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How does the media influence stock photography?

The news stories that have dominated mainstream media over the last year have had interesting effects on the trends in stock photography. The most apparent of these effects is a powerful craving for ‘the truth’. Rumours of election interference and fake news have been flickering in front of our eyes for a long time and they have planted a certain doubt in democracy. It has even been said that we are now living in a post-truth era. And in a way that’s true – all the latest web technology is designed to give us the best user experience based on our previous online movements, and it’s hard to break through the bubble to find completely objective content that was not cherry-picked to fit you.

Brexit is another event that has taken the media on a roller coaster ride and forced consumers to rethink their core values. The disruption from events like this have proven to be good ways to spark new directions in the creative industries. Another key topic has been the incredible steps taken within technology. The development of humanoid robots that are better, faster and stronger than us, has not only driven the need for more imagery of advanced technology but simultaneously a need to reaffirm the presence of organic life.

So by taking a closer look, it seems that what’s been trending in the news (political grumblings, augmented reality and generation i-kids are a few examples) have actually created a few contra-trends in photography. We can see that not only big brands, but also publishing houses, design companies and social media campaigns are all trying to lull us back to basics. The real feeling you can only get by picking up a purring cat on a Sunday morning, or when speeding downhill on your new bike, is more important than ever and photography needs to reflect that.

 

Cute scene between a woman and her european cat indoor in her house - owner, love, affection concept
Eugenio Marongiu / Alamy Stock Photo

 

Our picture research team could safely confirm that the main thing underpinning their briefs are raw, unposed, natural and candid imagery. They explained that the hallmarks that don’t cut it anymore are images of people that are smiling at everyday things for the sake of it (out shopping, playing sport, etc). That aesthetic has been on the decline for a long time and the team has noticed even the smallest of smiles can turn customers off.

Taking all this to account, it is not a surprise that Pantone’s colour of the year was the shade named Greenery. What they said themselves pretty much sums it up: “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the re-connection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”

 

Young couple look toward the tops of towering redwood trees. Big Sur, California.
Stephanie Plomarity / Alamy Stock Photo

 

Another big contra-trend continuing to flourish in the eye of the storm is hygge. I was wondering why this Scandinavian concept all of a sudden found a place to grow in British culture after all these years of pure neglect. It all made sense when I came across this podcast “The hygge conspiracy”. It reveals that the concept of hygge had not arrived here by accident, but it was slowly induced into our consciousness when we needed it the most. The first article about hygge appeared on the BBC website October 2015 and it got over a million hits. It was only out-read by five other stories, which all headlined school shootings, terrorism and cancer.

 

Mulled wine for two outdoors
Kati Molin / Alamy Stock Photo

 

News stories, social media trends and advertising campaigns all feed into each other, in turn creating trends in stock photography. There has been a big push for real and tough women, minority groups and people with disabilities to appear in advertising over the last year. Trends like this can directly dictate searches on Alamy. So if you as a photographer want to sell more images into the commercial market, forget about the stereotypes we are all too familiar with and start to push some boundaries. Nike’s #justdoit campaigns are prime examples of how this can be done. One of their latest ads features women from the Middle East skating, running, boxing and jumping from rooftops, showing that barriers can be overcome, now more than ever before.

Whilst advertising drives trends in visual storytelling, social media has lately been the main ambassador for style and how to tailor those stories. By adopting the style seen on Instagram, visual stories project a feeling of approachability and friendliness that we associate with friends and family snaps.

 

Two friends walking outdoors, young woman looking over shoulder, rear view, Bristol, UK
Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy Stock Photo

 

Can you think of any other ways in which the media influences stock photography? Let us know in the comments below.