Episode 43 – The 2021 Image Trends with Wendy Wei

Listen Now:

What We Talk About

Whether it’s Pantone’s color of the year trend or what’s happening on Instagram, it’s important to not only understand what’s happening in the world, but how to look beyond the surface and see what those trends mean for how you present your business.

Wendy Wei, the Social Media Manager at Pexels and host of Pexels’ Podcast Overexposed, talks to us about the 2021 (and beyond) trends and what they mean for how you use imagery in your marketing.

Resources

Pexels – free stock images for your business

Overexposed – Pexels' podcast hosted by Wendy Wei (will open on Spotify)

Follow Pexels on Facebook
Connect with Wendy on Facebook
Find Wendy on Instagram
Get inspired by Pexels on Instagram

Our transcript hasn't been proofed, so there will probably be some errors. Sorry about that!

Alyson Lex
All you have to do is scroll through Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest, or any other website for 22 seconds. And you'll notice imagery is a big deal. In fact, I think the only place that images don't really matter is like clubhouse and maybe podcasts. But even then they matter. So it's really important to understand the trends that are happening when it comes to the images that you use, whether they're images that you take yourself, or stock photos, or bespoke designs drawn by an amazing artist. And that is why we asked Wendy way to come here today, because she is the Social Media Manager at pexels. She's a photographer. She's the host of the overexposed podcast. So if there is one person that can talk to us about image trends, it is Miss Wendy way. So thank you so much for being here.

Wendy Wei
Thank you so much for having me.

Alyson Lex
I would love to know what some trends are that you're noticing on social or in marketing this year?

Wendy Wei
Yeah, absolutely. Going into the new year. One of the most popular things I feel like I personally am searching. And I also see other people searching is imagery trends. So the end of last year, you hear like Pantone always does their annual color of the year. And that's always a huge hit with designers and photographers. And people are kind of gearing up into the new year and figuring out their new marketing plan. So going into this year, I think the most important things that I've seen personally, from the pixel side working internally, but also as a photographer, as someone who is absolutely always on Instagram, is I think the three main themes are authenticity, diversity, and an aspect of storytelling. So if you think back, even like the 2000, to 2010, everything was super overly edited, super glamorous. All you see everywhere are like traditionally like white skinny models, and there wasn't much much diversity out there. And right now thankfully, if you look on like magazines and billboards, and everything, that landscape has changed quite a bit, and we're seeing a lot more diversity and authenticity. And things are not super edited anymore, we're going for like the natural feel. And even on the pixel side as someone or as a platform that creates these images for people to use, we realize that imagery has a lot of power to change the way that society operates. So internally, one of our goals always is to create shoots that are embracing that type of like authenticity and diversity, bringing in people of all different backgrounds, and all different types of representations of families of couples of love, and just kind of changing the way that we see those things. And additionally, for brands and companies, we can't hide anymore. brands and companies that are being held accountable, same as people are, so before, maybe they could get away with certain things. But now you see that especially consumers have a voice and they have a say in things. And if they don't like something or they think that something is unfair, they're not afraid to speak out. And in turn, brands have to be a lot more transparent with the way that they're doing things. So I think in general, the trends to keep out for what looking for images, and even imagery in general in content is maintaining the authenticity and diversity. And even as a brand, show your personality, we don't have to always be like, this is our work. And we kind of hide behind, whether it's a product or a service. It's kind of showing like the personality behind like these brands that we always know. Something that's also nice part of this is also user generated content. So you see that people are not just kind of using these highly produced photos anymore. They're taking if you have a product showing other people using it, and even getting influencers or you don't have to be super huge. But those who love your product, and those who are fans of resharing their content, so it doesn't have to be super polished anymore. There's a lot more room for freedom and transparency.

Alyson Lex
So I love that, first of all, and it's really clear, especially how that user generated content adds to that. Just this is real. And I love that we're kind of like the Insta Sheen, if you will pull in that instance sheen off of the world. Yeah, I'm coining that phrase just

Jennie Wright
make that up. I

Alyson Lex
did

Jennie Wright
love it.

Alyson Lex
Right because we do we have that. It's glossy and it's beautiful, but it's not real and I think that especially given The events of the last 10 to 12 to 14 months like we are craving that real connection and realness. You mentioned storytelling. And I just want to ask, like, I get the authenticity, I get the diversity, how do we show storytelling in our imagery.

Wendy Wei
And I think it also goes back to that tying into like brands having a personality and being transparent, because we can't just hide behind just a logo or a product anymore. People are asking, people are putting their money where their mouth is, essentially, and you see a lot more people only supporting like sustainable brands or eco friendly brands. So brands really need to have a purpose of why they're there and being able to show that whether that's through images or videos, which is now being prioritized a lot throughout the algorithms. And even if you have a photo, let's say I'm having a caption that's really meaningful, that it really unexplained something. And even if you're using photos that are not your own, explaining why that is, or you see the trend of also microblogging now where these platforms are prioritizing posts that have I think it's like technically over 400 characters. But that doesn't mean you have to, like sit down and like count every character that you write. But you see that these platforms are kind of prioritizing these types of content that are more authentic, and actually have something to say rather than just a random photo, and like two words, maybe

Jennie Wright
makes a lot of sense to me. And so Alison, and I have two really interesting ways that we use this right? I, as a entrepreneur, as a freelancer is what I do is I use a lot of images, I'm on pexels, all the time, it's literally open on when I open up my computer and I started in the morning, it's, you know, a bunch of tabs, and pexels is in there. And there's a reason why that is, is because I've noticed that, you know, I've gone to a lot of royalty free sites, because of what I do. I build a lot of funnels for people. And what I noticed for years, years and years and years is it was what you were talking about earlier, white skinny models, you know, and that was the stock photography, I could get my hands on. Mm hmm. And that doesn't represent our ideal clients, right, it's so non representational of the marketplace of who we should be speaking to. And I have a lot of clients that would just naturally go for those images. And it wasn't until I could get royalty free images. And I could use like a tool like pexels, to find images that are so good. Like, they're so diverse. And like you said, there's very authentic, and you have tons of different types of photoshoots that are happening in there, which is great. You know, and you're showing different versions of what you were saying different versions of couples and families and love and you know, all those different things that makes a difference, as in what I do to be able to present a sales page or a funnel that speaks to an ideal clients, like, like just who they are. And it's so important, I think, for people to see themselves on a page.

