A look back at the most popular stock photography trends of 2018

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2018 has definitely been a creative time for stock photography. In the last year, we’ve simultaneously seen the reemergence of older artistic trends as well as the evolution of vibrant, new visual styles. As we approach 2019, let’s take a look at some of the biggest trends that have dominated the stock photo industry in the past few months.

01. Minimalist Composition

In an era cluttered with visual content, it certainly makes sense to want to keep things simple. Minimalism has been the go-to style for many brands and creatives for a few years now, and you can clearly its effect on stock photography.

Dominating the aesthetic of countless photography feeds and portfolios, this clean and contemporary style communicates messages in a direct-to-the-point manner. With only a few elements present within a frame, viewers can tell exactly what they're looking at with just one glance. Don’t be surprised to see this trend's popularity spill over into the future.

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Photo by Dmitri Popov

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Photo by Scott Webb

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Photo by Yousef Alfuhigi

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Photo by Daniel Ghio

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Photo by Gabrielle Cole

02. Pastel Colors

In 2018, candy-colored tones were big-sellers, especially when it came to youth-oriented content. Just take a look at some of the most popular teen websites, and you’ll see washes of soft, pale color everywhere.

Most of the pastel photos you see these days also feature minimalist elements. What sets this trend apart from minimalism is its bold yet gentle splash of color that never fails to grab viewers' attention.

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Photo by Jimena

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Photo by Yang Shuo

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Photo by Arno Smit

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Photo by Ian Dooley

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Photo by Arnel Hasanovic

03. Clean Patterns

If Andy Warhol were still alive, he’d be proud to learn that his pop art-inspired patterns are coming back into fashion.

It’s a psychological fact that humans are obsessed with repeated arrangements. But the ones we’ve been seeing these past few months appear even more vibrant, youthful and imaginative than ever before. This new wave of patterns is so evenly spaced and symmetrical, you’ll be left wondering if the objects you're seeing are actual arrangements or digital compositions.

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Photo by Bogdan Dreava

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Photo by Victor Garcia

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Photo by Bogdan Dreava

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Photo by Moren Hsu

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Photo by Ryoji Iwata

04. Glitch Art

Another trend that’s gaining momentum in the digital era is glitch art. The style has been around for a while, but with society becoming increasingly dependent on technology, this aesthetic is now more relevant than ever.

One of the reasons for its rise in popularity is its accessibility. Thanks to the countless mobile and digital editing apps available, glitch art has earned a place in the current public consciousness. Keep an eye out and you'll begin noticing this style everywhere—from inspirational Instagram accounts to big brand campaigns.

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Photo by Josh Remier

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Photo by Jurica Koletic

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Photo by Escape Artiste

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Photo by Sam Burriss

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Photo by Chad Verzosa

05. Color Gels

It's unclear whether it’s the influence of futuristic, sci-fi films or a nod to decades past, but neon signs and color gels have proven to be incredibly popular this year.

We’re not talking about subtle hints of color, either—rather, bold, electric hues that saturate an entire image. Photos featuring vivid color combinations like red and blue or green and orange can look futuristic yet retro at the same time. Definitely one of the reasons this stock photo trend has proven to be so immensely popular with this generation of photographers.

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Photo by Nguyen Linh

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Photo by Jon Hernandez

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Photo by Sam Burriss

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Photo by Aiony Haust

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Photo by Karina Tes

06. Powerful Women

Forget about stereotypical stock images of women. This year, female empowerment came in the form of photos that challenged both gender norms and the traditional concept of beauty.

Stock photography turned its eye towards strong, powerful female figures engaged in conventionally masculine activities. It would be unfair to call this feminism-oriented movement a 'trend.' Given everything that is happening in the larger cultural context, it's safe to say that this new convention is here to stay.

Girl who is missing her forearm playing basketball

Photo from Canva's Natural Women Collection

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Photo by Alora Griffiths

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Photo by Andreas Fidler

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Photo by Felipe Rizo

07. Cultural Diversity

As societies become increasingly multi-cultural, there exists a growing demand for content that shows individuals of different ethnicities. Photos that show what the real world is actually like: one filled with people from all walks of life enjoying each other’s company in a variety of everyday situations. With a world that is more culturally diverse than ever before, you can expect this trend to continue to evolve in the coming years.

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Photo by Sam Manns

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Photo from Canva's Natural Women Collection

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Photo from Canva's Natural Women Collection

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Photo by Jens Johnsson

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Photo by Helena Lopes

08. Authentic Lifestyles

Just like in the fields fashion and portrait photography, more and more clients are searching for raw, authentic lifestyle images. Whether it’s a shot of friends hiking through the mountains or crammed into a van on a road trip, the most in-demand stock images feature an unmistakably naturalistic, documentary-like aesthetic. One that depicts real moments with a genuine emotional impact.

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Photo by Janko Ferlič

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Photo by Hoa Heftiba

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Photo by Cristina Gottardi

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Photo by Eric Nopanen

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Photo by Kelly Lund

09. Real People

Just as the demand for authentic lifestyle imagery grows, so does the interest in real people as photo subjects. Gone are the days when stock photo models felt distant and out-of-reach. This time around, consumers are searching for genuine, relatable images that feel grounded rather than overly-posed or artificial. Un-edited, filter-free everyday people that reflect real life and its many unique quirks.

Sofia having a great day with her friend

Photo from Canva's Natural Women Collection

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Photo from Canva's Natural Women Collection

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Photo by Bruno Nascimento

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Photo by OC Gonzales

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Photo by Analise Benevides

10. '90s Nostalgia

The retro '90s-inspired fashion that we saw trickling in last year finally became a full-blown trend in 2018.

As millennials embraced the clothes and the carefree attitude of the '90s, there was a noticeable spike in stock images that reflected that era's style. From the low-fi film camera grain and color filters to full-on '90s styling, it would be easy to mistake this trend as a thoughtless rehash. However, some of the coolest photos this year managed to blend that decades' vibe with an undoubtedly modern look. This generation's interpretation of the '90s is much more sophisticated and vibrant, while still maintaining the hip rebelliousness of the past decade.

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Photo by David Calderon

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Photo by Frankie Cordoba

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Photo by Katsiaryna Endruszkiewicz

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Photo by Jaizier Capangpangan

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Photo by Tyler Nix

The beauty of stock photography is that it’s an ever-evolving platform. As much as we were excited about all the popular photos and trend that came out this year, we can’t wait to see what’s to come in 2019. We might not know for sure what those trends will be, but we’re thrilled to find out.