During the coronavirus pandemic, more than 70% of Americans took on home improvement projects and plan to do more in the new year, according to a survey from Bank of America. In 2020, home became more than where the heart is, and our houses and apartments became our offices, schools, gyms, and more.
Although restrictions have slowly lifted, the last few months have made sweeping changes to how we live, work, and interact, and many of them are expected to last for the foreseeable future. The world looks different now, and as brands catch onto new trends and shifts, they’ll look for fresh ways to visualize modern life at home.
It’s more important than ever for commercial photographers to create images that feel relevant and reflect real life during this fluid and ever-changing moment. Below, we’ll touch on just a few innovative photoshoot ideas to incorporate into your Licensing portfolio, while also sharing tips for taking your images to the next level.
Photoshoot idea: Working from home
The number of telecommuting days among U.S. workers has more than doubled since before the pandemic, Gallup reports, with 26% saying they have worked entirely from home in recent weeks.
Working from home can look different depending on the person; while some have designated home offices, others might work from the comfort of the bed, kitchen counter, or couch. Many are juggling parenting and other at-home responsibilities—an April survey from Metova revealed that 68% of workers have other workers or students also working in their households.
Research from McKinsey & Company further suggests that 80% of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home, and another report from Lenovo showed that 52% believe they will continue to work from home more than they did before the virus, even after social distancing measures relax.
Following months of quarantine, workspaces and remote work will continue to evolve in the near future, so these themes represent an important opportunity for commercial lifestyle photographers. Just remember that any identifiable home or interior requires a signed property release before you submit it to Licensing.
Quick tip: Reimagine “business casual”
Modern offices and workwear look different than they did last year, and believe it or not, the pandemic has already reduced the market for office wear. Commercial stock photography a decade ago famously included cliche pictures of businessmen in suits, but 2020 has proven that there’s more than one way to visualize people at work.
According to the market research firm NPD, almost a quarter of consumers said they liked to dress in activewear, sleepwear, and loungewear most of the day. Another study from the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 61% of people cited relaxed dress/grooming expectations as one of the benefits of working from home. These days, people want to look presentable but stay comfortable at the same time.
Photoshoot idea: Video-conferencing and remote learning
According to a survey conducted in the spring, 76% of workers used video conferencing as part of their daily work, and 54% have upgraded their technology to work from home. They’re not the only ones turning to tech right now, as research shows that more than half (52%) of U.S. elementary and high school students will attend school only virtually in fall 2020.
Throughout the next months, the situation will evolve, but many schools plan to implement (or are already implementing) a hybrid schedule that includes online learning, with students following along via webcam. Distance education trends like Zoom classes and online textbooks and exam prep are likely to be around for a while, so consider creative ways to photograph them.
“There isn’t a lot of great commercial content showing what real students working from home looks like,” the 500px Content Team tells us. Now is the time to fill that gap and shoot the new, fresh ideas others haven’t covered yet.
Quick tip: Use generic styling and props
Tech can be tricky to photograph, since branded details and identifiable designs are often trademarked and therefore cannot be featured in images licensed for commercial use. Be sure to check out our article How to shoot technology for commercial photography for tips on avoiding intellectual property in your pictures.
Photoshoot idea: Wellness at home
A few months ago, we highlighted just some of the ways to represent at-home health and wellness in commercial images, including the growing trend of “Zoom yoga” and the uptick in virtual class attendance on popular fitness apps. After the crisis passes, people will continue to look for ways to incorporate self-care into their daily routines, whether it’s through exercise or meditation and mindfulness techniques, so track emerging trends in this space while conceptualizing your shoots.
Earlier this year, a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Samueli Integrative Health Programs showed that 80% of American adults will try to practice self-care more regularly once the COVID pandemic is over. Furthermore, 35% said they are practicing more creative activities, and 31% said they’re engaging in more meaningful conversations with friends and family.
Quick tip: Watch the trends
This has been a big year for wellness trends, which have ranged from CBD skincare to sustainable foods. As early as 2019, millennials were driving a multi-million-Euro “grow your own” gardening trend, and amid the pandemic, home gardening has boomed around the world, as hobbyists have started growing their own ingredients and implementing more sustainable habits. The 500px blog regularly publishes insights on emerging trends and wellness themes, so keep an eye out for more ideas.
Photoshoot idea: Virtual get-togethers
That same survey from The Harris Poll, mentioned above, also found that 47% of respondents report feeling socially isolated as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, however, people have found new ways to connect with loved ones, whether it’s through virtual parties (32% of Americans have had one, according to Pew Research Center) or watching a live-streamed concert or play (one in five Americans have done so).
Social interaction, including online and through technology, is essential for emotional wellbeing and a sense of community, and these are the kinds of images buyers crave right now. This spring, customer searches on Getty Images for “Virtual Connection” rose by a whopping 3400%, with people searching for the first time in history for everything from “virtual happy hour” and “virtual dinner party” to “virtual coffee” and “virtual date.”
Quick tip: Enlist the help of family and friends
Draw inspiration from real life for authentic, timely photoshoot ideas, and ask your friends and family for help brainstorming. Have them be your models, or use a remote timer and jump in the frame yourself. If you’re video-chatting with friends, ask if they’d sign a model release.
Cooking dinner at home with the family? Give them a little styling help, and document the process. Ask your friends and relatives how they’re coping, connecting, and practicing self-care, and take note of what they say. These are the kinds of real, relatable concepts that bring a commercial portfolio to life, and they’re also easy to shoot at home, no matter the restrictions in your area.
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It’s more important than ever for photographers to create images that feel relevant and reflect real life during this fluid and ever-changing moment.
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