Wendy Wei
Yeah, that's so great to hear, first of all, thank you. But also, that's the responsibility of us as a platform as well. And we hope to be the ones that are changing this narrative of stock platforms, because you always see like, stock photos, like at least the ones that are like from a few years ago are becoming memes. Now people are taking it and like making kind of funny captions of it now. And it seems so awkward and stiff. But as a stock platform that is completely community based. And people who are submitting photos could be from like Hong Kong or India or somewhere in Africa, you kind of are able to get a diverse amount of perspectives. Because if you only have like, let's say one company shooting the same stock photo that everyone's using, you're only portraying what they see. And that has an effect whether we think about it intentionally or not. So we hope that as a stock platform, we're able to kind of change that narrative and show people that Yeah, like stock imagery has the power to change the way that people think about things. So when you search like breakfast, you don't see kind of the same thing over and over again, you see different types of breakfast all over the world from the eyes of many different people rather than just one company.

Jennie Wright
And that's great, because you're awesome has something to say too, but that's great because you're a photographer that you can. You also have the ability with your with your own skills, to be able to understand some of the necessities of having a different view a different lens, which I think is great.

Alyson Lex
What you said was really interesting to me too, was it's not just the skin, or the ability or the relationship type. It's something as basic as the type of food you eat. At that contributes to that authentic and diverse and and That's just really cool to me, it just popped into my head. I never thought about it, the fact that, you know, my American breakfast is different than a breakfast of someone in Nairobi, for example, like, it's just different. And that should be represented too. So I think that's a really cool distinction.

Wendy Wei
Absolutely. And like you mentioned, Jennie, people want to be able to see themselves in their products. So if someone's marketing, toothpaste, let's say, and they only use the same people in the same scenarios, someone might not be able to see themselves in it. And that could be detrimental, on the other hand, to the company, as well. So I think this trend of authenticity and diversity is ultimately a win win for everybody. because on one hand, these companies are setting the stage and setting the example for what it means to be human, in any type of the world in any type of situation. But also, the consumers are able to see themselves and in turn, be able to relate to that brand. And it also goes into that storytelling aspect of it of people being able to relate to something and ultimately, that's what makes them want to buy something or makes them want to use the service. We were

Jennie Wright
talking a little bit earlier about trends, right. Just a little bit of trends. So that when we're looking on social media, we were talking earlier, and I love Allison's, would you say instead of glamour,

Alyson Lex
it's a shame,

Jennie Wright
it's a shame. Okay, so we've we've taken the institution off a little bit, and or we're looking at what the trends might be for the next couple of years, or how it's kind of you know, and you guys are forward thinking, obviously, in pixels to make that happen. How do we stay on top of these trends, as entrepreneurs as freelancers as people who are struggling to do our thing? How do people do that? And make sure that they're still, you know, remaining relevant and up to date?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm.

Yeah, that's a really hard question. Because honestly, like, for me, I'm still kind of figuring that out, as well. And the thing with trends is like it could come out of left field and you have no idea like, where things are gonna go. But I think the top rule of thumb that I'm personally I use as a photographer and working for pexels is, first to follow those in the industry. So for me, I always, as a photographer side of things, I always try to follow other photographers that I look up to. And if I see something that stands out to me on a website, and I see who took the photo or at the company, I try to follow them and make sure I'm keeping up to date with what's going on around me. But at the same time, I find it really useful also to follow leaders on the platforms that you're using. So one good example is on Instagram. So they have a creators account, which is just creators. And they have like a couple of million followers, which is pretty impressive. But this account specifically serves for those who are social media managers and entrepreneurs who are doing everything themselves. And it's hard to kind of, it's one thing if that's your main job, but it's another thing if you're also handling sales and bookkeeping, and all of that. But I find that following these types of accounts, they tend to give out like insider tips and new releases for what's coming up. So you can kind of have that in your mind. And moving forward. rails was something that recently just came up in for me that I was like, I just got used to igtv Why are you throwing another feature at me? But with that, like I went, I went on the creators account, they made an entire post on like, the do's and don'ts of reels. And one of the ones that I can remember is they don't like repurposing content. So like if you post something on tik tok, I know like I did this before, I would automatically save it because this is a 32nd video, I can just easily repost it on reels, but the algorithm tends to D prioritize that. So just specific tips like that, that will really help you because I know a few times even for myself, I would try to post a video on like, why did this get like a five views. And it all comes down to the algorithm for better or for worse. So it really helps following these like leaders in the industry who can give these insider tips and a heads up, if you will.

Alyson Lex
Well, and what you mentioned to earlier about the the Pantone color of the year, which I've always liked to see what it is, and I very rarely agree with it as a non designer. I'm like, I have no horse in this race. But why would you pick that? And so, you know, is that kind of how you know the creator account and the Pantone color of the year? Is that really the the crux of our resources there are we should we just kind of be thinking ahead How can we begin to build that forward thinking pneus in ourselves as well so that we're not always kind of caught behind?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Yeah, it's definitely a fine balance and even with like colors the year and these like creator accounts, you had to take it with a grain of salt with the creator account, at least they give you like, specific tips on like, what the algorithm prioritizes and it's really hard to keep up by A few weeks ago, I was also in this place of like, presenting the social strategy. And I was like, I don't know what to do moving forward, because it's hard to kind of keep up with everything. And obviously, you can't incorporate everything. So I'd say, really think about what these accounts are saying. But also, in the end, relating it back to your brand and thinking, what can I take out of this, it's beneficial for me, rather than trying to check off all the boxes. So Pantone, for example, I think there are new colors, I forget the exact name, but I think it's some sort of yellow, and

Jennie Wright
yellow and a gray, ultimate gray, and something yellow.

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Yeah. And that doesn't mean everyone go ahead and like, but everything is yellow. It's just kind of like, I think the way that they explained it was, it's like a refreshing kind of new start, because we definitely had a rough year in 2020, with everything that was going on. So it represented more of a new start. So it doesn't mean go ahead and like use yellow on everything. But rather keep that in mind. This year's theme is more optimistic and brighter, and something that's even I think I read this somewhere I forget where but it's really interesting. But even from a photographer's perspective, there's no studios anymore, at least in a lot of places, studios are shut down. So you don't have all those like color gels and like different ways you can manipulate artificial lighting. Yellow was one of the common things because people are using window light in their homes a lot more and shooting outside. So it's kind of taking that and understanding the implications of it, rather than go into slob yellow on everything. So I think the bottom line is obviously keeping on top of these trends and what people are saying, but ultimately related back to your brand.

