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Stock Photography Trends and Implications

Posted on 8.26.2015

:: By Serban Enache, Dreamstime ::

Every year sees evolving trends in stock photography, driven by the demands of consumers and the shifting mediums where content is presented. These trends greatly impact website designers who need to understand consumer expectations and how to blend the need for eye-catching images and good design with clicks and results. And website designers are still a large percentage of the users of stock imagery, so their needs are important. 


Any Web campaign/offer created by designers now typically comes with a corresponding social media component along with an online presence. Most consumers are pulling information about a product or service from these online and social sources, instead of traditional print communications. A trend we will see is a further increase in usage for online-specific content, especially content that fits within the main social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Images need to attract attention enough that they are shared amongst peers within their social circles.

Social imagery is also shaping the types of images that consumers and marketing departments desire – the “authentic” images personified by Instagram and other sites that aren’t in any way “staged.” This could mean less images where the subject is looking at the camera/viewer, and more images that are shot “on location.” 


Moving past social there are other niches that are coming to the fore, which will require specific stock photography imagery. The biggest niche is the app industry which is always looking for ways to build streamlined apps. The best designed applications require a minimal number of actions to use, and one way developers can accomplish this is by using smartly-placed images.

Smaller niches include electronics and applications tied to the “smart home” such as thermostats, connected appliances, and other similar advancements. Smart watches are another avenue where stock photography is needed that works well on such a small screen. The watch from Apple is gaining momentum and other players are poised to dive in – which will further drive demand for suitable images.

Smaller Screen Sizes

Visual imagery will also continue to dominate marketing communications, which will follow the Web design trend of blending minimal text with strong imagery. Some of this shift is driven by the actual size of the content medium. For example, smartphones are only so big, and images need to be large to properly fill the screen and be viewable by the average person. This squeezes out accompanying text and makes the image the focal point. Stock photography sites increasingly offer images that tell a story or evoke feelings on their own, which reduces the need explanatory copy. 

International Business

The global nature of business presents another trend. Designers that need to manage global sites will need to increase their portfolio of images that authentically present emerging markets such as India, Brazil, and others. These images will need to come directly from those countries so they don’t have a North American viewpoint and therefore won’t be as effective within those markets. Stock photography sites that want to capture more of this market will need to actively pursue authentic localized images. It’s a global marketplace, and companies are increasingly trying to offer personalized experiences for consumers which will demand specialized and relevant imagery.

Current Use

According to our recent survey, 45 percent of respondents reported using stock images for website design, followed by leaflets at nearly 30 percent. Social media was noted at less than three percent, but this number is expected to grow. The need for smaller-screen images is also expected to skyrocket as more and more devices feature image-based interfaces and are internet-connected. Stock image firms should keep pace with emerging industry trends in order to provide the best image selections in the coming years.

Serban Enache is the CEO and founder of Dreamstime, a stock photography site he co-founded with Dragos Jianu in 2000.

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