Capturing natural beauty and fashion in commercial photography

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The fashion and beauty industries are changing. The 2022 Instagram Trend Report reveals that one in three young people are interested in buying and learning more about “clean” skincare and makeup products, including plant-based and vegan products. At the same time, 23% are expecting to thrift more online, while 24% expect to contribute to sustainability by selling their own goods online.

In 2022, as we emerge from the pandemic with renewed hope and optimism, we’re also seeing brands taking more responsibility for their actions. To coincide with the movement for more ethical brand practices, we’re seeing a shift in the language of advertising, with marketers choosing photography that speaks to their customers’ core values. In this article, we’ll discuss three movements to keep in mind while planning photoshoots this year: ethical production, diversity and inclusion, and emerging trends.


Portrait of Young Black Woman, Dahyembi Neal by Dahyembi Joi on 500px.com

Spotlight on: Ethical production

From the rise in vegan textiles and cruelty-free cosmetics to increased interest in upcycling and buying secondhand, today’s consumers, realizing the environmental footprint of the beauty and fashion industries, are demanding more ethical practices from the brands they support. Companies can make a difference by committing to fair wages and fair trade guidelines while also introducing more environmentally sustainable practices.


Diverse beauty concepts by Cristian Negroni on 500px.com

Facebook’s Culture Rising: 2022 Trends Report, a must-read for image-makers and anyone in media, found that global year-over-year growth for topics relating to the circular economy, sustainable fashion, sustainable design, and upcycling, rose by 152%, 147%, 60%, and 24%, respectively.

One way to visualize these changes would be teaming up with an ethical designer and documenting the behind-the-scenes production process (get those property releases if you plan to license the work). Another could be documenting what you do in your everyday life to reduce your footprint. It could be as simple as choosing products without plastic packaging or making homemade skincare products with natural ingredients.


Puna by Giorgia Cinelli on 500px.com

The stakes are high when it comes to ethical products. According to Humane Society International, an estimated half-million animals suffer and die every year in cosmetics testing. Research reveals that consumers globally support the ban of cosmetic animal testing, with 76% of those in Brazil, 78% of those in Mexico, 89% in Southeast Asia, and 86% in South Africa considering a “no animal testing” claim to be an important or very important factor when deciding what products to purchase.

“Educate yourself on various brands’ missions, mandates, and initiatives to create shoots that can be versatile and timely,” the 500px team urges. For example, ATHR Beauty created the industry’s first zero-waste eyeshadow palette, while Lush has partnered with the Beagle Freedom Project, an organization that rescues dogs from laboratories.


Raw beauty treatment by Ilya Blinov on 500px.com

Spotlight on: Diversity and inclusivity

Returning to the Culture Rising: 2022 Trends Report by Facebook, 47% of those who responded said that society is more inclusive now than it was just a year ago. Conversations around #DiversityandInclusion rose by 85%, while #BlackOwnedBusiness and #Intersectional were up by 62% and 33%, respectively. Beyond that, Facebook’s report identified gender-neutral language, the singular “they,” and #nonbinary among their rising conversation topics, signaling the demand for gender-inclusive advertising.


Happy biracial couple walking through park by Anna Neubauer on 500px.com

Meanwhile, 69% of global respondents said they were concerned about discrimination due to physical or mental disabilities, coinciding with a push for more authentic representation. In February, Sofía Jirau made history by becoming the first Victoria’s Secret model with Down Syndrome. Her message: “There are no limits.”

In 2022, it’s important to take an intersectional approach to diversity, including people across a range of identities, genders, abilities, body types, skin tones, and more. Interest in body positivity and fat acceptance has skyrocketed in the last year. Age diversity is another factor to consider. Beauty vloggers like Makrye Park, aka Korea Grandma, have become leaders in makeup tutorials.


Hands and feet with vitiligo by Natalie Zotova on 500px.com

Meanwhile, Getty Images championed “skinclusivity” as part of a recent trend report, citing the need for greater diversity across skin colors, types, and conditions. Natural beauty shoots might include details like freckles, wrinkles, signs of aging, or scars. Searches for acne, vitiligo, and alopecia are on the rise, but most images tend to focus on the condition rather than the person, so it’s important to work with your models to tell a larger story.


Diverse beauty concepts by Cristian Negroni on 500px.com

Research from Mintel further reveals that 72% of adults agree that society’s idea of beauty is too rigidly defined. What’s more, 55% of Baby Boomers said brands with products that meet a range of age-related needs are inclusive, while 40% of Gen Zers said that brands offering gender-neutral products are more inclusive.


Raw beauty treatment by Ilya Blinov on 500px.com

Collaborate with your models to capture their individuality and personalities, leaving behind harmful and outdated stereotypes. “Authenticity or realness can come in many forms, from hiring models that sport real complexions in beauty shoots to using models of all shapes and sizes in fashion shoots,” the team at 500px says. “Consider the audience buying the product and how you can communicate a sense of relatability.”


Portrait Of Young Woman Enjoying Herself Outdoors, Rachel Verhoef  by Dahyembi Joi on 500px.com

Spotlight on: Emerging trends

Trends in beauty and fashion give you license to be forward-thinking and innovative as a commercial photographer. “Think about the color palettes set to define this year, and consider some of the current lighting techniques seen in commercial advertising recently, such as LED lights or creative shadows,” the 500px team adds. “Maybe you incorporate fashion trends such as the ’90s aesthetic or boho style, or maybe you tap into the upcycling movement. It could be as simple as selecting the right props, such as sustainable materials instead of plastic.”


Portrait of Two Young Black Sisters, Kynnah and Dahyembi Neal by Dahyembi Joi on 500px.com

To start, the goth trend is shaping up for a strong year, as are celestial motifs, with searches for “goth business casual,” “goth cowboy,” “star-themed party,” and “moon party decorations” up by 90%, 70% 140% on Pinterest.


Portrait of Creative Individual, Estelle Schuster by Dahyembi Joi on 500px.com

One of the boldest trends, of course, has been the reemergence of Y2K nostalgia, seen in the comeback of micro-mini skirts, baby tees, and low-rise jeans. (Consider this: the shopping platform Lyst saw a 58% year-on-year increase in searches for low rise jeans). High-fashion houses like Chanel have even brought back chain belts. Over on Etsy, there was a 50% year-over-year increase in searches for “Y2k.”


Untitled by Dahyembi Joi on 500px.com

Etsy’s Early 2022 trend report also saw a boost in searches for blazer dresses (up 75%), vintage plaid items (up 66%), the pastel goth aesthetic (up 34%), and velvet chokers (365%), so there’s plenty of room for experimentation. When casting, select models with styles that resonate with you, and work with them to choose the perfect items for the shoot. The 500px team explains, “Incorporating timely details not only refreshes your Licensing portfolio but can also increase your chances of a sale.”

Not on 500px yet? Click here to learn about Licensing with 500px.

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