13 Photography Trends You Should Be Following
Advances in technology have driven the evolution of photography. Once a field exclusive to trained professionals, photography has become more accessible, user-friendly, and affordable. Now, anyone with a camera and editing software can explore popular trends in photography and produce near-professional standard photographs.
Technology isn’t the only factor that drives change in photography trends. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns shaped the type of photos created in 2021. Drone photography, silhouettes, and artificial intelligence-powered image editing were some of the photo trends that dominated that year. In 2020, activism photography was all the rage.
Like many art forms, photography goes through trends. Whether you’ve been in the game a long time or just started, knowing what is trendy helps create engaging and relevant material. Trends impact the type of photos clients want. Therefore, trend awareness helps photographers understand clients better and create one-of-a-kind shots that stand out from the crowd.
So, what are the top photography trends today? This post will examine 13 photography trends you should be following.
1 – Phoneography
One of the technologies that changed photography is the camera phone. It has opened up the photography industry to anyone with a smartphone. With continued development in smartphone technology, phone cameras are beginning to rival professional cameras in terms of quality and convenience.
Most people are satisfied with their mobile phones for their photography needs. They are also the primary work tool for social media influencers and content creators. Furthermore, many photo printing sites allow users to create photo books, calendars, or wall art from photos uploaded from mobile devices.
Top-of-the-line camera phones have up to four different lenses and camera configurations, capable of producing studio-quality images. Add filters and aftermarket accessories, and you have a powerful creative tool that fits into your pocket.
Mobile photography also has a niche audience of enthusiasts who share images taken with their phones.
This photo – ‘The Kid of Mosul’- is the Grand Prize winner of the 2022 iPhone Photography Awards. The contest, now in its fifteenth year, is open for anyone to submit a photo in one of eighteen categories. The rules are simple – the images must be taken with an iPhone or iPad and edited using iPhone filters and lenses. No Photoshop. ‘The Kid of Mosul' was shot by Antonio Denti using the iPhone 11.
2 – Macro Photography
Macro photography is the extreme close-up photography of small subjects. This photography style, used by nature photographers, capture intricate details—for example, the face shot of an ant or the vein pattern of a flower petal. Macro photography takes ordinary subjects and shows them in new ways.
This macro image of a pollinating bee was shot by Jean-Yves Matroule using the Panasonic DC-GH5.
You need to be aware of two terms in macro photography: working distance and magnification. Working distance is the physical distance between the lens and the subject. The bigger your lens is(physically), the greater your working distance. It means you can be further away and keep your object the same size in the photo. We recommend using a long working distance to avoid frightening the subject.
The second term, magnification, refers to how big your subject is on the camera sensor compared with its size in the real world. Magnification of 1:1 means the subject’s size on the sensor equals the real world. A 2:1 magnification produces an image of the object twice as big on the sensor compared to its size in the real world. For macro photography, we recommend a magnification of at least 1:1.
Macro photography can be challenging. On top of lighting and focus issues, macro photographers have to deal with natural elements. Their subjects are usually tiny and often moving. Furthermore, changes in wind direction or intensity can affect flowers and plants. However, the rewards are satisfying when photographers capture never-before-seen images.
3 – Surrealism and Minimalism
Surrealism is an artistic movement that expresses the unconscious mind with illogical or disorienting ideas. The purpose of surrealist photography is to break away from representative images and evoke unexplainable emotions. The genre features dream-like scenes, distorted figures, and bizarre arrangements of recognisable subjects.
‘Set Them Free’ is a photo by surrealist photographer Erik Johanson. It features a boy pouring out the contents of a framed picture (miniature boats) in the sea.
Since surrealist photography doesn’t strictly document the world as it is, it incorporates more editing than other genres. When combining or altering photos, look for editing errors like shadow mismatch that can distract the viewer. Surrealism may be about creating fantastic images, but they should be believable.
Minimalism is an artistic movement whose motto is ‘less is more.’ Minimalist photography emphasises a limited use of design elements – colour, shapes, textures, and the number of objects – to achieve the desired effect. The aim is to highlight the beauty of simplicity by removing anything that distracts from the main subject. As a result, viewers see only what the photographer wants them to see.
The focal point of this seascape by minimalist photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto minimises the ripples of the sea. Other design elements have been reduced to highlight the texture in the image.
Minimalism started in the 1950s and is growing not just as an art movement but as a lifestyle as well. A part of the genre’s growing popularity on social networks like Instagram can be attributed to the size of screens.
More and more people consume content on mobile devices. For the main subject to stand out on small screens, complex details or multiple features must be minimised or removed. Otherwise, the scene becomes busy and distracting.
4 – HDR Photography
Ever taken a picture of a beautiful sunset and the result looked nothing like what you saw? In the photo, the details of the sky are visible, but the ground surface is shadowed and dark. Or the other way around, where the ground is correctly exposed, but the sunset washed out. That’s because cameras don’t have the same ability as the human eye to perceive bright and dark tones.
