The team at Stock Photo Secrets, in collaboration with our trusted friends at the top stock photo agencies, collected the top Photography Trends 2021 to inspire your designs and keep you on top of your visual marketing game.
Just like we do every year – check out our Photography Trends 2023 report!
Scroll down and discover the most beautiful photos and illustrations that reigned 2021!
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.
A focus on Inner Life and self care (+177%) has compelled many to shift focus in the coming year towards life’s simple pleasures.
Free-flowing Inkscapes, one-of-a-kind
Tie Dye patterns
And twisting, line portraits depicting Surreal Faces, show the embrace of individuality—and imperfection.
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%).
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.
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.
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.iStock
Responsible Depictions of Sustainability
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
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
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.
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.
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.123RF
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.Dreamstime
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Photography Trends 2020
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