Secrets of Photography Trends: Stay Ahead of the Game!

Secrets of Photography Trends: Stay Ahead of the Game!

I made a TikTok after months of being nagged by my friends and colleagues. There's a ton of behind-the-scenes content that I am slowly uploading there. Sometimes, at about 3 in the morning when I finish my work and get slightly depressed, I go on TikTok and scroll through videos tagged #photography. While this won’t be an article targeting TikTok photographers, or an article shaming people for following trends, it will be an article discussing what trends there are now, and what’s possibly dangerous with them.

The Upgrade Wave

The trend that has been consistent since day one is the upgrade trend. Photographers seem to be insatiable when it comes to what gear they have and what they could have. I am one of them, frankly. While my upgrades are slightly odd, they are very much in line with the trend. A few weeks ago, I decided I want to own a medium-format system. A quick search online revealed some really juicy options when it comes to this: namely, a fantastic camera going for EUR 4,500. I would get an XF body, 80mm blue ring lens, and an IQ250 back. While I am the first one to shout that what you have is enough, and you can shoot on a 5D Mark II without a noticeable problem, I am also the first one to go and try to justify an upgrade to a medium-format system.

Other photographers may not be looking to upgrade to a Phase One, but they will be looking at things such as the new global-shutter Sony, or any of the new mirrorless cameras. The upgrade seems like the next best thing that will unlock new possibilities that your current camera doesn’t offer. This trend is perpetuated by camera reviews, marketing material, and the inner feeling of not having enough. Let me ask you (and myself) this: When was the last time your clients said that your camera is not enough? I’ll be the first one to say never. My clientele is fully satisfied with the still images I deliver. They might be unhappy with the lighting or the visual direction, but never the files themselves. Even a Canon 5Ds is overkill, frankly. I could do my work on a 5D Mark II and nobody would bat an eyelid. The requirements for delivering stills have largely not changed. You will know when you need a better camera. Unless you are doing some mad fast action photography, what you currently have is more than enough, assuming your camera is made later than 2010.

Lenses are a bit of a tricky one, but largely the same principle applies. Take me as an example. For now, I am shooting on a Canon 5Ds with either a 50mm f/1.4 or a 24-70mm f/2.8 generation 1 lens. Sure, maybe in a few months, I will be stupid enough to buy a Phase One, but 95% of my work has been done on that 5Ds and a 24-70mm f/2.8 that can’t resolve enough detail. That setup alone has been more than plenty to do 99% of my jobs, and when it wasn’t enough, I either rented a Phase One or shot on my 5D Mark IV due to faster burst speed. Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. You can fully get away by shooting on mid-range EF lenses, which have become super cheap now. The reduced flange distance and improved sharpness are really nothing to lose your mind over. It is tempting to buy it, seeing that every cool photographer shoots on it now. However, if you look beyond YouTube and find real working pros, chances are they will be rocking the old EF glass, which is enough.

The other trend that I keep seeing pop up is the visual style trend. This is a useful trend, as knowing what’s in and what’s out can help you a lot to build a viable portfolio, but you still should be careful with what you shoot and how you shoot it. The main thing is that you need to have the foundation of your style down before adjusting it to the trends. Moreover, your visual style will be relevant if you are taking the right references in. What do I mean by that? This is all assuming you are looking to make money with your photography in the commercial market. The right references would be looking at websites such as Creative Review, or reading the British Journal of Photography. The wrong references would be whatever “commercial” means on social media. If there’s a photographer showing how they did a commercial, chances are they were never hired to do the actual shoot. If it’s behind the scenes of an actual commercial, it will be shared on the page of the brand, or on the page of the photographer, and the same still will also be on the Instagram of the team that worked on that production. However, most commercials are kept under wraps, as sharing behind the scenes would immediately mean that competing brands can copy the style, which harms the photographer. There are strict rules about this. I don’t allow sharing behind the scenes from my shoots for those reasons. My work has been copied, even without behind-the-scenes, so if I give away my actual setups, I will find myself being booked less. Copying is a real problem, and my clients care about their visuals being authentic. But I digress.

There are a few visual trends that you should be aware of. The most important one is the trend for slightly imperfect photography. In 2024, any kid with a phone can produce a nice soft light. Most makeup artists have a ring light and can do a fantastic job at getting a good picture. The knowledge of how to set up a softbox is not unique to you, like it was a decade ago. Most campaigns have left this style of lighting as well. For example, if you look at the latest Schiaparelli campaign, you will find that they are using direct hard light. This is the nostalgia for the pictures from point-and-shoot cameras that is coming into play. The '90s style of very simple photography is popular now. What this means for you is that you need to have images that represent that time period. The greatest thing is that you don’t need to replicate the style to the pixel; you need to have some elements of it. One such element could be that you use direct flash, or hard light in some form. Perhaps the composition of your image is nostalgic of that period. Just look at what’s going on with wedding photography now: clients are asking for pictures reminiscent of '90s photography. Soft light and gorgeous tones are no longer popular. Clients want a black and white picture with head-on flash.

Of course, I can’t discuss all of the trends in photography in 2024 in one article. The article would be simply too long to read. But you know the ones to avoid and the ones to follow, in your own way. To close off, I will say that I will probably get a medium-format system at some point, despite it having no effect on the number of jobs I am getting. Why? Well, that’s best saved for another article.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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The last photo but one ist the worst I have seen for times!

Playing the "trend" game is giving up your identity as an artist.

I'm not a fan of this and certainly will not adopt to a look I'm not at all attracted to.

Title should be a "A Hack's guide to staying relevant on Insta"