Alyson Lex
I love that I never would have thought to look for the theme and use now. It's like, I can see my images. They don't need to be yellow and gray. Which by the way, I googled it, it's illuminating yellow,

illuminated.

But I don't need to be all yellow, I can be joyful and excited and hopeful and have that kind of attitude with my marketing and my imagery. What should we not be doing?

Wendy Wei
With our images? Yeah, so

I think back to what I was talking about, about the over editing as well, it's not 2015 anymore. And as a photographer, I definitely was caught in that trend. I know like, around that time, when I started picking up the camera, it was always that teal, and orange. And like that, like filter. And especially like when Instagram was coming up, the whole point of it was to apply filters to your photos. So people went filter crazy for a little bit and slapped it on everything. But that's not the case anymore. I think maybe it's because of the pandemic and everyone's kind of reeling back. And we're all on this level playing field where we can't really go outside and have a bunch of people and shoot around or go rent a studio and hire models and stuff. everyone no matter what level you are, are on the same playing field. So I think that trend of like, over editing is gone. And even if you think of like not even filters, but skin like skin as well, like in fashion magazines, I remember before like people, I would watch tutorials on how to remove every single poor from people's skins, but now working with like a couple like fashion. And like beauty brands. Everyone's like keep it all in. We want to show like the Natural Woman and the way that we actually are rather than this, like fake persona of what people should be.

Jennie Wright
Finally. Finally, sorry. Yeah.

Wendy Wei
Yeah. And the other thing is also this is kind of a given. But I think a lot of people I've also seen people make this mistake over and over is don't post low quality photos. Even on pexels. I've seen people kind of go to a photo and just simply screenshot it. But that's kind of just taking it as it is and whether you like blow it up for a poster or just using it for social media. There's different resolutions everywhere. So what when you can always try to download the most high quality, high resolution clear photos as you can, because in the end, like blurry and pixelated photos reflect poorly on the brand. So the simple thing is to make sure to download your photos rather than screenshotting. The other thing goes back to the kind of like awkward generic stock photos. You want to avoid photos that look like they belong in a textbook. So like you see like a lot of those photos are becoming names now. But when you're looking for imagery, you want photos to feel authentic, people should be relaxed and natural looking and products should be well lit and not just like washed out with the background. And people are getting a lot more playing around with the imagery as well. So a restaurant could choose a photo with a burger, with the Check your paper background rather than just on a plain white background. So in the end, you kind of want to think of basically a rule of thumb don't use photos, it looks like they come out of a textbook.

Jennie Wright
Yeah, I'm all about I have a client or I had a client a little while ago. And they kept pulling the images off of Google. And it was the images you know, the the, the white Bowlby looking headed, you know, image on Google

Alyson Lex
love those guys. I don't, I've

Jennie Wright
never liked them, I think there were, but they used, they just downloaded all of them and put them all over their funnel. And I'm like, they're all gone. Like, that's not happening. I'm not putting a sales page out with those in them. Because they're so like, they're so stocked like, they're so you know, overused, and everything like that. And I kind of have a question. And you've sort of half answered it, without me even having to ask, which is always great for me as somebody who's asking the question, but I'm gonna ask it anyways. Because I want a little bit, I want to get a little bit more specific on it. And it's making sure like, how do we make sure that the stock photos that we are using are on brand for our businesses, and so it doesn't look like they dropped in from, you know, something completely different?

Wendy Wei
Yeah, I think, in that case, you really want to understand your own brand. First, because I've made this mistake before where I take in everything everyone else has to say. And in the end, I'm kind of left with so many different opinions, and so many different choices. And it's like the Paradox of Choice, the more choice you have, the more confusing and overwhelming it is. So you kind of want to avoid that analysis paralysis, per se. And you really want to go to the root of things first. So understand what your brand is, it helps to make a mood board on Pinterest is always a fan favorite, or even on pexels, you can kind of collect different photos and make a mood board based on what you like, and then go in and filter out what you think is important. So some brands really value that like natural looking, non artificial lighting, whereas others prefer like a cleaner look and not saying one is right or one is wrong. But I think in order to avoid being overwhelmed and kind of choosing everything, you really have to identify what your brand is, whether that's polished and clean or natural and authentic, you have to kind of go back and understand what works for you. And then take that and get the implications of it and apply it to yourself. Same as with the Pantone color of the year and all those other trends as well.

Alyson Lex
So earlier, you said that we don't want to over edit, which I'm totally on board with institution. But is it appropriate to edit or work with our photos to kind of take them from being? Okay, that might be on brand too? Yes, this is exactly like how can we do that?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Absolutely. So there's so many different like editing tools out there that can help you kind of spruce things up. So you don't want to like obviously, like overdo it and make it look like it's like completely different from the original. But again, it goes down to what your brand values whether I know certain brands like that, like minimalistic, muted tones. And you can obviously like go in and adjust certain things and like make it make sure it's like works for you. But also things like presets are really helpful as well. So for those who are more like Photoshop and Lightroom savvy presets are a really good way. And for me, like I know if I like a certain photographer and the way that they do their style, I can download their presets and apply it on but also adjust it to make sure it's not exactly the same as someone else. So also, Canva is also really great for templates. So you can obviously like take a photo and put it in a template and add your own text or logo on to it. So it's not just taking downloading a photo and just slapping it onto your feed.

