Photography trends are like waves, they come and go and you never really know how strong they are until you put your feet in the water. But of course you’re already dedicating most of your days to developing your skills, taking care of your photography website, and engaging with your audience. With all of this, how are you supposed to find the time to play around with all of these new trends without even knowing which ones will stick around?
To help you keep your sanity while still being aware of what’s going on around you, we’ve put together a curated list of the biggest photo trends of the year. From their origins and characteristics to their impact in the discipline and tips to adopt them, this is everything that you need to know about the top ten photography trends that will take 2020 by storm:
Make your world brighter
Stop posing, start living
Rotate your views
Get in touch with mother nature
Change your perspective
Embrace your inner Greta
Keep it real
Take it all in
Less (weight) is more
01. Make your world brighter
Over the last few years, muted colors dominated the media world. The faded look that was once reserved for the fine art photography sphere spread rapidly through disciplines thanks to the major influence of outdoor photographers. Their work style, heavily characterized by seemingly untouched sceneries and dramatic editing touch, soon became a synonym for Instagram for photographers.
But like most things, this moody trend is also coming to an end. Photographers across all genres are embracing color and contrast again, resulting in much brighter and vivid images. As a result, vibrance and saturation are making a big comeback as one of the biggest photography trends of the year.
02. Stop posing, start living
In the age of digital filters and fake news, people are craving authenticity. Photographers are moving away from posed portraits and studio settings in favor of a more natural, candid approach to their work. Consequently, lifestyle photography is positioning itself as a reference across all genres, from portrait and pet photography to commercial and product photography.
This photography trend leads to less strictly directed photoshoots where subjects are encouraged to interact with each other and their surroundings without paying too much attention to the camera. For example, products are photographed as part of everyday scenes rather than as standalone subjects. Furthermore, images are intended to look as naturally illuminated as possible, meaning that certain camera accessories such as reflectors should be used to even out artificial lighting when necessary.
03. Rotate your views
When asked about the way in which they consume media, the majority of people will answer that they mainly do so on mobile devices. After all, it’s hard to fight the convenience of smartphones and the ease of use of social media networks. For photographers, this means that they need to ensure their work stands out amongst many others on very small screens, in front of an audience who is barely paying attention to what they’re seeing.
There are two main courses of action to ensure this happens: develop a unique photography style and display your images as big as possible. This led more and more photographers to start shooting vertical images in order to avoid cropping that affects the photography balance of their compositions. While this trend began in social media after Instagram announced its vertical display, it soon spread beyond the confinements of these platforms. After all, chances are that your professional photographer website’s audience is also browsing your portfolio on their mobile devices.
04. Get in touch with mother nature
More people are living in cities now than any other point in history, and a couple more billions are expected to leave rural areas in the following years. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, we seem to be more drawn than ever to the great outdoors. Beautiful nature photos cover the walls of our homes and the screens of our work computers, we spend countless hours watching wildlife documentaries, and we leave the city the moment our workweek ends.
Needless to say, photographers are far from immune to this global tendency. Outdoor sceneries will be one of the biggest photography trends of 2020 across all genres. Travel and wildlife photographers will visit the world’s most remote locations in search of untold stories and jaw-dropping scenes. Professionals in the fields of commercial and portrait photography will do most of their work in nature settings, presenting the scenery as a subject rather than a simple background. And people all over the globe will use these images as a way to feed their wanderlust dreams.
05. Change your perspective
Not long ago, aerial photography was something that only those who were very wealthy or lucky enough had access to. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to spend more than a couple minutes on social media without coming across a bird's-eye view shot. This is due to the affordability of consumer drones, which has shifted the entry barrier of aerial images down to the same level as other types of photography.
Landscape and travel photography are the two genres impacted the most by the drone photography trend, but its reach doesn’t stop there. Less obvious fields such as wedding and fashion photography have also experienced a significant growth of aerial perspectives.
06. Embrace your inner Greta
As the planet’s temperature rises, so does society’s consciousness. People all around the globe want to learn more about what’s happening to the world and how they can help, and photographers are doing their part by capturing images that show the effects of environmental issues on the ecosystems. Because of this, the documentary essence of photoperiodism has transcended genre barriers, and using photography as a tool to raise awareness will be one of the main photography trends of 2020.
Documentary and wildlife photography will be the primary power source of this trend, as professionals in those fields are those with the most direct access to the effects of global warming and other man-made disasters. However, photographers in unrelated fields such as fashion and food photography are also starting to build projects and use their voice to raise awareness for social causes.
07. Keep it real
Remember those videos from the early ‘90s full of crazy-looking visual effects that didn’t really add much to the story? In hindsight, we can all agree that the video editing of that time got a bit out of hand as technology advanced. But while we might think of ourselves as more tech savvy than previous generations, it turns out that we committed the same mistakes once free photo editing software became widely available.
Blown highlights, excessively smooth skin, oversaturated colors, unnatural colors, noisy HDR… you get the idea. And it only got worse once photography apps put all these tools literally at the tips of our fingers. Luckily this time it didn’t take us a couple decades to learn from our mistakes and minimalist editing, aimed to enhance the image while keeping it as natural as possible, will become one of the biggest photography trends of 2020.
08. Take it all in
Just like vertical images, this photography trend is also a result of the impact of social media. And while they may seem polar opposites, they’re actually closely related. The popularity rise of panoramic pictures originated on Instagram Stories, as this feature offered photographer the chance to ensure their images were displayed in full-screen for the first time on social media.
This option rapidly became especially popular among landscape photography enthusiasts, who used the entire length of smartphones to share rotated panoramas. Said stories were commonly paired with a vertical crop of the scene shared on the actual feed. The practice became so common that eventually Instagram added a carrousel feed feature where users can share both vertical crops and full-sized panoramas.
09. Start moving
Video may have killed the radio star, but it only made photographers stronger. As videos started positioning themselves as the most popular form of media content on the web, photographers saw an opportunity to expand their skills and cater to a wider audience. And thus many started transitioning from photography to videography, not as a career path change but as an added bonus to their professional offering.
Since most photography cameras also offer great video capabilities, this shift is primarily technical. That is, it doesn’t require a major financial investment but rather the study and practice of basic video tips. The one piece of additional equipment that can make a huge impact on videography work from the first moment is stabilizing gimbals, which has turned them into one of the most valued gifts for photographers.
10. Less (weight) is more
The debate of mirrorless vs DSLR has been going on for a few years now, but it looks like it’s about to come to an end. As the quality of mirrorless cameras keeps on rising, professional photographers across all genres are getting rid of their DSLR camera equipment. This doesn’t mean that DSLRs will disappear from the market in 2020, but rather than their hegemony above all other types of cameras has come to an end.
The main driving force behind this photography trend is, coincidentally, another popular trend in the discipline: to go further than anyone has gone before. Mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter, which makes them a more suitable fit for photographers on the go in fields such as travel and street photography.