16+ Photography Trends in 2023
Photography trends can be a major influence on how print and digital designs come together. From filters to styles to photo angles that are trending, this part of the visual aesthetic can greatly impact how a project comes together.
Photography trends are dictated by a few things. The visual style of photographers, techniques that are gaining popularity in projects, the ability for images to work with other design elements, and even things such as social media filters.
The same photography trends that you might see in stock images (which we use as examples here) have parallels with custom photos as well. Understanding photography trends is important for any designer because you’ll want to discuss photo options (and looks) before you begin a photo shoot for any design project to ensure that your visions are on the same page.
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1. Golden Hour Lighting
Photographers love two hours of the day because of the amazing lighting they create for photos. The “golden hour” is the last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise and photos during that time can have stunning color.
These photos are showing up in everything with a focus on natural photography, rather than some of the over-filtered, highly-Photoshopped images that have been popular in recent years.
You can take almost any image during the golden hour, but the most jaw-dropping photos are scenes and portraits in beautiful locations.
2. Faceless Stock
Everyone has to use stock photos at some point and the way to keep the images from looking too unlike your brand is to opt for faceless stock. These photos feature people doing things but are composed in such a way that you don’t see the faces of the subjects.
Faceless stock allows designers to work with a variety of images that work for projects without looking too artificial or posed. The best faceless stock images are rich in detail, such as the example above where there is action, you can tell the age of the person, and there’s a rich color for strong visual interest.
3. Rustic Backgrounds
Backgrounds that have a rustic, natural appeal set the scene for many generated photos for everything from food photography to product placements.
These more rustic backgrounds provide a neutral backdrop that’s generally harmonious and appealing and has nice color and texture without getting in the way of the key elements of the photo itself.
To qualify for this rustic look that background will likely have an organic feel and be an item from nature.
Options for rustic backgrounds for photos include:
- Rock elements such as slate (pictured above)
- Wood grains
- Stumps or logs
4. High Drama
High-drama photos can have a big impact on projects. These stunning images are trending in a major way and can be taken naturally, but for the most part, dramatic elements are edited in.
High drama photography includes:
- Something that almost doesn’t look real
- Striking or unusual color
- Super close zooms
- Beautiful natural elements such as colorful skies
- High contrast elements such as color on black and white
- Lighting effects
- Emphasized elements that are bigger or seem bigger than life
5. Science Inspired
Maybe it’s all the conversation about vaccines that have people thinking from a scientific mindset. That concept is beginning to be the framework for a photography trend as well.
You are likely to see more images of people wearing aprons, masks, or gloves in a more sterile setting. You may also see more beakers or test tubes or measured items that feel detailed and specific. Space themes may also apply here.
This trend is rooted in the idea of hypotheses and exploration and what could be possible.
Silhouettes are back in a major way.
Think of them in a few different ways. You might see a closeup of a person framed in light or a more wide-angle scene where the background is really the focal point and the silhouetted person (or people) serves as more of an accent in the image.
What’s nice about these images is that they can provide different areas of focus, such as a scene, without highlighting the individual in the image. This makes silhouette options great if you are working with stock photos or don’t want to show specific individuals or worry about elements such as style trends (clothing options on models can quickly date photos).
7. Masks and Distance
Much of the world has adopted mask-wearing and more socially distant practices due to the pandemic. That’s something that’s showing in photography as well.
Good, timely photography accurately portrays reality and the use of masks in photos is a representation of the time period we live in. Images may show full masks on people in the photos or people partially wearing them, which is also a thing in some circles.
Showing people who aren’t close together or in big crowds is another element of this photography trend because it is representative of the current environment.
8. Solo Outdoors
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred another photography trend – images of solo outdoor adventures. From images of amazing hikes to jogging to bike adventures, people are getting outside more than ever and these beautiful images show it.
Solo outdoor photography may also be the result of booms in some outdoor-based product lines and businesses (also somewhat pandemic related).
Regardless of the how and why of these images, this photo trend is awe-inspiring and beautiful.
9. Subtle Filters
The impact of social media is evident in the use of subtle filters, even for photos that aren’t on Instagram.
The most popular use of the trend is with a softening of the light in images that create a bit of a color cast. The almost-muted tone is subtle and creates a distinct feel for the image.
10. Imagery with Art
This is another trend that’s carrying over from social media: A mashup of reality in images against art.
These photos are often bright and fun with a lot of focus on an art element, such as a mural or graffiti. The subject of the photo might be clearly defined or just provide a hint of human connection, such as the image above that features only hands against a strong artistic background.
Color, depth, and a sense of creativity power these images.
11. Bird’s Eye View
Thanks to drone photography, more projects are using images that feature a bird-eye-view of something. It’s a popular technique with images that capture events or places.
What makes this trend work most stunningly is a solid composition. Not any old drone photo will do. It takes the right eye to create a birds-eye-view image that demands attention.
Look for images with strong shapes, identifiable markers, and an overall sense of creativity. It’s hard to explain but you’ll know it when you see it here. The images will draw you in, such as the photo above, as you try to take in all the details of the scene.
12. Authentic Imagery
Photos that look like they are being used without retouching or overdone effects resonate with users and help them connect better to the design. This is because the imagery is more relatable and authentic.
Authentic images also seem to lack the stage or posed quality that is often associated with commercial photography. The models aren’t overly made up and the background isn’t exactly flawless (although it still looks good).
This photo trend applies to photos for websites, brands, and printed brochures and projects. (You won’t see it so much when it comes to weddings or portraits.)
What’s nice about this more authentic photo style is that images do create a connection between the design and the user.
Cinemagraphs are still images with a hint of motion. (In the image above, the water moves although there is no other motion.)
What’s cool about this photo — or video? — trend is that images surprise the user just enough to keep them engaged with the design. Photos have plenty of depth, balance, and visual interest in this style that only works with digital design projects.
The same bright colors that are dominating design projects are also creeping into more photos as well. Color can be used in very much the same way with photography as in general design.
Backgrounds, foregrounds, and bright accents can help draw users into photos and help them understand the content even better. It can also make images stand out so that they are more visually intriguing as a design element on their own.
15. Staged Still Life
Staged still-life photos have become quite popular for website hero header design and are beginning to grow in popularity for printed designs as well.
This photography trend involves a photographer gathering items to stage an image — often for a product or brand — that showcases a scene of items arranged neatly or in a specific way. While there’s no rule as to what angle the image is taken from, most of these images seem to be photographed from above so that you are looking down into the scene.
Many of these photos feature a simple table or background that you almost don’t see with a focus on the textured and colorful elements in the foreground.
16. Vertical Photos
Are you noticing more vertical photos in projects? While vertical photography is not new, most projects have focused on horizontal or more square images.
Thanks to native social media formats and mobile usage, that’s changing. And photographers are jumping on the trend with more vertical photo options.
The trick to this photography trend is that the photo and design teams need to have a conversation about photo shapes before images are commissioned. There are a lot of considerations that go into photo shape, including print medium or usage.
17. Selfie Style
Not only is the “selfie” photo a trending element, but it also has a look of its own. (Note that the image isn’t actually a selfie, but rather a photo of people taking a selfie.)
In this trend, the style is often exemplified by a group of young people smiling at a camera phone. The twist is that the person in the photo is trying to create some distance among themselves or with much smaller groups than in the past.
This style of photo is practically everywhere and is on the verge of becoming a cliche in itself.