massive reach of smartphone technology. It revolves around amateur, citizen journalism: people using their cameras to document relevant local events, around the globe.

Copyright: Depositphotos

Citizen journalism and the casual smartphone snapper have been revolutionizing the media for a few years now. This agency interestingly sees these images overtaking the whole photo market. Certainly proving the authentic style is still trending strong.

This visual trend is directly influenced by the general trend of authenticity, of wanting to see real representations of the world we live in. It's one worth to include if you are a publisher, but to use it in commercial projects you need to be very sensitive and know your audience very well.

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Artistic Expressions Through Travel

Depositphotos reported that this year there will be a demand for images that merge people and nature in travel photography and that it will be all focused in travel as a way of life, rather than vacations and getaways.

Copyright: Depositphotos

Once again we see the mark of authenticity here, which as we said they've already identified as a major trend in 2017. Moreover, several other media outlets have seen the same increase in demand for images of people and nature that represent a connection with nature, a sense of solitude, and a whole lifestyle.

What's cool about this trend is you can adapt it to your needs. It's not classic travel photography, it's images of people and beautiful landscapes combined, it's current, and it's real. These images will perform well for a while.

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Deadpan Photography

Depositphotos saw a revival of this well-known 1950s technique, which essentially delivers “honest” photos, with no filters nor major editing.

Copyright: Depositphotos

The style of raw, unedited photos is not new per se, but it's considerably impulsed by USG. The agency thinks the boom of user reviews in social media is responsible for this, as it floods people's feeds with real, unfiltered images of products, people and places. Depositphotos saw a 90s revival trending last year, and while it involved full flash and bold colors in editing, it shows people are distancing from overly edited, millennial styled photography since a while.

Many important brands and companies have already tapped on this trend, using raw imagery of their products and services in ‘honest' marketing strategies. Being fuelled by social media this trend is very volatile, but it's still worth exploring.

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Motion as a New Norm for Graphics

GIFs are three decades old already and uber-popular in social applications. Cinemagraphs and other forms of hybrid photography that includes motion landed in the stock industry not long ago, and while it still isn't overtaking the market, more and more brands are exploring its possibilities.

Copyright: Depositphotos

Motion graphics are all the rage in social media and messaging services, the realm of nearly everyone's new target audience, Generation Z. Depositphotos already listed Gen Z as a trending topic last year, so we know it's not an ephemeral tendency.

While formats might change or evolve, motion + stills imagery seems to be here to stay. It would be wise to start exploring them in your new designs.

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Blurred Lines of Reality

The agency is telling all customers and contributors that VR and augmented reality will be a trending topic for images, from content optimized for this technology to shots of people interacting with VR devices.

Copyright: Depositphotos

Back in 2017 most agencies agreed with Depositphotos: they all saw VR becoming a big thing. While the massiveness of this technology is yet to be confirmed, the interest of the public in it is very clear.

VR will be talked about, shown and pushed in the market for at least some time longer. This is a trend that will not likely vanish overnight. If it fits in your narrative, including it makes a lot of sense.

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Creative Collages

Depositphotos sees graphic design becoming all about combing different graphic elements to make the one visually impactful image.

Copyright: Depositphotos

In some way, this trend talks about a more sensorial, non-flat aesthetic with the reminiscence of the past. And other agencies are reporting similar trends in their own research.

This style is the perfect opportunity to let your creativity flow and find new ways to make your visuals pop. It's hard to say how long collages will be a trend, but they won't be really dated anytime soon anyway, so it's worth to give it a try.

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Bold Color and Effects

They think 2018 color palette is marked by boldness in both tones and edition. They see an interesting contrast between soft pastels and bright, vibrant colors, and effects like duotone or double exposure will be back this year.

Copyright: Depositphotos

This is consistent with what other experts are seeing as well. Pastels and bright tones are not to be mixed, but they coexist at top of the viewer's preferences.

Having two completely different styles and palettes to choose from gives you the chance to find the tones, effects, and aesthetics that better fits your business. Make sure you decide wisely, and you'll be set to suck the bone marrow out of this trend.

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Video as a Mean of Communication

This one is not really about images as you guessed, but Depositphotos thought you should know, and we agree: video content's popularity is still growing and there's no sign of it stopping. This year the preferred format and style is linked to the boom of live streaming in social media and messaging apps: short, candid, non-posed, spontaneous, and fun.

Copyright: Depositphotos

Different industry experts saw video becoming the next big thing a while ago, and many, including Depositphotos, offer stock footage on their sites.

Considering how many companies have added live streaming and video features to their platforms in recent times, and how people seem crazy about these features, this is a trend that is definitely worth exploring.

Sign up for free at Depositphotos to discover more trendy images! Once you've found the right photos for you, make use of our special Depositphotos Coupon Code to get 5 FREE downloads + 20% Off!