Jennie Wright
So that that's really, really good when it comes to trying to edit those pictures. And I like that I I'm dangerous in Photoshop, which means I know enough just to get by. But I'm not that good at it. My partner is way better at it. I've seen him change the color of people's shirts. It's really crazy. Yeah, so how he does it? Is there ever a time when stock photography is like the No, no. Is there a real hard line where this is not a thing that we should be using?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. I think it when it comes to endorsing your brand for products specifically, in which case, it's more beneficial to shoot your own photos. So for me, I've seen like t shirt companies, for example, who like take just a photo of someone wearing a blank t shirt on pexels and just slap on a design and call it their product. And obviously, like as a platform, we do have photos specifically with like brand blank areas for mock ups, but that should be all it's used for is a mock up. So whether you're pitching internally, or if you just want to like quickly show an idea but if you have a big campaign or a release, in that case, it's very beneficial to invest in good photography and doesn't mean like hundreds of dollars. Like honestly, you can even like just a lot of phones right now can take better photos than like cameras years ago. So the most important thing is lighting with any good photo, if you don't want it to look like grainy or blurred out, just put it next to a window and take a photo of your product. And I guarantee that will look way better than any mock up or just trying to take a random photos elsewhere. So if you have my

Jennie Wright
lighting, because I've got half my face lit from a window, and I'm looking like Casper the ghost on one side, and then I'm in shadow on the other. Like I need curtains.

Wendy Wei
Yeah, the one thing with lighting also is Yeah, like you don't want it to be overexposed as well. And something really simple for that if you have like a, like a semi clear sheet, or if you have some sort of blinds, that helps as well. So if you have to endorse a product or like prepare for an upcoming launch, and you have to do it on your own, just make sure it's good lighting, clean background, get rid of any clutter and take a photo of the product as it is. But if you can just try to find even someone to take like photos for an hour or something, you don't want to just slap on a mock up and call that your product. Because chances are if that's a stock photo, other people have used it and it just doesn't seem authentic or real.

Alyson Lex
I have seen some t shirts sales sites with those stock photos with like the print. And it doesn't know the model is is turned slightly, but the logo is not it's just literally like pasted anything bad and I don't buy. So it. Yeah, I agree with that.

Let's

let's be real, does it really matter? Like, can I just use some text on a background? or something? Like, do I need to do all of this worrying about the pictures?

Wendy Wei
Yeah, well, first of all, I want to say there is nothing wrong with this patterns in text, it can be really effective sometimes, but you don't want that to be your entire brand. And if you think about it, the visual landscape is so competitive right now. Just like take in consideration like for yourself just scrolling through your own feed and take note of what catches your eye because chances are, we're all human, if something catches your eye, it probably will catch someone else's eye too. So for me when I'm taking even as a photographer, it's really easy to kind of get caught up in like what everyone else is doing and what's popular. But for me, I always try to kind of just even take a second and think, wow, I like this photo. But why do I like it? And then once you have a couple of those, maybe put them in a mood board or something and identify what you like about them specifically, and what theme there is there? Because chances are like, yeah, like we're all human, and what works for you is probably will catch someone else's eye to and from the basics of things as well. Our brains are just naturally wired to process information better. Because if you think about it, the very first written language that humans used were pictures and not like words and letters. And that came a lot later. So yeah, like I think the stat is like 90% of what we perceive is visual. And around 10% of that is text. So humans are wired to process visual information quicker. So if you see, I don't know, like pullover cupcake, you're able to identify that a lot quicker than if you had to read the word for it. So visuals are so important for branding. But at the same time, it's also like that balance of this. So you can use tax and if you have a point to drive home, but balance it with visuals, if you want to kind of take that to the next level. Yeah, and just one thing I noticed also on the pexels. And in the back end on social, I have to do like analytics as well, just like any other company. And when I was looking at the analytics, I was like, Why do some images perform better. And as a platform, we have access to all the photos. And that's literally what we do. But I see that it's usually the more conceptual photos that really make people stop and think that are really important. And if you think about the algorithm right now, the one thing that Instagram is prioritizing, now that they've gotten rid of likes, is shares and saves. So what the implication of that is that you really want something that'll make people want to come back to that they want to save it and they want to come back and like understand it a little better or read it more. So it's not just like a like and like forget about it, it's getting people to come back to things.

Jennie Wright
That makes a lot of sense when you're talking about it. I like some of the best Instagrams that I see that people you know, they're this sort of like the the way they have it laid out is they've got some really good photos, but they've also got these sometimes the occasional background with some text as well. So that's awesome. This has been this has been like an education in which is great. I appreciate that very, very much. I would love if you wouldn't mind sharing with us where people can find you and how they can get in touch. And tell us more about pexels, please.

Wendy Wei
Yeah, so pexels is one of the world's leading stock photography sites. And we're mostly contributor based. So everything that you see comes from photographers themselves. And if you are a photographer, it's a great way to showcase your own photography. And we're being seen by some of the top companies in the world like Yahoo, and BuzzFeed and Google and personally, like I've had my work shown on those sites. And I'm like, wow, like, I would have never been able to have my work shown on all of these, like, huge companies if it wasn't for pexels. So it's a great way as a photographer myself to be able to showcase my work, but also as a marketer or an entrepreneur, if you don't have the resources to go and conduct a huge photo shoot that you can find photos quickly and easily. And hopefully diverse photos and authentic photos as we're trying to kind of be able to take the lead on that. Oh, and you can find me on Instagram at Wendy h Wei, w e n d YHWEI. And we're also on pexels. And it's just at pexels pe x LS.

Jennie Wright
You guys have some really good ways on the pexels Instagram, I like the way you guys are the visuals. I see you guys go for like one color set, and then you change a color set. And it's really, really kind of neat. So Alison, I just want to take a second. And thank you so much for being on and telling us more about how this is an important thing. I know this is a question I get asked. So I know our listeners care to know more about this topic, knowing what kind of stock photography when to use your own photos, not being over, like overly worried about it. And just being a little bit more natural with that, I think is is a great way to go forward. So I just really wanted to say I appreciate you talking to us about it and coming on Wednesday, it was really helpful. And if people want to get in touch they should check you out on your Instagram as well as pixels for their debt you know, for their for their social media images for the images like I'm using on sales pages, emails are just all good stuff. Go check it out. And if you're listening to this podcast, and you like what you've heard today, please do subscribe to the podcast so that you don't miss any future episodes with amazing experts like Wendy and we have those on Tuesdays and then there's an episode with just Allison I on Thursdays and on Mondays we drop a quick tip which is something really granular that's going to give you some actionable steps to help grow your business. So thanks, everybody for being on. We appreciate you listening and we'll be back again soon answering another big question.

Listen Now:

What We Talk About

Whether it’s Pantone’s color of the year trend or what’s happening on Instagram, it’s important to not only understand what’s happening in the world, but how to look beyond the surface and see what those trends mean for how you present your business.

