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photo by skynesher via iStock
It’s super important to stay on top of photography trends if you’re running a photography business because there is just about nothing more embarrassing than a client coming to you looking for a specific style of photo and knowing absolutely nothing about it.
But, photography trends are just like every other type of trend; they’re fleeting. I find myself googling photography trends at least once a month in order to keep up. While I don’t change my Instagram aesthetic every month, I do like to understand what people are looking for in their photos.
2020 is especially unique because, let’s just say it, this year has been kind to no one. Between the coronavirus pandemic and the election for those of us here in the U.S., it’s been hard to keep up with much of anything.
The overwhelming nature of this year has definitely bled into these photography trends too. To help keep you up to date, I’ve compiled what I think is a pretty solid list of the top 2020 photography trends.
If you don’t see a trend you think should be on this photography trends of 2020 list, let us know! They’re changing all the time.
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Bright, or Neon, Colors
photo by Massonstock via iStock
If you aren’t a complete nerd like me, then you probably don’t follow Shutterstock’s color photography trends. But, all of the colors they picked for 2020 are incredibly bright.
Some of them, like lush lava, border on neon. If you’ve kept up with social media, particularly Instagram, this year then this definitely doesn’t come as a surprise.
While businesses are much more likely to follow this trend in their marketing, I’ve seen influencers leaning into the bright colors trend as well.
While a lot of these photography trends are difficult to pinpoint exactly where they started, I think it’s probably safe to assume that photographers of color are to thank for this trend. More people of color have been involved in the photography and modeling industry this year than ever before and it’s no secret that bright colors complement darker skin tones beautifully.
photo by PeopleImages via iStock
One of my favorite photography trends from this year has been social activism. This type of photo includes images of people participating in their civic rights, like the freedom of speech, but it also includes images of people basically just showing up for one another.
Whenever serious events happen in the world, like the coronavirus, people want to make great, big displays about how much they care about their community. That’s what social activist photography is all about. Even businesses are starting to tap into this trend.
I mean, how many commercials have you seen this year from a corporation thanking first responders for their service and promising you that we are all going to get through this?
Divergent Beauty Portraits
photo by caracterdesign via iStock
Speaking of photography trends that minorities have started. Here is another one.
Most beauty campaigns for the last century have focused on makeup products and makeup looks that make the models look “more natural.” A pop of red on the model’s lips could be the only pop of color in the whole portrait.
But, people are starting to celebrate makeup for what it is, a product to let them look otherworldly. Makeup artists are getting really into looks that celebrate the makeup instead of the person wearing it. It's an artform all of its own.
photo by FilippoBacci via iStock
I would argue that most of the photography trends on this list weren’t started by companies. Usually marketers tap into photography trends, they don’t create them. That’s not the case with “real” realism.
In this type of photography, models are posed to look as if they are taking a candid shot. Unlike other forms of traditional photography that included “candid shots,” like fashion photography where models would look as if they were walking or lounging in their clothing, “real” realism celebrates the mistakes models make.
By doing this, your images turn out looking much more candid. They also turn out looking much more like something that would end up on a teenager’s Instagram.
photo by Anastasiia Yanishevska via iStock
If you haven’t heard of cottagecore yet this year, let me explain it to you. Cottagecore was a trend started by Taylor Swift and it originally had nothing to do with photography. Cottagecore is the celebration and romanticization of country living.
It really started to blow up at the beginning of the pandemic when people were increasingly being forced into tiny apartments in city centers and were fantasizing about living anywhere but where they were.
Now, though, cottagecore has branched off into a ton of different industries. Cottagecore photography includes a lot of pastel colors. It makes the viewer feel as though they are getting more in touch with nature. A lot of cottagecore photography is taken with film cameras to give it a more vintage look. The trend also includes the use of a lot of floral prints.
photo by RyanJLane via iStock
Speaking of vintage… pretty much everything vintage is in right now.
Teenagers are wearing a lot more vintage clothing, pieces inspired by the 70s, 80s, and 90s depending upon the month. They’re participating in vintage hobbies, like collecting records or listening to Fleetwood Mac (if you haven’t seen the latest TikTok trend, it involves Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours). So, it makes sense that they would want this love of everything vintage to be in their photographs as well.
It’s why you can purchase apps on your phone to give your images timestamps, to make it look as if they were taken with a disposable camera.
photo by Sean Pavone via iStock
Yet another photography trend inspired by the pandemic this year is hyper-local shots. People are traveling a whole lot less, which means they’re getting antsy to go explore their own homes.
Because of this, staycations are on the rise, which means photography featuring hyper-local destination spots in your hometown are needed now more than ever.
People are really in search of nature right now, so photographing natural spots (even in the middle of the city) is probably your best bet for succeeding in this trend. But, you can also take photos of different destinations in your hometown, like eateries.
photo by EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER via iStock
I don’t know that aerial photography is ever going to go away now that it’s so cheap to get set up with your own aerial photography set.
Aerial photography started becoming much more popular a couple of years ago and it’s looking like 2021 will be filled with much of the same.
photo by borchee via iStock
This trend is definitely inspired by Instagram. The art of minimalism is the art of using the least amount of materials as possible. So, people can have a minimalist closet filled with 10 different pieces of clothing they can wear dozens of different ways. They can also have minimalist homes filled with a select few pieces of furniture that all function for multiple different purposes.
Minimalist photography is essentially the act of catching this trend in action. So, whether you’re a family photographer, a wedding photographer, or a real estate photographer, then you’re probably going to need to understand the clean lines and crisp colors of minimalism sooner rather than later.
photo by U.Ozel.Images via iStock
Smartphones have spurred plenty of photography trends and this is yet another one.
Models, and even young people just learning how to take excellent selfies from models, understand the inherent benefits of shooting everything in natural light. My Instagram feed is filled with images that use natural light. I’ve had clients cancel on me if I was supposed to be taking their portrait and the weather ended up not being what they had hoped.
This trend is also great news for photographers who are looking to save some money on equipment this year.