How marketers are using stock photos and visuals differently

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Since its inception in 2003 with 30,000 images, Shutterstock has gone on to amass over 100 million images added to its online library. The use of visuals and photography in marketing campaigns is clearly rising, and Shutterstock’s library is constantly growing.

To celebrate the milestone of reaching 100 million images, we have taken a look at some of the ways in which marketers are now using images in brand campaigns differently, and predicted some top trends looking at how their use of images might continue to change.

These trends are primarily driven by innovations in image taking technology and a growing appetite for mobile media consumption.

This, coupled with shifting consumer mindsets and social media’s ability to bridge cultural differences, means both our visual culture and marketing campaigns are changing. Here are some of the most notable trends that we are seeing:


There is an increasing need for marketers to represent and reflect the lives of all their potential customers, and recent ad campaigns from Smirnoff, Tiffany & Co and Lloyds Bank reflect this.

These campaigns feature images of same sex couples in romantic or family type settings, and are leading the way for marketers’ changing requirements for more realistic uses of images within their campaigns

Pictures of people from every ethnicity apart from Chinese were downloaded from Shutterstock at an increased rate than those of Caucasians from 2014 to 2015.

And in 2015 alone, nearly 100 countries downloaded at least one image of transgender people, with the United States and the United Kingdom leading the way.

Shutterstock images now come from 140,000 photographers and artists from over 100 countries around the world, which creates a diverse image marketplace from which marketers can find an image – or a face – that reflects their brand’s key messages, regardless of race, sexuality or gender.


Sophisticated editing software that allows fantasy to be merged with reality to create hyper-real images allows marketers to use cleverly edited images to broaden their creative scope within marketing campaigns, and not limit themselves to photo-realistic settings.

Filmmakers have long been using such post production techniques to tell stories, and we will increasingly see marketers using tools such as Photoshop to creatively illustrate brand stories through hyper-real images as well.

The just released duel-lensed iPhone 7 has the potential to change photography forever

Shutterstock’s new plugin for Adobe Photoshop supports this development, as now over 100 million of Shutterstock images can be edited efficiently in Photoshop.

Daily stories

As popularised by social media such as Snapchat and Instagram, and through the use of apps such as Pic Collage – putting images next to one another allows marketers to communicate more personal and detailed visual brand stories to consumers than a single image could.

Additionally, by marketing visuals to consumers in a similar fashion to which they are sharing their own images through social media, collages and daily stories, marketers’ campaigns can feel more authentic and increase audience engagement.

Drone photography

With drones now entering the mainstream, their new perspective offers exciting capabilities for visual marketers.

Videos taken by drones are increasingly becoming an asset to mobile marketers on social media.

For example, thumb-stopping videos of beautiful landscapes and extreme sporting activities help visual campaigns to stand out from the crowd, and engage audiences with a limited attention span.

Mobile photography

The just released duel-lensed iPhone 7 has the potential to change photography forever. Just as our two eyes work together to detect depth of field, two lenses do the same.

Depth of Field is one of the last features necessary to complete the full migration away from handheld camera to camera phone.

Soon both amateur and professional photographers will only need to carry their mobile devices.


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