Visual trends and how to make them work for you

Those of you who know me would not necessarily tag me as being trendy but that doesn’t mean I don’t follow the current trends – it’s imperative in my line of work.


Trends in design have been around for as long as humans have been documenting. Creativity has been influenced by countless trends over the centuries. Whether it’s photography, architecture, fashion or art, design has always fallen into trends and styles specific to the time and era – think Ancient Egypt, Gothic Revival, Art Deco, Colonial, Mid-century Modern, Cubism, Pop Art. Trends tell us a lot about a period in time and are crucial in making work relevant for the audience of the day.


As commercial photographers, it’s vital that we keep pace with current trends and we enjoy working with clients to incorporate these, where appropriate, into their projects. However, I believe the best images have a long shelf life and while they should be contemporary, they should also have a voice that speaks long into the future.  Working with trends in the right way can help with this.


What are the 2018 trends for photography?

According to Getty Images who announced its 2018 Visual Trends last month, there are three main directions for image makers and users. Here’s our interpretation on what we’ll be seeing this year and some images from past McAteer shoots that depict each trend.

Art Exhibition, MFA | by McAteer Photograph

Art Exhibition, MFA

Masculinity Undone

Thankfully the traditional macho male stereotype is long gone, and huge shifts are happening culturally in how males are represented, including by the Advertising Standards Agency who is introducing new rules around gender stereotyping, meaning we will see a continuing reduction in the media fanning the fire of the undomesticated, hopeless man. Getty’s article explains how crucial it is for men’s mental health, self-expression and for future generations that we make sure men are accurately represented.


When next commissioning images of staff, perhaps consider a different approach (for all genders in your team). Are you perhaps also considering targeting a wider audience, or a different interpretation of the customer profiles you currently work with? New photography could help with that.

Backstage fashion show | by McAteer Photograph

Portrait of child | by McAteer Photograph

Man on Laptop | by McAteer Photograph

Backstage fashion show | by McAteer Photograph

Second Renaissance

A second Renaissance is happening in photography in particular with art history informing images that are still very much of the modern day. With this trend we are seeing powerful images challenging preconceived notions about gender and ethnicity and presenting them in a repurposed, classic fashion based on the work of old masters. Texture, placement and palettes at either end of the colour spectrum are all considerations for these images.


Referencing historical or famous artworks could add layers of depth and intrigue to your next campaign. Carefully considering light, location, wardrobe and props can also help with a timeless, classical feel.

Portrait of woman | by McAteer Photograph

Fashion show | by McAteer Photograph

Fashion show | by McAteer Photograph

Fashion show

Conceptual Realism

The ever-savvy consumer has pushed this trend into being. In a world where anyone can produce content, everyone is craving authenticity and something real. This is a great trend that sees real subjects and themes being examined from creative and surprising angles – resulting in a new view – and an even more ‘real’ reality. It’s about observation and believing what you are seeing. It’s one part irony and two parts reality sprinkled with a little bit of crazy. But don’t be lulled into thinking anything goes. Images that fall into this trend will take as much thought and set up as any other.


Conceptual Realism has customers at its heart and is an ideal approach for easy-going, digestible social media and advertising campaigns.

ten year old girl, Family portrait | by McAteer Photograph

Family portrait

Angle? Degree show | by McAteer Photograph


Portrait of woman looking through yellow slit | by McAteer Photograph

When to think about trends – and when to ignore them

These are only three of many image trends that we will see throughout 2018. Trends are ever evolving and are there to help, not hinder the creative process. Keeping them in context and not being concerned about following a trend because you feel you have to is the key to using them to enhance your projects.


Keeping your brand at the centre of your focus, and finding a trend that works with your values and messaging will help your marketing stay relevant and fresh. If a trend doesn’t seem right for your audience, or just doesn’t work, don’t fret – it’s not for you.


My advice would be to involve your photographer or photography team from the start – you’ll find they have a lot to contribute to the pre-shoot process, offer up approaches you may not have considered and have a current knowledge of the general direction in which trends are going. Oh – and store those white backgrounds away for a while.


Are you looking for some more inspiration? Why not have a look at our people gallery.

Shell? | by McAteer Photograph


Find more inspirational portraits here.