The image on the left shows the skyline, but the ground surface is underexposed. The image on the right shows the same scene with corrected ground surface exposure but an overexposed skyline. Cameras simply can’t capture the dynamic range of the view.
Enter HDR photography. HDR (high dynamic range) photography is a photo processing technique that combines multiple versions of the same scene to make a single photo. The result is an image that most mimics what the human eye sees.
The image above is the result of combining the two previous photos. The details of the skyline and ground surface are both visible.
You can use up to three photos (under, regular, and overexposed) to create an HDR image. Many modern cameras come with an HDR setting that allows users to configure contrast settings and save time in editing.
5 – Vintage & Retro Photography
The oldest surviving photograph is a grainy black and white image of a rooftop taken by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826. Photography has come a long way since then. With new technology, we can photograph planets, nebulae, and galaxies. But some people don’t like the crystal clarity of modern photography. It enters vintage or retro photography.
Vintage or retro photography refers to a style that imitates the aesthetics of photographs from the past. You can achieve the effect in two ways: using tools from a previous era, for example, analogue film cameras, or using modern techniques to replicate the look and feel of vintage photos—for instance, photo-editing apps with vintage filters.
For successful retro or vintage photography, you should consider a few things. The content in the photograph (fashion, object, gestures, scenery) should match the historical period you are recreating. A laptop is a weird prop to have in a retro photograph. You shouldn’t style people in a vintage picture with current beauty trends.
The same applies to post-processing colour treatment. Historical photography was limited to what was technologically available at the time. For example, cyanotype photo printing was popular in the Victorian era because it was cheaper than other photo printing processes.
Photo editing software like Nik Analog Efex has filters and presets for different types of cameras, films, and techniques. This software allows photographers to manipulate colours, mimic darkroom techniques, and add digital noise (grain, dust, scratches) to achieve the desired effect.
6 – Drones
Drone images trended in 2021 and 2022 – they’ll continue to be a trend today. Drones are becoming especially popular for real estate photography, where the unique bird’s eye perspective captures aerial images of clients’ properties.
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles were designed with military applications in mind. Now they are used for nonmilitary purposes. However, aviation authorities regulate their use, so register with the relevant authorities.
This one-of-a-kind aerial shot of autumnal trees was shot by Craig Bradford using a DJI drone camera.
The typical subjects of aerial photography are landscapes or cityscapes. Drones are also in demand for weddings and concerts. The entire appeal of drone photography is the shot that can’t be taken from any other perspective.
For the sharpest images, you may need to use a gimbal to steady the camera as the drone moves or take several shots to ensure you get some snapshots that are not blurry.
7 – 360 Panorama
It is difficult to capture the complete view of the Grand Canyon or Canterbury Cathedral in a single, close-range shot. The camera simply can’t see everything the human eye sees, only where you point the viewfinder. Fortunately, there are ways around this limitation.
Old panoramic photographs were made by capturing subjects in sequence and then aligning the prints. New panoramic photos use technology built into digital cameras that ‘stitch’ multiple images together to form a single, seamless picture.
There are three types of panoramas:
- 180-degree panoramas capture 180 degrees of the subject from left to right.
- 360-degree panoramas capture the entire scene in a single image.
- Spherical panoramas are 360-degree panoramas converted from a square to a spherical format.
Spherical panoramas, like this by One Zen, are appearing on social media websites.
The appeal of 360-degree photography is that they give viewers an immersive experience. Businesses use 360 panoramas for virtual reality tours of real estate properties, art exhibitions, or tourist attractions.
It’s not just businesses using 360 photographs. Facebook accepts 360 images, allowing regular people to post 360 pictures and memes. Further still, 360 cameras like the Samsung Gear 360 are affordable and user-friendly.
8 – Point and Shoot Size DSLRs
Since the invention of the microchip, modern technology has been downsizing the gadgets we use. Computers used to take up an entire room. Now they can fit in a slim handbag. From televisions to calculators, music players, and mobile phones, devices are getting smaller and smaller. Professional cameras are not the exception.
DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex) are a type of digital camera. They combine the camera body with the lens of your choice. Different lenses serve different purposes and produce different looks. For example, macro lenses for close-ups, wide angle lenses for landscape or architecture, or super telephoto lenses for astronomy.
The problem with DSLRs was that they were bulky and difficult to carry around. Advances in smartphone technology compounded the problem, threatening to make DSLRs obsolete. Newer DSLRs are smaller and better fit an active lifestyle. They give photographers more leeway to take pictures in any situation.
9 – Outdoor Photography
With people cooped up indoors for months, it is no surprise that outdoor photography makes the list. But COVID-19 isn’t the only crisis propelling outdoor photography. Degradation of the environment and climate change have been hot topic issues for the last ten years. Consumers and organisations are being more climate-conscious and going green.
The result is an increased interest in outdoor and nature photography. From shots of pristine spring waterways to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, outdoor photographs inspire people to act.
For example, companies can use positive images of nature to supplement marketing messages around their products being natural or organic. Conversely, environmental agencies can use negative images of the environment to shift opinions and policies on environmental issues.
