Let's not beat around the bush. The 2020 global pandemic forced many people, photographers included, to pause normal life and enter a bizarre world of lockdowns and COVID restrictions. Events canceled, social distanced gatherings, and small weddings do not a happy photographer make.
But 2021 is here, and things are looking up. More and more countries around the globe are putting their vaccination programs into overdrive, and people are beginning to return to their pre-pandemic game plans. With any luck, the most prominent 2021 trends will be ones of recovery and normalcy.
As the world opens up, photographers are heading out and doing what they do best--capturing the world around them and sharing it with others. It's a different world, with maybe a touch more gratitude for the small things and the happy interactions we once took for granted. What are they capturing through their lenses? Let's look at some of the popular trends for 2021.
Top Photography Trends for 2021
Capturing the Social Distance
Social distance is the recurring theme from the last year. There's the ubiquitous six feet or two meters that we've all come to know. But there's also the emotional sense of isolation and social distance that we are all feeling as a society.
None of this year's trends exemplify this as well as the silhouette image. Silhouettes portray isolation and separation in a very impactful and powerful way. Images that capture that distance that we are all feeling connect with everyone right now.
In 2020, faces changed. We no longer get to see other people like we once did. But portraits are still portraits. When capturing people for use in stock photography or street photography, now everyone is wearing a mask. Nothing looks more out of place than a group of maskless people standing right next to one another.
How can we as photographers embrace this new look? The photos certainly have a prominent timestamp, but is there any way we can embrace the aesthetic? It's worth mentioning that there is a massive demand for refreshed publicity and stock shots that have masked people in them. Because if a website is to look fresh, the people need to be wearing masks.
More Self Portraits and Photos of Your Family
If you're looking for subjects, your pool of possibilities has gotten much smaller in the past year. Doing a photoshoot with strangers seems so 2019. Of course, it can be done, and it can be done safely. But precautions and being careful are essential to prevent spread, and so it becomes much easier to work with those close to us. Instead of working with strangers, we lean on those in our bubble to be our subjects.
So it's no surprise that one of the most popular trends of the year is the classic self-portrait. Mom and dad, brother and sister--they're all fair game. And Fido and Fluffy? Yeah, they're getting the full pet portrait package too. Keep in practice, keep your gear in good shape, and keep your portfolio fresh by taking lots of pictures. Here are some ideas of Poses for Portrait Photography that you can try out. Great portrait photography is a result of combining the right technique with an artist's expression. Do have a look at our article on Ten Innovative Self-Portrait ideas that will provide you all the inspiration you need.
Food and Still Life Photography Reborn
Since portrait work is more complicated, try your hand at still-life images. The beauty of still life is that you can use anything handy and let your mind get creative. Focus on an aesthetic you'd like to produce and go wild. You can also create still-life images anywhere, of practically any subject.
For all of these reasons, you're bound to see more still-life images in 2021. It's a fun way to dust off your gear, no matter what sort of shooting you usually do. Food, products, fantasy scenes, toys, or just a bowl of fruit can make excellent subjects.
Less Polished, More Raw Realism
It seems that the changes of the past year have brought on a new visual epoch. Who knows why trends pop up over time and what affects them, but a year of lockdowns seems to have made us all more appreciative of the real world. We're no longer living in fantasies because the real world has at times seemed like a fantasy.
How does this outlook apply to your photography? In 2021, it means a greater focus on realism. It doesn't mean less post-production, per se, but rather a different overall aesthetic. Things feel grittier now like the world has a dark underbelly that we've all gotten a glimpse of.
But the result doesn't have to be dark and dour. It's more of a focus on rugged or atypical beauty. These images provide a more authentic look at the subject, opening up authentic moments for the lens.
Finding your own photographic aesthetic is all about experimentation. It should complement what you do and how you shoot it. It should flow with the platform you're using to share your photos. And above all, it should add to the beauty of your photos. Here are 29 Outstanding Photography Portfolio websites built on Pixpa, for you to get inspiration and ideas. These photographers have made excellent use of Pixpa, an easy to use website builder to showcase their photos. You can draw inspiration from these creative professionals and study their portfolios, to get a clearer idea of how you want to showcase your repertoire of work.
