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BUDGET Stock Photo “State of the Nation 2020”

Current stock photography industry trends, forecast for 2020 and beyond

looking to the future


More Creative Images - Everywhere!

I've written before and I'll write it again no doubt - the trend is more images, larger images, images with everything, but in the past 4 years tastes in images have noticeably changed to embrace a more creative cinematic aesthetic. The use of images has also been enhanced by the death of the "info graphic" in recent years.


As of 2020 Video has still not taken off to any great extent as is predicted but is still growing. I suspect it will be for some time, Facebook videos are auto playing a nauseating spin of motion as we scroll down our feed, but like sounds or music on the internet, I do wonder about video in the mainstream and a visitor backlash at bandwidth or more likely the distraction it brings. We have ad blockers brought about because of visually noisy advertising banners, there are also ways to block video. The industry is learning to only play video when the mouse rolls over on desktop platforms.


One day in the future can see myself writing about a new (sic) trend in "information rich" websites with lots of useful textural information all displayed right in front of your eyes - but sadly I can't see that happening for a good few years yet. The novelty of swiping endlessly (and often needlessly) around screens with massive text and images to find what we want has now long lost it's novelty. We are still to see any kind of movement back towards information dense screens that enhance productivity. In the meanwhile there is plenty of negative space that images can spread into.


"Authentic" Mainstream

During my last review I wrote about authentic style images becoming mainstream. Authentic, retro and instagram style (now minus the overused cross process effects thank god!) is now the norm. Polished high key style stock with white teeth and smiles is completely out! This has seen an availability of space for other styles of photography, especially well thought out and executed 'clean minimalist' often with a pop of colour. Minimal or sparse composition and overhead perspective continue to be a growing trend.


Covid Effects

Conspicuous use of technology to work smarter, now manifesting itself in WFH / teleworking was a trend in our last industry review. We were seeing less groups of people and more individuals in photography before the corona pandemic, At time of writing this it almost feels alien to see groups of people together in a photo. As we use technology more than ever to do things like check-in, pay bills etc, then the stock photography depicting these topics will have to be constantly refreshed as technology advances.


Trends in Words:

Authenticity - Minority : Disability : Imperfection : Candid

Realism - POV (point of view, first person perspective) : Real Life : Available Light : Start my Day


Market Growth

Shutterstock is slowly losing its commanding lead in the microstock industry with more than 300 million images online as I write this (75 million 4 years ago). Shutterstock are seeing growing competition from Adobe Stock. Not entirely surprisingly, if designers are locked into buying a subscription for their design software then bundling or adding a subscription to stock images is easy.

Getty images are no longer quite so weighed down by greedy investors milking profits and hindering the companys' ability to adapt.


Confirmed: Mobile Stock Went Nowhere

6 years ago you would have thought that mobile was going to take over the world of stock photography, well it didn't - it's style and aesthetic did. Mobile brought us realism. Photographers were easily able to execute photos in a "phone style", and combine it with professional descriptions and keywording, high quality of professional cameras, reliability and trustworthiness of known producers and distributors who sometimes offer a legal guarantee of their work. Crowdsourcing from amateurs has its pitfalls.


The Still Slow Growth of CC0

After initially bursting onto the scene in mid 2014 with lots of excitement and some jaw dropping completely "free to use images" (CC0 is a license that allows photographers to divest themselves of all rights to their images so far as is possible - public domain dedication). Reviewing in 2016 for our list of CC0 photo sites, I was totally underwhelmed by what you found if you scratched the surface. Most of these sites had few images, those that are there are nothing short of extraordinary considering they are being given away. Many of the images are simply copied around from one site to the next. In the past 4 years CC0 has continued along the same vein. A couple of major sites levering the license type were pexels and unsplash, but it's very important to note that now both of those websites converted to a custom license which is not so liberal as CC0 (no redistribution allowed).

The large increase in numbers of CC0 seen in the initial years have been the addition of several collections of existing PD materials and public works (e.g. museum, old book prints etc). The lack of keywording for stock use, that is to say descriptive or emotive keywords rather than simple 'what it is' continues to hinder discoverability.

The company jumpstory has made in interesting move in this arena, creating a subscription service to allow easier discovery of CC0 images using machine learning to filter the best images. The terms of use are concerning however; do not think that these images are without strings, there may be other rights holders featured in the 'free' image (logos, protected designs, people).



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