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New Year, New Photography: What to Expect in 2022

Author: Anne Marie O'Connor

In the next year, photography will progress boldly into the future, with drone shots and AI technology, while also looking to the past, with shooting on film and Photoshop-free shots gaining admiration.

Knowing the various directions photography is heading can give you ideas for your projects and inform your creativity. So, who’s ready for a look into the future? Here are the strides and developments to keep your eye on as we point our cameras toward 2022!

An emphasis on authenticity

“Using smartphone filters and digitally retouching is easier than ever,” says David Schonauer, editor of the Pro Photo Daily newsletter and the former editor of American Photo magazine. “Perhaps because of that, I’ve seen a push toward authenticity. In an era when everything can look super-polished, people are responding to unvarnished beauty and a sense of reality. This doesn’t mean you should try to make someone look bad by focusing on their flaws, and it doesn’t mean a landscape picture needs to be dull. But shooting in good light and composing well beats Photoshop and filters.”

A Focus on Individuality

“Everybody has beauty,” says David Baratta, a casting director and producer in New York. “All body types, ages, skin colors, abilities, hair textures… Things that people were bullied over just a few years ago are now celebrated, and that is making photography interesting again. I have seen this change firsthand in terms of what clients are asking for—we have finally come around to seeing that beauty is all around our everyday world and that we don’t need to seek the societal perfection we once did in order to find it.”

Vibrant colors

“Being trapped in our homes and scared during the pandemic took a much bigger toll on us visually than I could have predicted,” Baratta, the former photo editor of Shape magazine, continues. “My first shoots once the world started opening up again were all focused on joy. Bright, happy, almost neon colors in everything were the welcome plan. Color is tied to emotions and we’d all been feeling a lot of darkness, so now that we are coming out of that we are coming out with sprinkles and saturation.”

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Confidently YOU

In 2022, confidence is the most beautiful thing you can possess. “The sexiest thing is confidence,” Baratta shares. “So whether the subject has a chiseled body or curves for days, as long as the person owns it and proudly puts it forward, there’s an audience.”

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“I’ve seen a trend toward ‘minimalist’ images—photos that aren’t cluttered with visual elements or colors,” says Schonauer, who’s based in Beacon, New York. “When pictures are less ‘noisy,’ the eye of the viewer will focus on the subject of the image, whether it’s a person, a building, a wedding ring or a pet; minimalist landscape pictures can capture the forms around us that we otherwise wouldn’t take in. It’s all about helping the viewer to see the world in a fresh way. When you’re composing a picture, look for simple backgrounds and think about what elements might be removed from a scene. Less is more.”

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Landscape Shots

As people continue to replace indoor leisure activities like going to the gym, movies and restaurants with outdoor pursuits, it’s no surprise that landscape photography is more popular than ever. “Big open spaces, faraway exotic lands, isolated places where your mind can wander and your eyes can get lost are all the rage,” says Baratta. “People want to escape and put themselves all around the world in these lush and exciting places, or place themselves somewhere through an adventure. A panoramic of a beautiful beach in Fiji or a painting-like photograph of snowy mountain is the escapism and inspiration people have been craving.”

AI Technology

“Artificial intelligence is probably the most significant development in recent years in terms of photo technology,” explains Schonauer. “It’s being used everywhere, from smartphones to photo-editing tools like Photoshop, to make it easier to create images. AI automates processes that used to take hours—for instance, swapping the background from one landscape photo into another. It’s also being used to fabricate alternate realities, including ‘deep-fake’ videos of celebrities and politicians seeming to say things that they didn’t really say, and high-quality portraits of people who don’t really exist—which has scary implications.”

Film Photography

“Like vinyl records, film photography has seen a resurgence in recent years, even as digital cameras have become ever more powerful,” says Schonauer. “Some people believe that film offers a richer and more nuanced visual palette than digital technology can produce. Shooting film can also be a more exacting challenge, because you can’t just blast away and shoot image after image. For some people that’s the appeal—it slows you down, makes you look harder at what you’re shooting. Some people call it the ‘slow-photography’ movement.”

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