From macro to astrophoneography, here are five trends all photographers should know about

Remember when all photos on social media used a filter? Those days are gone, and with them the over-curated, perfect looking lifestyle images that were once so dominant. Here are a few of the latest trends to follow in their footsteps, some of them due to societal changes and the Covid-19 pandemic and others consequences of new technology that photographers now have at their fingertips. Here are some of the latest photography trends to be aware of … 

1 Maximum macro

Pretty flower buds. Photo by Grant Beedie - f/4.5 | ISO 320 | 1/400s

One of the biggest photography trends to come out of the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 is macro photography. Explored in our beginner's guide to macro photography, it’s defined as the capturing of small objects – such as flowers, insects and any close-up detail. Macro photography is something that anyone can try in the backyard or even inside a small flat. It can even help your mental health.

Technically speaking, such extreme close-ups of all things small shows the subject as life-size or larger on your camera sensor. However, although very high magnification shots benefit from a reverse adapter, close-up filters and extension tubes, when you're starting out you can use whatever kit you already have – and that can just be a smartphone.

Author tip: Whenever you press the virtual shutter button on your smartphone’s camera it causes a vibration, which in turn causes a blur in your finished image. If you're taking macro images then that blur is hugely magnified. The answer is to use either a voice command to get your smartphone to take the image without you having to touch it. Your reward will be much sharper images.

2 #Nofilter becomes the norm

Anxiety, Depression and Stress: Hong Kong. Photo by Peter K.C Ho - f/4 | ISO 3200 | 1/800s

The age of the Instagram-style filter is over. Authentic photos are in and perfect photos are out, with the #nofilter hashtag getting almost 300 million daily views on Instagram and over four billion on TikTok. Perhaps it's another effect of the Covid-19 lockdowns and a broader focus on mental health, but the popularity of fake, staged or otherwise touched-up photos – especially portraits – that promote unhealthy lifestyles is on the wane. Instead there’s a trend for more candid and true-to-life images with a more immediate, documentary style that tells a story rather than projects a perfect lifestyle. Of course, ‘authentic’ photography demands as much skill as any other, but now more than ever it's important to think about not only what you’re photographing and why, but what happens when you press the shutter as being closer to the end of the process rather than the beginning. 

Author tip: You could argue that the new filter trend is also a product of technology. While previous generations of smartphones had limited cameras, and could therefore benefit greatly from the use of the filter to gloss over the inadequacies, that's no longer true.

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3 The birth of astrophoneography

Astrophotography shot of Milky way galaxy. Photo by Sabeeshan Kulenthiran - f/1.7 | ISO 280 | 16s

Just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for astrophotographers to dump their DSLR cameras in favour of a smartphone. Although it's still a case of convenience over quality, flagship phones from all major brands now boast large sensors capable of low-light and even no-light photography. You're not going to get a truly professional-looking image, but the latest smartphones from Samsung, Apple, Google and Huawei are all capable of taking excellent images of starry skies featuring the Milky Way.

Even pro-astrophotographers are now using smartphones as secondary devices to kill time while their mirrorless or DSLR set-ups take ultra-long exposures. However, there are some things that will never change whatever device you use to take photos at night. Even with the very latest smartphone it's important to put it on a tripod if you’re to get anything approaching a usable image (avoid the short, wobbly table top-style tripods and instead find a good universal smartphone clamp that can fit on a photographic tripod). 

Author tip: While starry skies are possible, and the Milky Way can be seen in images especially if you're in a dark sky park, where smartphones really excel at night is with aurora. Either way, although built-in ‘night modes’ are getting better, third-party camera apps that let you save images in raw as TIFF files are best (try Open Camera or Halide Mk II Pro Camera) because they allow you to try some post-processing in Photoshop or similar editing software. That can make a huge difference. 

4 The death of Instagram?

Instagram feed. Photo by Leon Puplett

The slow death of the filter has quickly been hastened in 2022 by Instagram’s migration to a platform dominated not by photos, but by TikTok-style videos, ‘stories’ and ‘reels’. What had become a great place for photographers to showcase their work and be influenced by each other – as well as build a following – has become an endless stream of cat videos and adverts. Has Instagram judged its rebranding badly? For photographers, probably. Which is why the hunt is on for a new platform that’s more focused on users rather than commercial clutter. Cue VERO, a rival social network free from advertisements, data mining and algorithms, which appears to be emerging as a place for frustrated photographers to gather. Will it catch-on? Only time will tell. 

Author tip: If you’ve built up a lot of followers on Instagram and you’re loath to desert it then here’s a good trick for making sure your own feed is still watchable. On your own Page there is a drop-down option to set a list of your favourite accounts, which will then be promoted in your feet. However, there's not much you can do about your hard-earned followers seeing trashy videos instead of your latest creations.

5 Exploring 360º panoramas

Laguna Hedionda Panorama. Photo by Mathias Becker

Have you got a 360° camera? You probably haven't, and nor do many photographers, but 360° panoramas are nevertheless becoming popular. The trend itself is based on the fact that social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube now support 360° photos and videos. It basically means that you can scan around a spherical photo either by touching the screen or by moving your smartphone itself to look around corners. However, apps like 360 Pro, Panorama 360 and Google Street View effectively add a 360° camera capability to your smartphone, allowing you to take spherical panoramas just by moving your camera through 360º, so without needing a specialist camera. 

Author tip: In recent years a few very niche 360° products have emerged for hands-free scanning and 3D walk-through tours of buildings, homes and gardens. One example is the Matterport Axis, which is little more than a motorised tracking device that improves on 360º capture apps. It comes with a tripod and, crucially, a Matterport cloud platform that automatically builds a 3D, 360º virtual model of a building.