The world is changing at exponential speed and photography is catching up with it rapidly. New values, behaviors, memes and catchphrases are shaking things up and crystalizing into new cultural trends. This year, photography(opens in a new tab or window) is turning yet another twist, away from pastel colors, the vanity of selfies and the influence of macro influencers. Minimalism and diversity are still trailing trends, in an attempt to represent the plurality of people who populate the world. If you want to stay on top of your visual game then read on. We have compiled 20 top photography trends for 2020.

Let’s start by reviewing how people are featured in lifestyle settings and portraits.

01. Real life

With a surge in searches for authentic and honest imagery, realistic portrayals of people are here to stay. The trend started a couple of years ago with the boom of user-generated-content. It’s all about snapping candid images, even if they need to be somehow stylized to tell a visually compelling story that reads like a spur-of-the-moment snap. It’s about being able to capture sincere and genuine emotions.

It could be a reaction to an overly digital era, where people connect mostly virtually. On the other hand, thanks to social media, people are also used to exposing themselves emotionally and are looking for that connecting factor.

Even wedding photography, which used to be pretty formal and staged, it’s opting for a more relaxed approach, closer to a documentary aesthetic, instead of the conventional portrait series.

Photo by Gustavo Fring via Canva Photos

02. Raw beauty

Portrait photographers are pushing again this year for a more visceral, unedited approach to beauty. It’s about exposing the raw self, not the digitally filtered one. Freckles, wrinkles and scars are making it into the picture. This new self is open to imperfections and different, non-traditional canons of beauty.

Photo by via Canva Photos

03. Loud self-expression

Social media(opens in a new tab or window) has accustomed people to be honest in front of the camera and express themselves without constraints. Now, the trend is going even further, due to feed fatigue and social platforms replicating each other. As TikTok booms in the mainstream with people craving a less generic form of self-expression, we will see more faces of people crying, shouting and laughing their hearts out.

04. Vibrant colors

Vivid colors are all the rage, no pastel colors in sight. Saturated and contrasting hues – including burnt reds, saffron, aqua greens and deep blues, like Pantone’s color of the year(opens in a new tab or window).

The stronger the color the louder it speaks in a world saturated with images constantly demanding our attention. The stickers and drawing tools offered by social channels like Snapchat and Instagram Stories could be a major influencer of a search spike for overlays, scribbles and hand-drawn doodles to create colorful mixed-media photos.

Photo by Min An via Canva Photos

05. Neon reflections

It started last year, but we can still see an increase in neon-themed imagery, either in settings or in neon-themed portraits. Luminosity, glow, and color reflections help the picture to speak louder.

Photo by cottonbro by Canva Photos

Next, we are seeing a definite increase in topics that deal with the different social causes that younger generations are supporting, from saving the world from climate change to cultural diversity and mental health awareness.

06. Saving the environment

Environmental issues – like plastic abuse, and the multiple signs of global warming– will show up in front of the viewfinder of photojournalists to register human impact on the world and how new behaviours can contribute to create a better one, through recycling, sustainable practices, local consumption and renewable energy.

07. Social activism

Self-absorbed individualism is on the decline in favor of a world that values the power of the community to advocate for human rights and equality –gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity. Images that convey a strong sense of community and progressive lifestyle choices will resonate more and more.

Brands are also getting on the social activism wagon, as they are supporting different social causes and nonprofits to connect with their customers.

08. Cultural diversity

Tying in with the trend of honest imagery, people want to feel that they are appropriately represented. Bodies, genders and racial diversity is in full focus. Those images carry a moral purpose, helping to fight stereotypes and bias.

Photo by Elle Hughes via Canva Photos

09. Women empowerment

This is the time to advocate for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes through photography. From “girlbosses,” to “mumtrepreneurs” and soccer champions. It’s the way to represent front and center millions of women pushing for gender equality.

Photo by Elle Hughes via Canva Photos

10. Age inclusion

Age is the new frontier of inclusion. Baby boomers are getting closer to 65, representing the social majority with major spending power, as they are included and staying longer in the workforce. They are not frail and tired anymore. They age gracefully and stay active and healthy. You’re going to see more seniors having fun this year in photography, mingling with people of all ages.

Photo by Elle Hughes via Canva Photos

11. Mental health awareness

Topics like meditation, mindfulness, addiction and mental health have seen an increase in searches in the last year. The notion of self-love is extending to embrace and destigmatize mental health, a serious health issue now part of the mainstream conversation. Photography is reframing the way it visualizes this social challenge.

The following trends are based on photography taken with special pieces of equipment that can create unique perspectives and impactful photographs, whether taken up-close, from the sky or from a 360 degree angle.

12. Macro shots

This is a fresh new trend this year, with themes focusing on nature, insects, animals, eyes, car details, you name it. A macro capable lens can capture the tiniest details up-close, creating unexpected and intricate textures.

13. Aerial photography

With the availability of drones, aerial photography is becoming more and more accessible and popular, yielding high-quality pictures and breathtaking compositions. Even drone wedding photography is growing.

14. 360 photography

As virtual reality is gaining track in video games and film production, it’s also getting to photography. 360 degrees photography allows the viewer to see the image from all angles rather than a specific perspective. The panoramic(opens in a new tab or window) and immersive shot pulls you into the image. This rising trend is used to capture landscapes, nature, lifestyle, products and real estate photography.

Photo by Philip Ackermann via Canva Photos

In a challenging and changing world, we are craving for escapism and imagining novel visual worlds.

15. Symbolism and collage

Somehow inspired by the Zine culture –the independent, self-published magazines(opens in a new tab or window) that became so popular in the 70s and 80s – photographs are manipulated to compose creative collages, suggestive of fantasy worlds. The look is of a montage(opens in a new tab or window) of clipped photographs, overlaid with graphic elements, from drawings, to fonts or patterns.

16. Minimalist scenes

Minimalism is still a popular trend. We will see a lot of clean layouts over high-contrast backgrounds and minimally staged compositions. The new application of minimalism is in exterior shots, like street photography and landscapes. Images take a step back from the noise of the scene and stay away from manipulation with filters, to create a monochrome(opens in a new tab or window), clean and bare output.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij via Canva Photos

17. Retro nostalgia

The past and the present collide to create an unusual visual result. Inspiration is taken from retro images and moods from the 60s up to the 90s with a fresh take on nostalgia.

18. Dark backgrounds

Moody, dark backgrounds add a layer of mystery and thoughtfulness to the shot, allowing the subject of the picture to stand out.

19. Back to nature

This trend responds to the fantasy of escapism to find refuge in remote, intact and peaceful natural enclaves. Anchored in the trend to preserve the environment, these images celebrate nature’s greenery, lushness and vibrant life, trying to escape the rigors of isolation during the virus pandemic in cities, and the enduring effects of climate change seen around the world, from the melting in Antarctica to the bushfires in Australia.

Photo by KML via Canva Photos

Finally, in a world absorbed in social media conversations, our daily virtual interactions are affecting the way we see the world.

20. Vertical framing

A framing option, usually associated with portraits, is becoming the norm for every type of photography due to the use of mobile cameras and the ever present influence of social media channels.

Photo by Erik Mclean via Canva Photos

If you’ve enjoyed this article, dive into Canva’s millions of high-quality, curated and trending photos(opens in a new tab or window) to build your designs. You’ll find everything you need to make whatever you create (from blogs, to posters, website or Instagram Stories templates) stand out with current, premium photography that you can search easily under different subject categories like people, nature, family, home, health, women, food, travel and many more.

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