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Photocase – It's All About Lifestyle

The Berlin-specialised, premium agency Photocase has collected some very interesting trends this year, always focusing on people but this time going the extra mile with some graphic styles. See more info on the agency on our Photocase review. Find their current trends in photography industry below:

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Don't take yourself too seriously!

Copyright: nanihta / photocase.com

This is a very fun trend to explore. It's under the authentic photography umbrella, which is a strong ongoing visual trend for two years now. Last year, this agency found that happy living was the major trend in lifestyle photography, so this playful style is a curious turn.

It's a very adaptable concept, worth using particularly when aiming at younger audiences.

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Simplified Motives

Minimalism and simplicity define the graphic design.

Copyright: Marie Maerz / photocase.com

The simplified style in graphic design is identified by other agencies too. It's interesting to see Photocase lifting graphics as a trend.

This concept is one to explore if you like to use illustrations in your designs.

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Multiculturalism, inclusion, and representation hit lifestyle photography like never before.

Copyright: criene / photocase.com

This is one very strong visual trend since long. Many experts listed it last year already, and many others are still picking it up this year.

Being so tightly linked to current global events of late, it's a no-brainer that it will stay relevant for long, so certainly makes sense to adopt it.

Check out more handpicked images from Photocase! If you want to buy their premium, unique and trendy photos, seize our special Photocase Coupon Code with 5 FREE credits + 10% Off!

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Adobe Stock – Evolving Along with the World

Adobe Stock‘s experts identified multiple visual trends for this year, and they all seem to represent the current take on different aspects of life. The world has changed, people have evolved, and the photos they want to see have evolved with them. Discover all about this service in our Adobe Stock review. Check out the trends:

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Silence and Solitude

Images that transmit a sense of quietness and isolation. Calm natural landscapes, with one or very few people contrasting with its immensity, and marking a distance from fast-paced, loud everyday life.

Copyright: Adobe Stock

This trend marks a clear departure from one of Adobe's main trends in 2017 which was all about machines and connectivity, humans interacting with futuristic technology in everyday life. It seems that now what viewers want is to take distance from machinery and regain inner peace.

While not certain on how long-living this trend might be, it offers a lot of possibilities in terms of visual appeal, so why not give it a try?

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Fluid Self

The new concept of identity sees it as an ever-changing range of ideas, rather than a stable parameter to define an individual. So this year's lifestyle focuses on modern representations of identity.

Copyright: Adobe Stock

This notion seems somehow connected with a concept Adobe already listed as trending last year under “Equality and Diversity”, which revolved around visual representations of political and social issues and individual involvement in them. People continue to want to see their identities represented accurately in images, going from what they care about to who they are.

People photos are always trending, so this one is definitely a trend to exploit.

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Another big trend in lifestyle photography is the one that presents a global society, and the concept of travel as a way of life, rather than a hobby. Influenced by cultural diversity and the ever-present authentic style.

Copyright: Adobe Stock

Back in 2017, this agency listed global view and its everyday life scenes from around the globe as a trend. This is the natural evolution of that trend, a more in-depth take on the same concepts.

With diversity and the global community at the center of many other experts' visual trends reports, this one is one to include in your work for sure.

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Touch and Tactility

Sensorial imagery that transmits the notions of touch, physical connection, textures.

Copyright: Adobe Stock

This one is also in direct opposition to 2017's trend for connectivity with machines and interaction with technology. For Adobe, human beings are longing for contact with other humans and with nature this year.

If you can adapt this concept to your niche, creative use of sensorial images can be productive.

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Creative Reality

Nature meets fantasy in this trend. The former is represented in the form of lush, tropical landscapes and the latter in creative combinations of effects. It's a style that reverences life and nature in imaginative creations.

Copyright: Adobe Stock

Fantasy is a constant trend this year, accounted for in various outlets, same for natural landscapes. Adobe is the one that sees them both combined.

It's hard to tell how big a trend this is, but if it resounds with you, it might worth to give it a shot.

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History and Memory

Photography directly inspired by classic art forms. This trend takes the shape of modern adaptations of classic art notions.

Copyright: Adobe Stock

This agency is not the only one in seeing a resurge for old school and classic art styles, so it can be a sign it's stronger a trend than it might appear.

Adapting this style may not be so doable for all businesses and designers, but if it makes sense within your vision, why not?

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Use Photography Trends in Your Favour

It's clear to us that there are a few trends this year that is surely prominent, and others gaining momentum as we speak. Experts from different companies have successfully identified them at the beginning of the year, and it's safe to say those are photos worth buying as they will still be relevant for the rest of the year and likely beyond that too.

There are also other trends that, while interesting or visually appealing, are still not so evidently dominant in the market. This doesn't mean they will not pick up, just that it's hard to tell how big they will be, and how long the popularity of the topic or style will last. Whether these are photos worth investing in or not, is left entirely up to you.

You can choose amongst:

What trends are you already using? Which ones are you going to try next?

Stay tuned for more and new photography trends for photographers and agencies!

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography like WordPress plugins. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

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