Here Boxed Water, a sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles, photographs its product in nature to create environmentally positive associations with the brand.
Outdoor photography does more than document the natural. It drives awareness and shapes action on climate issues.
In addition to bringing attention to mass species extinction, professional photographers can do their part by learning how to create digital business cards to reduce deforestation and paper waste.
10 – Muted colour photography
For an image or object in a photo to stand out, it is common to make the colours pop. After all, we tend to focus on items that look different from others. Furthermore, bold colours (saturation and brightness) elicit strong emotional responses. So why is muted colour photography going to be a trend today?
The reason is simple. Society is overstimulated. Bright colours used in commercials and product packaging to catch our attention are causing eye strain. As a result, people experience visual fatigue and disengage with images.
Muted colours are easy on the eyes and help induce a sense of calm and harmony. This style of photography can be seen in stylised portraits or websites that don’t want images to be the primary focus. Check out the example below.
Muted colour photography doesn’t eliminate vivid colours but subdues them. Like minimalist photography, it reduces the visual clutter of having many colours in an image. Like vintage photography, the washed-out effect of desaturated photographs feels like faded memories, creating nostalgia.
11 – High Drama photos
Integrating drama through shadows, contrast, or the subject’s facial expression creates eye-catching images. High-drama photos are popular in wedding and maternity shoots. Elements of a high-drama photo include high contrast, unusual colours, super close zooms, and lighting effects, among others. You can achieve high-drama photos naturally, but most dramatic elements require editing.
Smoke bombs are a popular feature of high-drama photos. When used at night with backlighting, they create depth and a sense of surrealism, as seen in this image from wedding photographer Mathias Fast.
Another dramatic element that’s popular on social media is the forced perspective. Objects look farther, closer, more significant, or smaller than real-life objects. Take, for example, those funny images of tourists holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
12 – Authentic photography
In the age of social media filters and fake posturing, authenticity becomes valuable. One of the reasons Dove beauty brand ranks high on brand reputation is the company’s lean toward authenticity in its advertising. The Campaign for Real Beauty challenged unrealistic standards of the beauty industry with unretouched, unfiltered photos of real women.
The hallmarks of authentic photographs are a creative use of lighting and minimal post-production editing. In portrait photography, for instance, every pore, pimple, and wrinkle of the subject makes it to the final print.
With candid photography, expressions are genuine and not staged. People connect with authentic images like this one by Denis Agati.
Authentic photography isn’t easy. The aim is to capture moments as they are, not to create them. That is challenging because most people change their behaviour and pose when they see a camera.
The trick is to catch people before they notice you taking the picture. In situations where the subject is aware of the camera, you can capture candid moments by continuously shooting or using burst mode.
13 – High contrast photography
High contrast photography is about showcasing the tonal differences in an image. They are similar to black and white photos (and many high-contrast photos are black and white), but high-contrast can be coloured as well.
The point is to highlight the difference between light and dark tones. You want to explain this point on your website’s visual content pillar pages.
Check out the example of coloured high-contrast street photography below. Photographer Digby Fullam creates intense tones and clear contrasts by pitting vibrant colours against black shadows.
There are three types of contrasts:
- Lighting contrasts show the difference between light and dark parts of an image.
- Colour contrasts underscore the difference between two colours.
- Texture contrasts highlight the difference between rough and smooth surfaces.
The fourth type of contrast is more abstract and relies on ideas rather than visuals to convey the contrast. For example, the image of a dead tree in a lush green forest or a flower growing through a concrete pavement.
All photos have contrast. However, high contrast photos show a higher difference between light and dark tones than low contrast photos. As a result, low-contrast images tend to feel more realistic, while high-contrast photos feel dramatic.
There are two main ways to achieve high contrast in photos. The first is through the creative use of lighting, and the other is through photo processing techniques. Whether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, strong light sources cast deeper shadows and add contrast. Use a photo-editing application to fine-tune contrast by tweaking exposure, highlights, and shadow settings.
Advances in technology have opened up the field of photography. It is no longer limited to a few trained professionals. As such, knowing what the hottest photography trends are is crucial for both professional and amateur photographers. Knowing what’s trending enables photographers to understand their clients and remain relevant.
Trends have an impact on photography. They help photographers hone their skills with new techniques, diversify their portfolios with captivating images, and maybe even inspire different artistic expressions. This article looked at 13 photography trends that will dominate the year.
Some trends like phoneography, macro, and drone photography have been growing over the last ten years. Vintage, minimalism, and surrealism have made various appearances in the ebb and flow of trends, while trends like point-and-shoot DSLRs, muted colour, and authentic photography are relatively new.
Whatever the trend, we hope this article gave you new ideas to revitalise and shake up your photography portfolio.
Author Bio: Written by Stacie Twomey, Brand Marketing Manager at CEWE. Stacie is an experienced marketing professional with a history of working across several different commercial products and industries. Stacie is highly skilled in brand comms, campaigns, stakeholder management, relationship building and product management. She has worked at Cewe for more than four years and previously worked in marketing in roles at The Camping and Caravanning Club and Coventry City Football Club.