20 Jan 2016 What Will Sell in 2016? The Stock Photo Market Trend Reports Summarized

Most microstock agencies have now published their trend reports for 2016 and as usual, there’s a lot of common threads.  Let’s take a look.

Demand for Video Continues Rising

I know, big shocker!

But when all agencies cite it in their reports, it means it’s top of mind for them, and that means the growth is maintaining their interest.

It would also be unwise to overlook the quantity of innovative and well-funded companies getting into the stock video market as well as existing players adapting to new entrants.

In a blog post with their predictions for the new year, Fotolia shared that their video sales hit a new record last year and that the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

From the online marketing perspective, Shutterstock’s article says they see an increase in extended length brand videos that will potentially boost demand for stock footage.

Both companies have listed video as the top content type they’re seeking from contributors.

In December 2015 Adobe Stock added video to Creative Cloud, and in the last week of the year Videoblocks closed an interesting distribution deal with the Discovery Channel that adds to the considerable success of their more recently launched marketplace.  We also saw GoPro make their first move into the market.

And what kind of content will be trending? Dissolve’s predictions, based on video experts’ opinions, are that 4K will finally take over this year. Hardware development will bring new ways to filmmaking, like 360 footage and augmented reality, and drone/aerial should continue rising.

As for techniques, handheld style will remain popular, but there might be a resurge of more calculated shots, and the oversaturated selfie style will decline. In concepts, extreme sports, social awareness and inspiration, and redefinitions of individuality are listed as hot filmmaking topics for the year.

Cinemagraphs Market Strengthens

As a hybrid photography format that merges subtle, isolated animation in a still photo to create a ‘living image’ effect, cinemagraphs are increasing in advertising, and slowly but steadily getting into stock.

Although not cinemagraphs, Apple Live Photos is in the first stages of reaching massive social networks. As Paul Melcher pointed out, it’s a matter of time before hybrid formats take off. Dissolve listed them as a trending format for this year.

Along with video, Fotolia also called specifically for more cinemagraphs in 2016. This might have to do with the fact that Shutterstock made the first move via a distribution deal with cinemagraph producer Flixel to include a selection of their files into a stock collection of the format.

‘Authentic’ Style Leads Demand

Bad luck you’re tired of hearing about Authentic versus Stocky photos, as there’s no relief in sight.

When it comes to aesthetics, an intimate, candid, and slightly more artsy style has been taking over the usual ‘stocky’ look for around five years now.

Most mobile stock players are claiming this as their USP and key customer hook, but it’s already permeated the entire industry at microstock agencies (most of whom accept mobile-shot images), specialists like Stocksy, and top performers in the PRF world like Cavan Images.

From Getty Images’ Visual Trends team to Fotolia’s and Shutterstock’s experts, everyone is still pointing to authentic imagery as a style they want in 2016. Shutterstock also mentions Instagram’s advertising potential to be more largely exploited this year, what will increase demand for this kind of imagery.

Pressfoto group has recently remarked the use of non-professional, ‘natural’ looking models –i.e. not ‘model-level’ beauty– will be a hot trend this year.

Changing Modern Concepts

In recent years the concepts of the moment have been “Green” and “getting back to basics / disconnecting” as super popular niches over and above the usual themes of gender, cultural and racial diversity, entrepreneurship, modern business environments, and active seniors.

In 2016 the hot niche is people and technology.

As all technology concepts become quickly dated, Fotolia told its contributors that intelligent and green are the next hot trends in tech concepts.

Adobe puts VR-related imagery at the top of the list in the 2016 trend report from Scott Braut.

Paul Melcher would agree, as he considers 2016 to be the year of VR technology.

Getty Images also listed ‘modern man & technology’ as a trending topic.

Decline of Millenials, Rise of Gen Z’s

Members of Generation Z are just out of high school, but are already the new target of most marketing campaigns. Millennials, although still sought after, are no longer the hot consumer demographic.

As the first generation born and raised in the modern technological world, Gen Z’s are defined by their highly technology-driven lifestyle.

Fotolia/Adobe and Shutterstock are very clear about this, with Fotolia also marking the need for redefining hipster culture in imagery.

Smart Use of Copy Space

As a fundamental concept of stock photography, one doesn’t normally expect copy space to appear on trends reports.

But it did.

Both Getty and Fotolia highlighted the importance of negative space and showed a preference for minimalistic compositions in their trends for 2016.

500px list of top 10 best selling files for 2016 shows a clear correlation with the top 3 images having lots of negative space, reducing as you go down the list.

Any Others?

Are there any trends you see in addition to the above?  What do you think is accurate about what the industry experts predict?  Let us know in the comments.


  • Alexander Jemeljanov
    Posted at 18:29h, 21 January Reply

    Hi Lee, speaking on video you did not mention time-lapse footage, This means that it is not in a trend anymore. I hope that quality time-lapse footage will still sell frequently, as this is the are I have most interest at the moment.

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