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No list of 2021 trends would be complete without the mention of UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles. That's government-speak for what you and I call drones. They are everywhere now, and the photography capabilities of even inexpensive consumer models are out of this world.
But as more and more drones take to the skies, it's becoming essential to understand the rules and regulations that apply to them. Many photographers are unaware that drones are regulated by the government's aviation authorities, like the FAA in the United States.
As such, drones sometimes require registration and their pilots sometimes require licenses. When traveling to foreign countries, you usually need to apply for permission from that government's aviation authority, even if you're just using it for fun. Privacy laws are slowly catching up with the technology, and while drones are here to stay, the rules that govern their operations are constantly evolving.
Drone photography has been increasing over the last year or two, thanks to a few convenient facts about flying them. It's usually outdoors, and it's usually done away from people. Here are a few tips on how to use drones for aerial photography.
One of the most evident aesthetic trends that drones have brought about is the bird's eye view, straight down shot. These images, framed without the horizon, are unique and beautiful. Photographers can capture patterns that you can't even see from ground level, and everything looks fresh and different.
Outdoors and Nature Photography
What better way to social distance than a walk in the woods? In the US, visitation to national parks and nature areas is at an all-time high. People are freer to adjust their work schedules, and getting a bit of fresh air and exercise is a great way to get out of the house and experience something new.
Shutterbugs of all stripes are taking to nature photography in droves. For some, it's a new challenge. For others, it's mastering and practicing their art form. No matter which group you fall into, nature photography is rewarding in its simplicity. The pictures, whether you realize it or not, are nearly always secondary to the experience.
Before you can determine when the best time to take pictures is, you'll need to decide what sort of photos you want to make. What is the mood you want to capture? What is your subject, and how do you want it to look in the images? These are artistic choices, only bound by your creativity and technical abilities with a camera. Here are a few tips on what's the best time to take pictures outside.
With more time spent out of doors comes a greater appreciation for the natural world and the precarious balance that it's in. Climate change is unfortunately in full swing, touching all corners of the globe. Photographers are instrumental in bringing public awareness to those changes and showing the world what damage is being done.
Whether it's showing the areas endangered by rising seas, the humanitarian crises caused by drought and poverty, or the mass extinction underway thanks to human activities, photography has the power to change minds and bring awareness to issues. If nothing else, heading outdoors and seeing the biodiversity in our backyard serves as a reminder--it might not be around forever. Capture the images of what it's like today because things are changing rapidly.
Environmentalism isn't the only activism that benefits from photographer engagement. No matter what cause you are passionate about, it's easy to find an organization in need of your help.
Stock photographers are used to following social trends to anticipate what images might be hot sellers this year. Indeed, any photos that celebrate diversity and cooperation between people of various backgrounds are winners. Positive race relations, civil and gender rights, and fighting discrimination in all forms are hot topics right now. Female empowerment and non-binary gender issues are especially important in 2021.
There's also an ongoing trend to incorporate more ages into photography. Finding ways to include the young and the old, and to show the arc of life in general, is a fun way to look at portraiture and photography in general. Capturing unexpected and authentic moments tells so much more about a person or place than a posed portrait does. Here are some great tips for candid photography. The goal is to show the human experience, after all, and this trend just aims to show the whole thing. And it's just one more step towards celebrating the diversity of our entire community.
Video and Cinemagraphs
Not very long ago, there was a time when you had to have two cameras to shoot decent photos and record usable video footage. But that time has passed. Today's DSLR and mirrorless cameras are superbly capable of switching between those two tasks at a moment's notice. It's as easy as changing the ISO, shutter speed, or any other camera setting. Most new cameras can now record Super-HD 4K video, and some are even capable now of 8K.
With this new power at their fingertips, photographers are making the most of new technologies. Video is just a moving picture, after all, and if you have the technology at hand, why not use it? But video requires a unique skill set and some specialized equipment. It's now common to see photographers working with their DSLRs mounted in cages, with lighting and shotgun microphones mounted for creating broadcast-quality productions.
