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News & Insight

Photography Trends 2017 – It’s Not Presets

By Brittany Smith on May 1st 2017

Trends in photography are always evolving, coming and going, and yet we always seem to circle back to the basics and fundamentals of where everything began. This year is nothing different. The following list is very much for fashion and advertising related photography, which will heavily influence a lot of other genres of portraiture including weddings, senior portraiture, and glamour. The common theme spanning through the masses is that “less is more” and they all intertwine with each other.

High Contrast
With many brands opting for a more minimalistic approach, it comes as no shock that a lot of studio production sets are opting for this as well. Instead of springing for the three to four light setups which produce perfect gradation and grayscale that Ansel Adams would have been proud of, many brands are opting for punchier contrast that is easily achieved with a one light setup. There is drama in the shadows, especially with monochrome images.

Kate Moss for Alberta Ferretti’s fall campaign.

Zara 2017.

Harsh Light
Another nod to earlier times in the analog monochrome film days and a more minimalistic approach, is harsh light is making a comeback. On set, there is often a lot less equipment used, which means non-diffused light modifiers and perhaps a bare bulb setting. No major bounce cards, reflectors or white V-flats are needed. Perhaps a black V-flat to absorb the light and yield blacker blacks and deeper shadows.

Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight is in high demand, especially when it breaks the rules. From high noon down to the very last rays visible just before the setting sun, golden hour is no longer the only acceptable time of day to shoot in. The more contrast the better. The more unconventional and imperfect, the more acceptable.

Both Alexander McQueen’s and Miu Miu’s Spring Summer 2017 ads shows us that women can, in fact, handle harsh light. We no longer have to be perfectly composed with the gradation cascading down the nose while perfectly highlighting the apples of the cheeks. There are shadows where we are told there should never be shadows and the highlights on the nose and cheeks are in direct opposition. The more standard 2000’s imperfect, the better, it seems.

Miu Miu 2017.

Alexander McQueen 2017.

From the actual shoot down to the post processing, less is more, or at least real is more. A lot of photoshoots are going to be less ‘produced’, meaning bare minimum gear and even less retouched, if at all, when it comes to post processing. With a “what you see is what you get” attitude, simplicity tends to be where it is at with several major retailers.

Target’s most recent swimwear campaign, as well as Lord & Taylor’s ad capturing a New York moment are boasting images of models that haven’t been retouched at all. Of course there is backlash from the photography community as it looks like anyone with a cell phone could have captured the campaign, and maybe that’s the point. I was one to sneer my nose at this as I felt the photographers could have composed the images better. You can’t help but wonder if the feeling of approachability may resonate more with their consumers.

Target Swimsuit Ad 2017

More Inclusive
The world is demanding to see in fashion and ad campaigns what they know to be true. The general population is wanting to see body types of every shape and size, stretch marks included. We will also see more diversity in regard to height and ethnicity. There is beauty everywhere and the fashion world is starting to answer the demand of its consumers. There is no longer a one size fits all that encompasses the pages of magazines and billboards across America. Authenticity and realism will continue to reign true. Imperfect is the new perfect.

Ashley Graham for Marina Rinaldi 2017.


A lot of trends come and go, but it appears as if we are heading from the world of heavily produced and edited images into a more authentic representation of what we actually see. Perfectionism is no longer the norm. A lot less usage of color grading and presets/photoshop actions are in our future. As everything turns to a more minimalistic style, that means we as photographers have to be able to produce images that are better than what the average consumer can capture with a smartphone without relying heavily on post production to remain relevant.

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Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Leif Eliasson

    Great article 

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  2. Black Z Eddie

    Nice.  That’s how I like a lot of images.

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  3. Federico Guendel

    The MiuMiu campaign seems waaaay too inspired in the Valentino SS 15 campaign except it’s with Hollywood talent 

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    • Brittany Smith

      I think it is kind of like when they (was it Gucci?) took the very retro 70’s inspired subway shot and then every ad campaign it seemed was in the subway and very 70’s in tonality.

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  4. Federico Guendel

    So, what about SS Chanel last year shooting on NY streets with sunlight and harsh light? Or 2015 Valentino SS campaign on the beach at blue hour for some minimalism (Michal Pudelka’s shoot)? 

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