Wendy Wei, the Social Media Manager at Pexels and host of Pexels’ Podcast Overexposed, talks to us about the 2021 (and beyond) trends and what they mean for how you use imagery in your marketing.

Resources

Pexels – free stock images for your business

Overexposed – Pexels' podcast hosted by Wendy Wei (will open on Spotify)

Follow Pexels on Facebook
Connect with Wendy on Facebook
Find Wendy on Instagram
Get inspired by Pexels on Instagram

Our transcript hasn't been proofed, so there will probably be some errors. Sorry about that!

Alyson Lex
All you have to do is scroll through Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest, or any other website for 22 seconds. And you'll notice imagery is a big deal. In fact, I think the only place that images don't really matter is like clubhouse and maybe podcasts. But even then they matter. So it's really important to understand the trends that are happening when it comes to the images that you use, whether they're images that you take yourself, or stock photos, or bespoke designs drawn by an amazing artist. And that is why we asked Wendy way to come here today, because she is the Social Media Manager at pexels. She's a photographer. She's the host of the overexposed podcast. So if there is one person that can talk to us about image trends, it is Miss Wendy way. So thank you so much for being here.

Wendy Wei
Thank you so much for having me.

Alyson Lex
I would love to know what some trends are that you're noticing on social or in marketing this year?

Wendy Wei
Yeah, absolutely. Going into the new year. One of the most popular things I feel like I personally am searching. And I also see other people searching is imagery trends. So the end of last year, you hear like Pantone always does their annual color of the year. And that's always a huge hit with designers and photographers. And people are kind of gearing up into the new year and figuring out their new marketing plan. So going into this year, I think the most important things that I've seen personally, from the pixel side working internally, but also as a photographer, as someone who is absolutely always on Instagram, is I think the three main themes are authenticity, diversity, and an aspect of storytelling. So if you think back, even like the 2000, to 2010, everything was super overly edited, super glamorous. All you see everywhere are like traditionally like white skinny models, and there wasn't much much diversity out there. And right now thankfully, if you look on like magazines and billboards, and everything, that landscape has changed quite a bit, and we're seeing a lot more diversity and authenticity. And things are not super edited anymore, we're going for like the natural feel. And even on the pixel side as someone or as a platform that creates these images for people to use, we realize that imagery has a lot of power to change the way that society operates. So internally, one of our goals always is to create shoots that are embracing that type of like authenticity and diversity, bringing in people of all different backgrounds, and all different types of representations of families of couples of love, and just kind of changing the way that we see those things. And additionally, for brands and companies, we can't hide anymore. brands and companies that are being held accountable, same as people are, so before, maybe they could get away with certain things. But now you see that especially consumers have a voice and they have a say in things. And if they don't like something or they think that something is unfair, they're not afraid to speak out. And in turn, brands have to be a lot more transparent with the way that they're doing things. So I think in general, the trends to keep out for what looking for images, and even imagery in general in content is maintaining the authenticity and diversity. And even as a brand, show your personality, we don't have to always be like, this is our work. And we kind of hide behind, whether it's a product or a service. It's kind of showing like the personality behind like these brands that we always know. Something that's also nice part of this is also user generated content. So you see that people are not just kind of using these highly produced photos anymore. They're taking if you have a product showing other people using it, and even getting influencers or you don't have to be super huge. But those who love your product, and those who are fans of resharing their content, so it doesn't have to be super polished anymore. There's a lot more room for freedom and transparency.

Alyson Lex
So I love that, first of all, and it's really clear, especially how that user generated content adds to that. Just this is real. And I love that we're kind of like the Insta Sheen, if you will pull in that instance sheen off of the world. Yeah, I'm coining that phrase just

Jennie Wright
make that up. I

Alyson Lex
did

Jennie Wright
love it.

Alyson Lex
Right because we do we have that. It's glossy and it's beautiful, but it's not real and I think that especially given The events of the last 10 to 12 to 14 months like we are craving that real connection and realness. You mentioned storytelling. And I just want to ask, like, I get the authenticity, I get the diversity, how do we show storytelling in our imagery.

Wendy Wei
And I think it also goes back to that tying into like brands having a personality and being transparent, because we can't just hide behind just a logo or a product anymore. People are asking, people are putting their money where their mouth is, essentially, and you see a lot more people only supporting like sustainable brands or eco friendly brands. So brands really need to have a purpose of why they're there and being able to show that whether that's through images or videos, which is now being prioritized a lot throughout the algorithms. And even if you have a photo, let's say I'm having a caption that's really meaningful, that it really unexplained something. And even if you're using photos that are not your own, explaining why that is, or you see the trend of also microblogging now where these platforms are prioritizing posts that have I think it's like technically over 400 characters. But that doesn't mean you have to, like sit down and like count every character that you write. But you see that these platforms are kind of prioritizing these types of content that are more authentic, and actually have something to say rather than just a random photo, and like two words, maybe

Jennie Wright
makes a lot of sense to me. And so Alison, and I have two really interesting ways that we use this right? I, as a entrepreneur, as a freelancer is what I do is I use a lot of images, I'm on pexels, all the time, it's literally open on when I open up my computer and I started in the morning, it's, you know, a bunch of tabs, and pexels is in there. And there's a reason why that is, is because I've noticed that, you know, I've gone to a lot of royalty free sites, because of what I do. I build a lot of funnels for people. And what I noticed for years, years and years and years is it was what you were talking about earlier, white skinny models, you know, and that was the stock photography, I could get my hands on. Mm hmm. And that doesn't represent our ideal clients, right, it's so non representational of the marketplace of who we should be speaking to. And I have a lot of clients that would just naturally go for those images. And it wasn't until I could get royalty free images. And I could use like a tool like pexels, to find images that are so good. Like, they're so diverse. And like you said, there's very authentic, and you have tons of different types of photoshoots that are happening in there, which is great. You know, and you're showing different versions of what you were saying different versions of couples and families and love and you know, all those different things that makes a difference, as in what I do to be able to present a sales page or a funnel that speaks to an ideal clients, like, like just who they are. And it's so important, I think, for people to see themselves on a page.

