Exciting Photography Trends 2021

It's a brand-new year and crispy fresh photography trends are awaiting to be discovered.

Here we present you all the must-watch photography trends 2021 identified by experts from the best stock photo sites.

Keep an eye on the list, more agencies and trends are to come!

And make sure to check our Photography Trends 2020 report, for a side-by-side comparison and evolution of visual trends!

But wait! Before diving into the trends, don't miss this exclusive, Cyber Monday deal to get Adobe Creative Cloud at a cut price! It's a very limited time offer so you must hurry and get it now, and you'll be able to edit your trendy photos with pro-grade tools for much less! This offer is part of our much larger list of Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021 deals.

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Learn in this video course how to start selling your photos and earn money with your photography.
Do you fancy yourself a trend analyst? Or simply want an even greater insight on visual trends? We have annual reports going back 7 years! Check them out:
Photography trends 2014
Photography trends 2015
Photography Trends 2016/2017
Photography Trends 2018
Photography Trends 2019

Hint: Photography trends are a hugely helpful resource if you want to start selling photos online!

Without further ado, have a look at what the high converting stock images of this year will look like:


wwww.shutterstock.com homepage

After the year that was, we were encouraged by the positivity, originality, and resilience displayed by the Shutterstock community, which was reflected in their searches. This year’s trends centered around individuality, imperfection, authenticity, and escapism — despite the obstacles, we were forced to navigate, and the uncertainty we faced, there was no shortage of creativity and innovation. These trends, gleaned from billions of keyword searches by our users, lay the foundation for the content we can expect to see across creative outputs, B2B and B2C marketing in the year ahead.

Flo Lau, Creative Director at Shutterstock


In alignment with the events of 2020, there was a demand for inclusion and representation, with searches such as non-binary (+2,300%) and authentic people (+133%) trending up.

Identity Unfiltered encompasses authentic portraiture and the wide gamut of beauty across the globe.

happy girl with Down syndrome bakes cookies > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Eleonora_os/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved
Cheerful beautiful plus size women at the beach > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved
Studio portrait of a man wearing a red jacket suit and dreadlocks > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: CarlosDavid/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved

A focus on Inner Life and self care (+177%) has compelled many to shift focus in the coming year towards life’s simple pleasures.

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Free-flowing Inkscapes, one-of-a-kind

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Copyright: wacomka/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved

Tie Dye patterns

Tie Dye Spiral. Artistic Batik. Spiral Tie Dye Design > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Dmitriy Abrazhevich/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved
Abstract shibori floral motif. Seamless pattern > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: cepera/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved

And twisting, line portraits depicting Surreal Faces, show the embrace of individuality—and imperfection.

Young female brunette portrait hand drawn watercolor illustration > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: arteria.lab/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved
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Copyright: moopsi/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved
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Copyright: Olly Kava/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved
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Copyright: Bibadash/Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved

Keywords such as pastel tie dye (+2,404%), alcohol ink (+381%), and face line art (+536%) are on the rise, as we see a surge of flaws, fantasy, and distinctive flair among textures, backgrounds, and illustrations.


Motion pictures have the unique ability to evoke emotion.

The Sublime has seen an increase in searches for intense and intimidating scenes from nature: from stormy beach (+480%) to dunes (+394%), and mountain aerials (+1,396%).

ct 2021 trend 7 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021

Eccentric Animation has given content creators new ways to express their ideas, and to embrace more playful animation styles and motion graphics that are whimsical (+13,572%), and fun. This trend provides a lively, splashy and colorful outlet for creatives that doesn’t require a crew to produce, and steers away from the seriousness of 2020.

ct 2021 trend 6 1 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021

For a better understanding of footage trends, check out this video:

Bonus: Trend to Watch

After the events of the past year, creatives are on the hunt for the Unexplored. From biodiversity stemming from the wildfires and natural disasters to 2020’s SpaceX launch and the fascination with space, and the upswing in yoga, meditation, and the uncharted phenomena of our mind-body connection.

ct 2021 trend 10 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021


www.istockphoto.com homepage

The qualified editors over at iStock identified the major visual communication trends for 2021, to help small and medium-sized businesses in their branding and marketing efforts. All trends are a direct result of the events that marked the previous year, from political matters to the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.


Responsible Depictions of Sustainability

young woman using reusable shopping bag in store picture id1202789115 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: aldomurillo/iStock.com, all rights reserved

From a consumer survey they conducted, they highlight that 81% of respondents expect companies to be aware of the environment and look after it, and half of all consulted claimed to only buy from eco-friendly brands. Their experts feel this is heavily fueled by the results of last year’s elections in the US.

Accurately and Inclusively Represent your Customers

grandmother and grandson using elbow greeting picture id1265573340 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: FG Trade/iStock.com, all rights reserved

80% of respondents made it clear it’s not enough with brands showing diverse groups of people in their advertising, but that they expect to see authentic, accurate representations of people from multiple backgrounds and cultures, in actually inclusive visual stories.

Soothing Color Schemes

fairy lights background hot cocoa with marshmallows pink coffee cup picture id1286342240 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Spela Pogacar/iStock.com, all rights reserved

Interestingly enough, iStock experts see an inclination for calmer hues, after a stressful year in 2020. Warm and muted palettes, flat colors, and simple shapes will be in high demand. 

Social First

young mother and daughter doing dance exercises at home picture id1261143292 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: xavierarnau/iStock.com, all rights reserved

All visual communication needs to be authentic and socially engaging. The need for connection and interaction is stronger than ever after such long periods of physical distancing, and when it comes to brands, people will demand a more intimate and honest approach. 

