Loading ...

How did you get started in the photo industry? By the time I was in grad school at the New School for Social Research, I had already interned at galleries and museums and begun to realize how small the potential “audience” for my academic work in art history would be. I was feeling an increasing need to expand the impact of my work to speak to a broader audience of art lovers and creatives. By chance, a friend of mine began interning at Harper’s Bazaar, and I was incredibly envious of her! This inspired me to explore working in the publishing industry. I landed an internship at Jane magazine in the photo department and fell in love with it immediately.

You lead visual trends research at Adobe. What visual trends are you most interested in? We recently released our 2019 Visual Trends Forecast to help creatives identify trends as they are evolving, understand their meaning for consumers and build on them to maximize the impact of creative content. I am fascinated by two visual trends that have been created through the influence of social media.

“Creative Democracy” is a visual trend started by the widespread use of mobile photography. Thanks to smartphones, social media and user-friendly creative apps, we are seeing a renaissance in creativity that is truly democratized, empowering everyone to create and distribute content. Diversity—across all ages, body types, ethnicities and identities—is celebrated not just in front of the lens, but also behind it. The visual elements of social content have become part of the mainstream, featuring vivid colors and unstudied, authentic moments.

“Disruptive Expression” has similar roots in social media. Since snapping and sharing visual content in real time has become a part of our daily lives, a huge part of the population has become comfortable and confident in expressing their personal points of view. Many of the images we share are intensely creative and dramatic, ranging from joyfully whimsical to militantly political. This type of imagery fascinates me with its brilliant balance between aesthetics and powerful intensity.

Diversity—across all ages, body types, ethnicities and identities—is celebrated not just in front of the lens, but also behind it.”
 
What can photographers and photo editors learn from each other? Photo editors can learn to be flexible around art direction and understand that photographers need a certain amount of creative freedom to do their best work. When given creative freedom, photographers often deliver work that is both surprising and exceeds the scripted expectations. Similarly, photographers can learn that photo editors have a specific mission—to create on-brand visuals—and that they often need to stick to a specific shot list to tell the story that is being produced. Photographers should understand that they need to deliver very specific work, while photo editors need to understand that there is always room for surprises.

What is a unique challenge that commercial photographers face today? Photographers’ revenue streams have been impacted by the rise of real-time content sharing. Since many of today’s images are instantly created and distributed online, there is an overwhelming amount of imagery available that customers can source in a myriad of ways. The landscape for up-and-coming and professional photographers is more confusing and challenging to navigate than ever before because it has become so diffused.

How can photographers set their work apart in an age of image overload? With visual content being posted on media and social platforms 24 hours a day, viewers’ interests and appetites are shifting accordingly. So, it’s important to become “visually fluent.” Understanding visual trends—where interest is growing or trending around specific visual styles and topics—is critical to attracting and retaining viewers’ attention today. Creatives can apply these trends to their own work and more strategically create while remaining true to their own artistic style.

What have you learned about which images work best on, say, Instagram Stories versus in a print magazine? Each platform has its own layout and flow, so it is more important to know the nature of each platform in order to address which kinds of images will perform best. I’d say that the most appealing images for Instagram are simple—centered, graphic imagery—whereas print can offer a wider range of options for imagery, depending on layout. For example, do you need space for text? Are you using the images as vertical, horizontal or full bleed?

How has Adobe Stock’s collection grown and adapted since you started working there? We’ve expanded our collection by collaborating with contributors like TONL, Mocha Stock, Diversity Photos and The Ocean Agency to continue to bring more diverse, authentic and inspiring content to our library every day.

What tips do you have for a photographer who’s interested in creating stock images? Approach becoming a stock contributor as a process of discovery and learning. If you take the time, it can very much become a revenue stream that you can grow. Shoot a lot, upload many assets and continually add fresh content to the stock site to keep your content appearing in search results. Stock agencies are always looking for diversity both in front of and behind the lens, so I urge creatives from all communities and of all identities to capture their own lives and experiences. Photographing what you know—your life and what you see around you—brings authenticity to the images you create.

Brenda Milis is the principal of creative services and visual trends for Adobe Stock. As a photo industry veteran and experienced creative director, she leads the Creative Services group, driving three interrelated activities: servicing the visual needs of top enterprise clients; identifying visual trends; and curating content for global merchandising activities. Milis is a California native, having grown up in Santa Cruz and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in art history. Her education and long-standing appreciation of visual talent led her to photo editing and photography assignment. She has worked for a large variety of editorial and media brands, among which are Marie Claire, Men’s Health and TIME. She launched and served as the founding photo editor of Style.com (now Vogue Runway) and also served as executive director of photography at Refinery29. Shoots she has produced and directed have been honored by the Clio Awards, Photo District News and the Society of Publication Designers.

Headshot by Reed Young.

X

With a free Commarts account, you can enjoy 50% more free content
Create an Account
Get a subscription and have unlimited access
Subscribe
Already a subscriber or have a Commarts account?
Sign In
X

Get a subscription and have unlimited access
Subscribe
Already a subscriber?
Sign In