Wendy Wei
Yeah, that's so great to hear, first of all, thank you. But also, that's the responsibility of us as a platform as well. And we hope to be the ones that are changing this narrative of stock platforms, because you always see like, stock photos, like at least the ones that are like from a few years ago are becoming memes. Now people are taking it and like making kind of funny captions of it now. And it seems so awkward and stiff. But as a stock platform that is completely community based. And people who are submitting photos could be from like Hong Kong or India or somewhere in Africa, you kind of are able to get a diverse amount of perspectives. Because if you only have like, let's say one company shooting the same stock photo that everyone's using, you're only portraying what they see. And that has an effect whether we think about it intentionally or not. So we hope that as a stock platform, we're able to kind of change that narrative and show people that Yeah, like stock imagery has the power to change the way that people think about things. So when you search like breakfast, you don't see kind of the same thing over and over again, you see different types of breakfast all over the world from the eyes of many different people rather than just one company.

Jennie Wright
And that's great, because you're awesome has something to say too, but that's great because you're a photographer that you can. You also have the ability with your with your own skills, to be able to understand some of the necessities of having a different view a different lens, which I think is great.

Alyson Lex
What you said was really interesting to me too, was it's not just the skin, or the ability or the relationship type. It's something as basic as the type of food you eat. At that contributes to that authentic and diverse and and That's just really cool to me, it just popped into my head. I never thought about it, the fact that, you know, my American breakfast is different than a breakfast of someone in Nairobi, for example, like, it's just different. And that should be represented too. So I think that's a really cool distinction.

Wendy Wei
Absolutely. And like you mentioned, Jennie, people want to be able to see themselves in their products. So if someone's marketing, toothpaste, let's say, and they only use the same people in the same scenarios, someone might not be able to see themselves in it. And that could be detrimental, on the other hand, to the company, as well. So I think this trend of authenticity and diversity is ultimately a win win for everybody. because on one hand, these companies are setting the stage and setting the example for what it means to be human, in any type of the world in any type of situation. But also, the consumers are able to see themselves and in turn, be able to relate to that brand. And it also goes into that storytelling aspect of it of people being able to relate to something and ultimately, that's what makes them want to buy something or makes them want to use the service. We were

Jennie Wright
talking a little bit earlier about trends, right. Just a little bit of trends. So that when we're looking on social media, we were talking earlier, and I love Allison's, would you say instead of glamour,

Alyson Lex
it's a shame,

Jennie Wright
it's a shame. Okay, so we've we've taken the institution off a little bit, and or we're looking at what the trends might be for the next couple of years, or how it's kind of you know, and you guys are forward thinking, obviously, in pixels to make that happen. How do we stay on top of these trends, as entrepreneurs as freelancers as people who are struggling to do our thing? How do people do that? And make sure that they're still, you know, remaining relevant and up to date?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm.

Yeah, that's a really hard question. Because honestly, like, for me, I'm still kind of figuring that out, as well. And the thing with trends is like it could come out of left field and you have no idea like, where things are gonna go. But I think the top rule of thumb that I'm personally I use as a photographer and working for pexels is, first to follow those in the industry. So for me, I always, as a photographer side of things, I always try to follow other photographers that I look up to. And if I see something that stands out to me on a website, and I see who took the photo or at the company, I try to follow them and make sure I'm keeping up to date with what's going on around me. But at the same time, I find it really useful also to follow leaders on the platforms that you're using. So one good example is on Instagram. So they have a creators account, which is just creators. And they have like a couple of million followers, which is pretty impressive. But this account specifically serves for those who are social media managers and entrepreneurs who are doing everything themselves. And it's hard to kind of, it's one thing if that's your main job, but it's another thing if you're also handling sales and bookkeeping, and all of that. But I find that following these types of accounts, they tend to give out like insider tips and new releases for what's coming up. So you can kind of have that in your mind. And moving forward. rails was something that recently just came up in for me that I was like, I just got used to igtv Why are you throwing another feature at me? But with that, like I went, I went on the creators account, they made an entire post on like, the do's and don'ts of reels. And one of the ones that I can remember is they don't like repurposing content. So like if you post something on tik tok, I know like I did this before, I would automatically save it because this is a 32nd video, I can just easily repost it on reels, but the algorithm tends to D prioritize that. So just specific tips like that, that will really help you because I know a few times even for myself, I would try to post a video on like, why did this get like a five views. And it all comes down to the algorithm for better or for worse. So it really helps following these like leaders in the industry who can give these insider tips and a heads up, if you will.

Alyson Lex
Well, and what you mentioned to earlier about the the Pantone color of the year, which I've always liked to see what it is, and I very rarely agree with it as a non designer. I'm like, I have no horse in this race. But why would you pick that? And so, you know, is that kind of how you know the creator account and the Pantone color of the year? Is that really the the crux of our resources there are we should we just kind of be thinking ahead How can we begin to build that forward thinking pneus in ourselves as well so that we're not always kind of caught behind?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Yeah, it's definitely a fine balance and even with like colors the year and these like creator accounts, you had to take it with a grain of salt with the creator account, at least they give you like, specific tips on like, what the algorithm prioritizes and it's really hard to keep up by A few weeks ago, I was also in this place of like, presenting the social strategy. And I was like, I don't know what to do moving forward, because it's hard to kind of keep up with everything. And obviously, you can't incorporate everything. So I'd say, really think about what these accounts are saying. But also, in the end, relating it back to your brand and thinking, what can I take out of this, it's beneficial for me, rather than trying to check off all the boxes. So Pantone, for example, I think there are new colors, I forget the exact name, but I think it's some sort of yellow, and

Jennie Wright
yellow and a gray, ultimate gray, and something yellow.

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Yeah. And that doesn't mean everyone go ahead and like, but everything is yellow. It's just kind of like, I think the way that they explained it was, it's like a refreshing kind of new start, because we definitely had a rough year in 2020, with everything that was going on. So it represented more of a new start. So it doesn't mean go ahead and like use yellow on everything. But rather keep that in mind. This year's theme is more optimistic and brighter, and something that's even I think I read this somewhere I forget where but it's really interesting. But even from a photographer's perspective, there's no studios anymore, at least in a lot of places, studios are shut down. So you don't have all those like color gels and like different ways you can manipulate artificial lighting. Yellow was one of the common things because people are using window light in their homes a lot more and shooting outside. So it's kind of taking that and understanding the implications of it, rather than go into slob yellow on everything. So I think the bottom line is obviously keeping on top of these trends and what people are saying, but ultimately related back to your brand.