The result and what you do with all that footage are up to you. One of the more popular trends that has taken off is the cinemagraph. These seemingly still photos have one element of movement in them. Maybe it is the water in a stream or the ripples on a lake. The little bit of motion makes the image pop off the screen, and these small files are easier for designers to incorporate into web ads or webpage backgrounds.
It has been evident for several years now that mobile devices are competitive with consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras. Their advantage is obvious. Nearly everyone carries their smartphone with them everywhere they go. Who can say that about their camera? Not even professional photographers can. As more and more people have come to see the value of their phone's camera, the phone makers have stepped up their games. Some have gone full-out to compete for the photographer's business, while others slowly plugged away to make the best phone camera they could for each edition.
The results speak for themselves. Content creators and influencers now use their phones for everything. They're capable of 4K video, studio-quality sound, and amazing still images. The best phones are now sold with three or four different lenses and camera setups. Aftermarket companies make a wide assortment of filters, lenses, and add-ons to make the smartphone the powerhouse of the content creator's arsenal.
Unless a creator is interested in photography as an art form, an excellent smartphone is now the default go-to. Camera makers feel the squeeze, and better phone cameras are pushing out entry-level DSLR and mirrorless models. There will always be a place for flagship cameras with their larger sensors and unlimited lens options, but for most people's everyday needs, the phone is their primary capturing device.
This is even evident in stock photography and commercial photography needs. Stock sites have offered mobile uploading directly from the device for several years now. Recently, a major stock company started allowing the sales of vertical videos on their site.
Small Weddings and Events
Wedding photographers know that many of these events haven't been canceled--they've just been modified to meet the needs of the times. Things are more relaxed, with fewer formalities. Truthfully, there's a refreshing refocus on the important elements of events like weddings. It is, after all, about the bride and groom and their special day. It doesn't have to be about the giant party and the extended family.
And so, there are more small informal ceremonies happening all over the world. Extended family and friends still want to participate, but they do so virtually or through the stories and photos, you take.
Corporate events and things like concerts are pressing forward, but also in socially-distanced safe ways. Traveling for events is way down, so photographers who work in destination markets are eager for vaccine passports and holiday travel to resume. But hometown photographers have gotten a boom from events that are staying put, offering new and exciting opportunities for the local guys.
Use of Vivid Colors
Color theory is a broad and interesting facet of design. Color trends wax and wane like photography trends. Right now, though, vivid colors are in. Think bright, super-saturated colors that pop off the screen or page. Neon lights, crazy colored buildings, and saturated natural landscapes attract attention. This trend closely aligns with similar trajectories in the design world, especially in web spaces.
Perhaps the best demonstration of this is the newest Pantone color of the year--Saffron, number 14-1064. The vibrant yellow-orange color is eye-catching and bright and perfectly encapsulates 2021.
Minimalism and Surrealism
Here are two classic art terms you're going to start hearing a lot more about in the coming year.
Minimalism is removing the unnecessary and distilling a composition down to its bare bones. Does an item add to the message you're trying to convey? If not, then get rid of it. Minimalist images tend to feel bare, but they also work on many levels. They are appealing to a broad audience, and they can be aesthetically very pleasing. Designers love them because they can pair with many other styles of layout.
Surrealism is closely related, but it aims to blend a little bit of the other-world into the everyday. At its core, surrealism is about blending the subconscious mind with reality. Salvador Dali and René Magritte are the best-known surreal painters.
Experimental photography is an intriguing starting point for surrealism. This is where photographers play with non-traditional techniques to get a new result. Some of it is done in post-production, while other photographers go all out during the shooting. Experimental photography is a derivative of the Dada art movement.
2021 is sure to challenge us in ways we least expect. But if 2020 taught us anything, it's that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. As an art form, photography has the power to transcend these difficult times and connect people across the globe, even through a global pandemic and social distancing. Photographers are still out there creating impactful and meaningful work. They're still inspiring us to travel and to make waves. What trends will make their way into your portfolio?
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