Due to unprecedented Covid-related restrictions, 2020 was a truly dreadful year for most stock photography contributors, especially for those that focus on travel.
However, with the constant stream of largely positive news relating to vaccines being rolled out, there’s a renewed sense of optimism that 2021 may perhaps resemble some sort of “new normal”.
As a seasoned stock contributor, you may be well-positioned to take advantage of new Covid-related opportunities, by now researching and executing useful & potentially highly profitable concepts that could be licensed by various media outlets.
Taking out my crystal ball and boldly predicting what 2021 might be like, in this first part of a three-part series, this article will focus on identifying concepts related to Covid vaccines, Covid passports and upcoming travel-related trends.
How did I go about identifying these upcoming trends and how would you be able to identify other futuristic trends?
During these more unpredictable times, while trying to run a successful stock photography business, it’s normal that you may be more cautious on which concepts to invest. In particular, when considering costs such as, hiring models & make-up artists, location rentals, logistics and of course your time.
Therefore, even before investing from your budge, at the early brainstorming stage of your workflow, it’s a good idea to consult Google Trends. Google Trends is a free web-based tool where you can research the popularity (interest over time) for specific keywords, over millions of actual Google searches, and filter the results by location, time-frame and category.
Then, you may cross-reference these search results at popular image banks, such as Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Alamy and Getty. If everyday folks are searching for these concepts, chances are they’ll (some will be buyers) be searching for similar keywords / phrases at stock sites. This is in view of licensing content to support their news piece or help in promoting a product and/or service.
Below is a well-edited summary of just what people were searching for in 2020.
Using Google trends may also save you quite time and inevitably frustration to avoid concepts which may have run or be close to running their course.
Take for instance search terms related to: hand sanitizer, toilet paper (as remember there was a time when people were panic-buying), work from home, and social distancing. These all peaked in interest around March/April 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
Such search results may already be oversupplied at Stock agencies (see below), in other words you’re probably too late to create such concepts now unless you’re confident that you can outdo the top results on both technical and unique subject-matter criteria – being the scope of this article.
Your best bet is to try to anticipate future trends to create stock concepts. For instance, the following three concepts have been hand-picked as potentially in-demand future trends, which you would be wise to begin creating now to begin being licensed by buyers in early 2021.
The hot topic of early 2021 will be the competing Covid-19 vaccines soon mass-inoculating large portions of the population, starting with key workers and the most vulnerable.
Unsurprisingly, Google Trends is picking up a substantial amount of traffic on everything related to the Covid vaccines, with an indication that the interest is forecasted to keep rising:
Cross-referencing over at Shutterstock, a quick search for non-editorial images related to: “Covid, Vaccine” yields just over 120,000 hits, which is well below some of the potentially saturated terms identified earlier:
Now, landing on the first page for such popular keywords as above may prove challenging. Plus, it’s clear that most buyers don’t look beyond the first page of results.
Therefore, you would be wise to try to narrow your vaccine concept to include one or more of the more popular vaccines in the market, such as “Pfizer” (453 hits), “Moderna” (205 hits), or “Sputnik” (151 hits), which have much lower competition (granted, also less demand as a trade-off). You can also research and create concepts related to lesser-known and perhaps controversial up and coming vaccines and treatments.
Would recommend also cross-referencing your brainstormed concepts using Alamy Measures. Alamy is a mid-stock agency that caters predominately to UK and European editorial buyers with often specific requirements, unlike the microstock agencies.
For instance, the following are the results for “Covid Vaccine”:
Suffice to predict that Covid vaccines won’t be the cure-all that many predict, even if it may be often depicted in the often-happy Kool-Aid world of stock photography:
The immediate worry by all are potential side-effects as these vaccines were fast-tracked through clinical trials onto production in less than a year.
This fact, combined with different levels of efficacy, means that we’re in uncharted waters when it comes to possible side effects and viral re-occurrence. Naturally, the search term for “Covid vaccine side effects” remains popular:
At Shutterstock, only 1,102 hits for “vaccine side effects”, suggesting there’s still scope to develop concepts.
Experts estimate that up to 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated for Covid to be eradicated, also known as: “herd immunity” (333 hits)
Adding to the challenge, one in four countries will have to wait until 2022 for Covid vaccine as wealthy countries have bought 51% of the world’s vaccine stock. The frustration may boil over and lead to growing public resentment and unrest within those countries. Begin capturing these stock concepts now!
The only certainly about travel in 2021 will be how uncertain it will likely be (particularly air-travel) as travel bans / restrictions in most countries should continue well into the year.
For those who wish to travel internationally, most authorities will start requesting new travel documents indicating passengers’ testing or vaccination status, in some cases even to travel within one’s own cities/regions. A search for “Covid passport” yields just over 5,000 hits.
Meanwhile, at Google Trends, this search indicates a high interest over time:
There is a pent-up demand for leisure travel simply because it’s in our human nature to connect with other cultures and seek new experiences.
Once it’s clear that a majority of the most vulnerable in society within the developed countries are inoculated, around the mid of 2021, authorities should inevitably loosen travel restrictions, while at the same time demanding a clean immunity-passport for air-travel, as discussed earlier.
However, those who seek to travel may seek to avoid air travel altogether and opt for more comfortable and perceived-to-be-more-safe mediums, such as: trains, Recreational Vehicle (RV) – 48,320 hits, and rental cars.
Demand for travel will be particularly driven from those professionals that have built up substantial savings being able to work from home since March/April 2020. With those lucky enough to be able to rent places in new locations and become a “digital nomad” (9,515 hits).
In terms of accommodations, those who choose to travel for leisure are more likely to shun traditional city-centre hotels in favour of more private, secluded and residential Airbnbs where Covid risks may be mitigated.
Your turn to brainstorm how you may transform this complicated subject-matter into a simple yet useful bite-sized stock concept.
Hope you've enjoyed this article. Watch this space for Part II and III where I’ll delve deeper into my crystal-ball on identifying future-proof trending topics.
Please comment below if you've had some success using the Google Trends tool or anything else about trends that you would like to ask/share.