Alyson Lex
I love that I never would have thought to look for the theme and use now. It's like, I can see my images. They don't need to be yellow and gray. Which by the way, I googled it, it's illuminating yellow,

illuminated.

But I don't need to be all yellow, I can be joyful and excited and hopeful and have that kind of attitude with my marketing and my imagery. What should we not be doing?

Wendy Wei
With our images? Yeah, so

I think back to what I was talking about, about the over editing as well, it's not 2015 anymore. And as a photographer, I definitely was caught in that trend. I know like, around that time, when I started picking up the camera, it was always that teal, and orange. And like that, like filter. And especially like when Instagram was coming up, the whole point of it was to apply filters to your photos. So people went filter crazy for a little bit and slapped it on everything. But that's not the case anymore. I think maybe it's because of the pandemic and everyone's kind of reeling back. And we're all on this level playing field where we can't really go outside and have a bunch of people and shoot around or go rent a studio and hire models and stuff. everyone no matter what level you are, are on the same playing field. So I think that trend of like, over editing is gone. And even if you think of like not even filters, but skin like skin as well, like in fashion magazines, I remember before like people, I would watch tutorials on how to remove every single poor from people's skins, but now working with like a couple like fashion. And like beauty brands. Everyone's like keep it all in. We want to show like the Natural Woman and the way that we actually are rather than this, like fake persona of what people should be.

Jennie Wright
Finally. Finally, sorry. Yeah.

Wendy Wei
Yeah. And the other thing is also this is kind of a given. But I think a lot of people I've also seen people make this mistake over and over is don't post low quality photos. Even on pexels. I've seen people kind of go to a photo and just simply screenshot it. But that's kind of just taking it as it is and whether you like blow it up for a poster or just using it for social media. There's different resolutions everywhere. So what when you can always try to download the most high quality, high resolution clear photos as you can, because in the end, like blurry and pixelated photos reflect poorly on the brand. So the simple thing is to make sure to download your photos rather than screenshotting. The other thing goes back to the kind of like awkward generic stock photos. You want to avoid photos that look like they belong in a textbook. So like you see like a lot of those photos are becoming names now. But when you're looking for imagery, you want photos to feel authentic, people should be relaxed and natural looking and products should be well lit and not just like washed out with the background. And people are getting a lot more playing around with the imagery as well. So a restaurant could choose a photo with a burger, with the Check your paper background rather than just on a plain white background. So in the end, you kind of want to think of basically a rule of thumb don't use photos, it looks like they come out of a textbook.

Jennie Wright
Yeah, I'm all about I have a client or I had a client a little while ago. And they kept pulling the images off of Google. And it was the images you know, the the, the white Bowlby looking headed, you know, image on Google

Alyson Lex
love those guys. I don't, I've

Jennie Wright
never liked them, I think there were, but they used, they just downloaded all of them and put them all over their funnel. And I'm like, they're all gone. Like, that's not happening. I'm not putting a sales page out with those in them. Because they're so like, they're so stocked like, they're so you know, overused, and everything like that. And I kind of have a question. And you've sort of half answered it, without me even having to ask, which is always great for me as somebody who's asking the question, but I'm gonna ask it anyways. Because I want a little bit, I want to get a little bit more specific on it. And it's making sure like, how do we make sure that the stock photos that we are using are on brand for our businesses, and so it doesn't look like they dropped in from, you know, something completely different?

Wendy Wei
Yeah, I think, in that case, you really want to understand your own brand. First, because I've made this mistake before where I take in everything everyone else has to say. And in the end, I'm kind of left with so many different opinions, and so many different choices. And it's like the Paradox of Choice, the more choice you have, the more confusing and overwhelming it is. So you kind of want to avoid that analysis paralysis, per se. And you really want to go to the root of things first. So understand what your brand is, it helps to make a mood board on Pinterest is always a fan favorite, or even on pexels, you can kind of collect different photos and make a mood board based on what you like, and then go in and filter out what you think is important. So some brands really value that like natural looking, non artificial lighting, whereas others prefer like a cleaner look and not saying one is right or one is wrong. But I think in order to avoid being overwhelmed and kind of choosing everything, you really have to identify what your brand is, whether that's polished and clean or natural and authentic, you have to kind of go back and understand what works for you. And then take that and get the implications of it and apply it to yourself. Same as with the Pantone color of the year and all those other trends as well.

Alyson Lex
So earlier, you said that we don't want to over edit, which I'm totally on board with institution. But is it appropriate to edit or work with our photos to kind of take them from being? Okay, that might be on brand too? Yes, this is exactly like how can we do that?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Absolutely. So there's so many different like editing tools out there that can help you kind of spruce things up. So you don't want to like obviously, like overdo it and make it look like it's like completely different from the original. But again, it goes down to what your brand values whether I know certain brands like that, like minimalistic, muted tones. And you can obviously like go in and adjust certain things and like make it make sure it's like works for you. But also things like presets are really helpful as well. So for those who are more like Photoshop and Lightroom savvy presets are a really good way. And for me, like I know if I like a certain photographer and the way that they do their style, I can download their presets and apply it on but also adjust it to make sure it's not exactly the same as someone else. So also, Canva is also really great for templates. So you can obviously like take a photo and put it in a template and add your own text or logo on to it. So it's not just taking downloading a photo and just slapping it onto your feed.

Jennie Wright
So that that's really, really good when it comes to trying to edit those pictures. And I like that I I'm dangerous in Photoshop, which means I know enough just to get by. But I'm not that good at it. My partner is way better at it. I've seen him change the color of people's shirts. It's really crazy. Yeah, so how he does it? Is there ever a time when stock photography is like the No, no. Is there a real hard line where this is not a thing that we should be using?

