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Break the Stock Photo Monotony: 2018 Visual Trends

In a digital world saturated with content, visual assets can help you stand out from your competitors. Articles with images get 94 percent more views. It seems rare nowadays that we see digital content without some sort of image — even if it’s just a stock photo.

When distributing sponsored content or a MAT Release, you’ll need to submit a photo that adheres to a publication’s imagery guidelines, and usually, they are looking for stock photos. That may feel restrictive, however not all stock photography is awkward or cliché.

With inspiration from some 2018 visual trends, our Brandpoint designers chose striking stock photography that could be paired with sponsored content or a MAT Release to help you break up the stock photography monotony. Use these ideas to choose photos that will be more effective in catching the attention of your readers.

Pro tip: When using stock photography, make sure you’re using the proper photo rights.

Artistic expression through travel

Digital Arts Online states that “photos of people in context with nature rather than images shot in a close studio space are preferred, and remain the best sellers on stock photography websites.” These types of photos capture people in the moment, as they are.

Often stock photography shot in a studio space appears staged and unnatural. Because these are so commonly used, online readers are practically immune to having any kind of reaction to these photos.

This trend of artistic expression through travel supports the idea that people connect with other people — especially when the people in the photograph are in a beautiful, open, natural scene (as opposed to a sterile, constructed studio space).

Obviously, if your brand’s business is related to travel, or if you are writing a post about travel, choose a photo that features a person in a natural space, such as the one pictured. However, your brand doesn’t need to be in the travel business to use these types of photos. Think about how the photo represents your story.

For example, a brand that sells dog collars may write about the ways a dog promotes companionship in people who may be experiencing a lonely or difficult time. The openness of the photo above, combined with the lack of other people, accentuates the companionship between the woman and her dog.

Silence and solitude

“The need for silence and solitude is dominating wellness and visual trends for 2018,” states Adobe. The photo above, as well as the woman and her dog by the lake, display just one person in a large outdoor scene. Placing them in nature (rather than, say, at a desk surrounded by office work) and putting them in a meditative pose like this demonstrates they are finding peace in a moment of silence.

This trend is relevant for health and wellness brands or even pharmaceutical companies. Pharma content has much stricter guidelines than other industries because of Important Safety Information (ISI) and legal disclaimers. When it comes to visuals, the stock photos must not feature models who appear to suffer from a physical or mental ailment.

A “head clutcher” image, as described by Digital Arts Online, is an example of the type of stock image to avoid while using common mental health terms to search for stock photography. These images are cliché and aren’t mindful of what it means to suffer from a mental illness.

The silence-and-solitude trend is a great solution for Pharma companies to illustrate the positive effects that a medication or service could have for mental illness. “Viewers are responding to imagery that offers respite — these images operate like a breath of fresh air to the viewer,” Adobe states. “They present a break from a demanding and confusing time.”

Whether your article is about ditching technology to relax the mind, slowing down amidst a busy workday, or learning new breathing techniques, visuals that offer silence and solitude will evoke a more powerful response from your audience than a studio stock photo.

Touch and tactility

If you’re a digital marketer, you spend most of your day in front of a screen. And at home, Netflix, Instagram, Facebook — whatever your chosen digital app — is a go-to distraction. However, this constant connectivity to pixels and blue light has pushed artists and photographers further from technology. Instead, they’re focusing on “literal connection, actual touch and being in the same room with someone,” states Adobe.

“In the visual world, it’s all about showing connections, whether it’s through images with richer textures, or people looking directly into the camera to establish a bold, personal moment with the viewer,” Adobe states. This moment of connection is exactly what brands should aim to create when incorporating a visual element.

Touch and tactility is a great option when sourcing a stock photo for an article about relationships or some kind of emotion. Don’t show a person just standing next to someone; depending on the emotions described in the article, how might these people touch? Or is there a lack of touch that should be visualized?

Or if your content describes a process, such as getting a haircut, show the process taking place, rather than a portrait of a model who has a nice haircut. This concept of touch not only gives readers a familiar sensory experience (we all know what a haircut feels like), but it also tends to be more action-oriented. Overall, these photos give your readers something to connect with, not just scroll past.

Color: Ultra-violet

Pantone’s color of the year for 2018 is ultra-violet; a “blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level.” Digital Arts Online says that this color draws on the exploration of “new technologies, the galaxy, artistic expression and spiritual reflection.”

Ultra-violet is part of a resurgence in the trendiness of bright colors in many aspects of design, including homewares and fashion. This follows the comforting hygge-like trends and minimalist designs that feature neutral colors.

This bright, intriguing color is vibrant and exciting. The Digital Arts Online article cites Prince as one of the celebrities who had a strong connection to this color. As a content marketing agency in Minnesota, we love seeing one of our own being associated with this trend. Prince, much like ultra-violet, had an electrifying character.

In your content, including a photo with a splash of ultra-violet will make a bolder, more exciting statement and will help your photo pop. And if your brand cares about keeping up with the Joneses, you’ll certainly be on trend when it comes to the color of the year!

On trend

These are just a few of the trends covered by major visual design brands. (Check out Getty Images’ impressive digital display of its three main visual trends of 2018.) Though not all of these are relevant for a sponsored content photo, they provide a reminder to focus on connecting with your reader in a visually captivating way.

Launch a sponsored content campaign or MAT Release with stunning visuals to match. Contact us to learn more.