Video is Booming

Video is an at all-time high demand, with a focus on authentic concepts in productions crafted for social media sharing. 


123rf logo 590x235 1 e1585923956735 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021

The experts at 123RF highlight that in 2021 (and as a direct result of events developing along 2020) a lot of photography genres and niches will be affected. Group photos will no longer be acceptable, nightclub photography won’t be remotely as demanded, among various examples. 

However, they identify trendy, new ways to adapt evergreen topics, as well as new visual content that will become more relevant in these new times.


Social Distancing

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Copyright: faizalramli/123RF.com, all rights reserved

People photos, and group photos, in particular, will be reflecting the new normal of social distancing: subjects keeping 6 feet away from each other, the use of sanitizers, and of course, the now-omnipresent face masks in all their varied glory of designs. Social distancing will be present in lifestyle imagery all throughout the year.

Silhouette Photography

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Copyright: ekavid/123RF.com, all rights reserved

Lone human silhouettes created through the use of backlights and shadows, they say will be trending, in connection with mental health, detachment, and isolation, all concepts at the forefront these days. 

Food Photography

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Copyright: citalliance/123RF.com, all rights reserved

As it’s relatively simple and also fun to do, they expect a surge in food photography, coming especially from creatives stuck at home and with limited resources.

Street Photography

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Copyright: yunava1/123RF.com, all rights reserved

They also see a lot of events, travel, and architectural photographers taking a creative turn towards street photography now their niches are pretty much impossible to shoot. The trend should be focused on close locations such as the artist’s own street, opening inspiring opportunities for visual creation. 

Plant Photography

82989070 l > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: loulouvonglup/123RF.com, all rights reserved

This year exposes a clear shift to nature from both consumers and photographers. From lush gardens to fun plant corners indoors, nature gives a wide range of settings to explore. 

Staged Still Life Photography

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Copyright: kjekol/123RF.com, all rights reserved

The popular top-view, flat lay photos that usually showcase the main item surrounded by others within the same theme will remain very highly-demanded in 2021, according to 123RF. 


Hybrid photographs with a touch of motion are exciting and engaging, and will be very used in digital designs. 


dreamstime logo > Exciting Photography Trends 2021

The team over at Dreamstime analyzed the uploads, downloads and searches on their client's database to identify the trends in photography, colors and designs for 2021, after an unusual and unexpected 2020.


Digital Nature

The agency observed that, as a result of 2020's global pandemic and the consequent lockdown and all-digital lifestyle we all lead for many months, in 2021 we are more appreciative of nature and green corners within our personal spaces, as well as much more aware of the importance of conserving our environment for our own wellbeing as well as for that of the generations to come. Nature-inspired patterns, earthy tones, a deeper connection with nature, and sustainability are the main topics within this trend.

Leafy Patterns

dreamstimesmall 126255490 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Jenny Lipets Michaeli | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Earthy Colors

dreamstimesmall 177668722 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Elina Zolotareva | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Sustainable Gastronomy

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Copyright: Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved


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Copyright: Celso Diniz | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved


An effect of last year's lockdowns was to give us time for introspection, self-growth, and for rediscovering the beauty of real, non-staged, unadorned life. In photography, this adds fuel to the ongoing trend of authentic, raw-styled images. For 2021, it'll be all about unedited portraits and single-person action shots, where mobile photography regains traction with its spontaneous concept.

Natural Looks

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Copyright: Miramisska | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Out of the Blue

Last year was full of transcending events no one saw coming, and for this year, that element of surprise takes a positive twist to become a discerning line between real and digital realms. Visually, it means high-contrast tones and compositions to make elements pop out of the screen in a tactile image experience.

Element of Surprise

dreamstimesmall 27073663 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Mikhail Dudarev | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Sensorial Image

dreamstimesmall 133756914 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Viktoriia Kotova | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Healing Visual Refuge

2020 was the year of classic blue, but 2021 embraces warm pastels like peach and light pink, and slightly more lively tones like faded mint or cerulean, that speak of hope and joy, but also provide visual relaxation.


dreamstimesmall 99982267 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved


dreamstimesmall 26887993 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Mikhail Dudarev | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

All Pastels

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Copyright: Martinmark | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved


The social distancing imposed in 2020 remains a practice in 2021. While we are now more or less free to travel and explore the world, images will show us doing so in solitary, with remote destinations and solo adventures being the norm.


dreamstimesmall 140877903 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Rasica | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Remote Destinations

dreamstimesmall 79615208 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Ethan Daniels | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Geometrically Simple

As learning and brainstorming were taken into the digital sphere last year, it will be perfected this year. And for that, visual design becomes more focused on simplicity and self-explanatory concepts, where minimalist, monochrome and simple geometric lines prevail.


dreamstimesmall 115042121 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Ernest Akayeu | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved


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Copyright: Wacomka | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

Abstracting Reality

In the last year, many face-to-face activities became online and digital, further blurring the lines between reality and virtuality. In 2021, images will represent this merging, integrating photography with illustrations/graphics in a mix of realism and abstraction.

dreamstimesmall 120796035 > Exciting Photography Trends 2021
Copyright: Alexandersikov | Dreamstime.com, all rights reserved

That's all for now, but stay tuned, as we will bring you more photography and creative trends in the coming days!

Header image: Copyright by knallgrün/Photocase.com, all rights reserved.

Avatar of Ivanna Attié

Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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