Shutterstock Forecasts 2018 Creative Trends

Posted on 1/17/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Shutterstock has released its 2018 Creative Trends Report. Every year, Shutterstock customers across the world make billions of searches for images, footage, and music. Shutterstock creative teams analyze this search and download data to discover the biggest year-over-year increases and identify the trends they believe will continue to grow throughout 2018.

For photographers, based on this report, there will be little demand for photos. The demand will be almost entirely for illustrations.

According to Shutterstock the major trends that will dominate popular culture and burst onto the design scene in the coming year include: Fantasy, New Minimalism, Space, Natural Luxury, Punchy Pastels, A Global March, Cactus, Digital Crafts, Ancient Geometrics, Cryptocurrency and Holographic Foil. They also provide a section on Trends Around The World.

Under each of these categories they provide a curated collection of images, footage and music that best illustrate the trend. If photographers look at the “Images” collection under each of these categories they will discover that almost no “photographic images” appear. Virtually every one of the images is an illustration.

In fairness this 2018 Creative Trends Report may not have been meant to help photographers learn what to shoot in 2018. The focus is certainly toward graphic designer and image buyers, many of whom are also illustrators. Shutterstock may be trying to inspire them, as well as show them that they can find what the need at Shutterstock.

Shutterstock also sells a huge percentage of graphic design and illustration. We estimate that one-third to one-half of the company’s image collection is illustration and probably about one-third of their revenue comes from licensing rights to illustration.

What Should Photographer Shoot?

For those who make their living producing photographs what should they take away from this report? Should they assume that the demand for the photographic image, and the reality it provides, is further declining and that going forward only “Fantasy” will sell?

Photographers need advice on what in the way of the photographic image has been selling in the recent past and what is likely to be in demand in the future. Or should they just pack up their equipment and move on to some other line of business. Shutterstock already has over 100 million photographs (not counting illustration). Maybe they don’t need anymore.

Shutterstock Could Do More

I would like to see Shutterstock create a database of, at least, the 5,000 most frequently licensed photos ordered in terms of most licensed. I would like for them to allow searchers to order this image collection based on the number of licenses in the last 3 months, 6 months, year and for all time.

Searchers should be able to search for a particular keyword and see how many images appear in the first 5,000 and the numerical placement of each. For example, how many will be business, how many will have a cellphone, how many will be portraits of a single person smiling at the camera?

How many will be dogs, jazz musicians, elephants or tree frogs and where will the most popular image of each subject appear in the sequence of the first 5,000? How many will be of groups of more than three people in an office? How many are beautiful non-identifiable landscapers. How many are sunsets? How many will be of a New York, San Francisco or London skyline? Will a skyline of Singapore, Nariobi or Timbuktu appear in the first 5,000 or 20,000?

This kind of information would help photographers understand the subjects that are in demand as well as those for which there seems to be little demand. Photographers could also compare those that have been licensed with all the other images of the same subject that are already available in the collection. If they can produce something that is significantly better they should. But, if their image is only going to add to the number that no one wants to buy, what’s the point?

If customers are going to continue to want to use photographs, photographers are going to need better information about what customers want to use. In theory, the photographers should be getting that information by reviewing their sales reports, but the relatively small number of sales made by most photographers gives them a very distorted view of overall demand.

If a photographer has a collection of 20,000 or more images he probably has enough varied sales to make some reasonable assumptions about certain types of demand. However, less than one-half of 1% of Shutterstock’s contributors have collections of this size. And a huge initial investment is needed to build a diverse collection of this size. Keep in mind that the average Shutterstock photographer earns $0.78 per image in the collection annually.

Copyright © 2018 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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