Wendy Wei
Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. I think it when it comes to endorsing your brand for products specifically, in which case, it's more beneficial to shoot your own photos. So for me, I've seen like t shirt companies, for example, who like take just a photo of someone wearing a blank t shirt on pexels and just slap on a design and call it their product. And obviously, like as a platform, we do have photos specifically with like brand blank areas for mock ups, but that should be all it's used for is a mock up. So whether you're pitching internally, or if you just want to like quickly show an idea but if you have a big campaign or a release, in that case, it's very beneficial to invest in good photography and doesn't mean like hundreds of dollars. Like honestly, you can even like just a lot of phones right now can take better photos than like cameras years ago. So the most important thing is lighting with any good photo, if you don't want it to look like grainy or blurred out, just put it next to a window and take a photo of your product. And I guarantee that will look way better than any mock up or just trying to take a random photos elsewhere. So if you have my

Jennie Wright
lighting, because I've got half my face lit from a window, and I'm looking like Casper the ghost on one side, and then I'm in shadow on the other. Like I need curtains.

Wendy Wei
Yeah, the one thing with lighting also is Yeah, like you don't want it to be overexposed as well. And something really simple for that if you have like a, like a semi clear sheet, or if you have some sort of blinds, that helps as well. So if you have to endorse a product or like prepare for an upcoming launch, and you have to do it on your own, just make sure it's good lighting, clean background, get rid of any clutter and take a photo of the product as it is. But if you can just try to find even someone to take like photos for an hour or something, you don't want to just slap on a mock up and call that your product. Because chances are if that's a stock photo, other people have used it and it just doesn't seem authentic or real.

Alyson Lex
I have seen some t shirts sales sites with those stock photos with like the print. And it doesn't know the model is is turned slightly, but the logo is not it's just literally like pasted anything bad and I don't buy. So it. Yeah, I agree with that.

Let's

let's be real, does it really matter? Like, can I just use some text on a background? or something? Like, do I need to do all of this worrying about the pictures?

Wendy Wei
Yeah, well, first of all, I want to say there is nothing wrong with this patterns in text, it can be really effective sometimes, but you don't want that to be your entire brand. And if you think about it, the visual landscape is so competitive right now. Just like take in consideration like for yourself just scrolling through your own feed and take note of what catches your eye because chances are, we're all human, if something catches your eye, it probably will catch someone else's eye too. So for me when I'm taking even as a photographer, it's really easy to kind of get caught up in like what everyone else is doing and what's popular. But for me, I always try to kind of just even take a second and think, wow, I like this photo. But why do I like it? And then once you have a couple of those, maybe put them in a mood board or something and identify what you like about them specifically, and what theme there is there? Because chances are like, yeah, like we're all human, and what works for you is probably will catch someone else's eye to and from the basics of things as well. Our brains are just naturally wired to process information better. Because if you think about it, the very first written language that humans used were pictures and not like words and letters. And that came a lot later. So yeah, like I think the stat is like 90% of what we perceive is visual. And around 10% of that is text. So humans are wired to process visual information quicker. So if you see, I don't know, like pullover cupcake, you're able to identify that a lot quicker than if you had to read the word for it. So visuals are so important for branding. But at the same time, it's also like that balance of this. So you can use tax and if you have a point to drive home, but balance it with visuals, if you want to kind of take that to the next level. Yeah, and just one thing I noticed also on the pexels. And in the back end on social, I have to do like analytics as well, just like any other company. And when I was looking at the analytics, I was like, Why do some images perform better. And as a platform, we have access to all the photos. And that's literally what we do. But I see that it's usually the more conceptual photos that really make people stop and think that are really important. And if you think about the algorithm right now, the one thing that Instagram is prioritizing, now that they've gotten rid of likes, is shares and saves. So what the implication of that is that you really want something that'll make people want to come back to that they want to save it and they want to come back and like understand it a little better or read it more. So it's not just like a like and like forget about it, it's getting people to come back to things.

Jennie Wright
That makes a lot of sense when you're talking about it. I like some of the best Instagrams that I see that people you know, they're this sort of like the the way they have it laid out is they've got some really good photos, but they've also got these sometimes the occasional background with some text as well. So that's awesome. This has been this has been like an education in which is great. I appreciate that very, very much. I would love if you wouldn't mind sharing with us where people can find you and how they can get in touch. And tell us more about pexels, please.

Wendy Wei
Yeah, so pexels is one of the world's leading stock photography sites. And we're mostly contributor based. So everything that you see comes from photographers themselves. And if you are a photographer, it's a great way to showcase your own photography. And we're being seen by some of the top companies in the world like Yahoo, and BuzzFeed and Google and personally, like I've had my work shown on those sites. And I'm like, wow, like, I would have never been able to have my work shown on all of these, like, huge companies if it wasn't for pexels. So it's a great way as a photographer myself to be able to showcase my work, but also as a marketer or an entrepreneur, if you don't have the resources to go and conduct a huge photo shoot that you can find photos quickly and easily. And hopefully diverse photos and authentic photos as we're trying to kind of be able to take the lead on that. Oh, and you can find me on Instagram at Wendy h Wei, w e n d YHWEI. And we're also on pexels. And it's just at pexels pe x LS.

Jennie Wright
You guys have some really good ways on the pexels Instagram, I like the way you guys are the visuals. I see you guys go for like one color set, and then you change a color set. And it's really, really kind of neat. So Alison, I just want to take a second. And thank you so much for being on and telling us more about how this is an important thing. I know this is a question I get asked. So I know our listeners care to know more about this topic, knowing what kind of stock photography when to use your own photos, not being over, like overly worried about it. And just being a little bit more natural with that, I think is is a great way to go forward. So I just really wanted to say I appreciate you talking to us about it and coming on Wednesday, it was really helpful. And if people want to get in touch they should check you out on your Instagram as well as pixels for their debt you know, for their for their social media images for the images like I'm using on sales pages, emails are just all good stuff. Go check it out. And if you're listening to this podcast, and you like what you've heard today, please do subscribe to the podcast so that you don't miss any future episodes with amazing experts like Wendy and we have those on Tuesdays and then there's an episode with just Allison I on Thursdays and on Mondays we drop a quick tip which is something really granular that's going to give you some actionable steps to help grow your business. So thanks, everybody for being on. We appreciate you listening and we'll be back again soon answering another big question.


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Episode 60 – What to do BEFORE You Launch Your Book to Make Sure You See Success

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Some links contained on this page may be affiliate links. We never recommend any product or service that we haven't personally used or found to get good results for our clients and network. You are always free to search and purchase directly from the company withOUT using our link if you so desire.