Using predictions for the next 20 years to create profitable stock photos

Recent advances in technology have re-shaped all industries, introducing alternatives that are more global, consumer-friendly and affordable. Regulation, as usual, is slow to catch up to rapid technological advances, much to the fury of established businesses.

Old versus new technology
Advances in technology

I read an article about a technology conference at the Singularity University which made me think deeply about just how much technology will impact our lives in the next 20 years. The author, Udo Gollub, gathered a few talking points at the conference and how technology will likely disrupt the following sectors.

If you’re looking to make money with stock photography, I strongly urge you to use these fascinating predictions to create images closely related to the these themes. Such images will be in demand for years to come and by starting now you’ll have a head start on the competition. After all, one of the keys to being successful in stock photography (and business generally) is to anticipate upcoming trends, for previous articles see here and here.


  • Soon, most vehicles on the streets in Western countries will be electric & autonomous, with most people not even owning a vehicle, simply use an app to call for one which will deliver you to your destination. Even Uber isn’t immune to drastic changes ahead.
  • Insurance companies will essentially be wiped out, due to absurdly low premiums as there will be so few accidents.
  • More efficient transport will have a huge impact on how our cities look with potentially considerably more public spaces for parks and less pollution.
Bosco Verticale, Milan
Vertical forest in Milan, italy


  • A medical scanner integrated with a futuristic smartphone to scan for warning signs by blood or a breath test.

3D Printing and scanning

  • According to the article, by 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed locally, which means that certain goods will be cheaper and quicker to deliver to the consumer (by drone) due to eliminating the logistics costs. This means that some transportation companies will go out of business.
  • Imagine being able to 3D scan your body a shop being able to print the perfectly tailored piece of clothing – this will all be possible soon.
Delivery by drones are coming soon

Pressure on the Human workforce

  • 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years due to automation, including the legal profession (IBM Watson). See the following chart for the most susceptible jobs.
  • Policy-makers are already discussing the impact automation will have on jobs and the need to implement an Universal Basic Income essentially to prevent civil war when 30-40% of people of working age may be unemployed / unemployable. It’s clear that government policy will have to step in and may protect some industries from complete collapse, perhaps with a form of taxation. Some of these industries may even be ‘too big to fail’.


 What’s all this have to do with stock photography?


Remember that Microstock IS the disruptor, an image marketplace offering inexpensive images to image-hungry and cost-conscious clients. Some Midstock and Macrostock photo editors lose sleep at the thought of their established clients shopping instead at Microstock agencies.

In addition, Microstock contributors also part of the growing ‘gig economy’, a phenomenon brought about by advances in technology. The 9-5 / 40-hour a week mentality is (almost) over, even for public sector workers.

Over-saturation of stock images

At the same time that technology has made it easier for new contributors to capture and submit high-quality images to multiple Microstock agencies, many veteran contributors are suffering with diminished returns due to over saturation of images.

That’s why I urge time and time again to use Microstock predominately as a photographic learning tool, including hopefully as a way to pay for some photography trips + upgrade equipment, while continuously looking for more profitable opportunities elsewhere! I write about finding opportunities elsewhere here and here.

Until next time!





  1. Hi Alex, very interesting article that attempts to foresee future trends. Do you see the microstock industry as declining in the future? How about photography as a profession? Is it declining as well? Do you think photographers will lose their jobs as a result of artificial intelligence?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mohammed,

    “Do you see the microstock industry as declining in the future”

    I see Microstock as a mature sector in the stock photography industry, with established leaders (Getty, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock / Fotolia) and then dozens of smaller agencies struggling for an increasingly small piece of market share. Many of these agencies won’t be around in 1-2 years imo – perhaps 123RF, dreamstime come to mind. Those top 3 should stay strong for time to come and I recommend submitting to them and avoiding the lower-earners. Then looking to send premium images to Midstock agencies (some as Rights-managed).

    Shutterstock released their Q2 2017 Financial results and it makes for interesting reading.

    Despite the Revenue per download increasing by 9% (compared to Q2 2016), the number of downloads decreased by 2% (compared to Q2 2016). Would be interesting to see if lower number of downloads, as this is really the only metric that really matters for contributors continues to decrease).

    From the point of view of contributors, I don’t see the microstock industry declining in the future as there’s still a huge huge huge demand for quality images. What I see is that it’s tougher year-on-year to make the same amount of money with the same types of images, which means that as a contributor you have to continuously improve or risk becoming a dinosaur. The cream rises to the top 😉 Therefore, new images cannot just be GOOD, they need to be EXCELLENT, both technically and commercially. This also includes accurate keywords.

    “How about photography as a profession?”

    It depends as it’s a huge profession and I can’t speak for all segments. There will always be room for excellent wedding photographers and fashion photographers. As for fine art, it’s more subjective about who you are in the industry and how much a client is willing to pay for something.

    What I write about in my book and Joas Souza re-enforces in the interview is the need to find a niche and become an expert at such niche (it helps if you enjoy it and you’re good at it). Generalists struggle to make money, both in Microstock and the rest of the photography industry. The old saying of “jack of all trades, master of none” applies. Perhaps it’s a UK saying, I dunno but it means if you’re good at everything and not an expert in something, you’re not that useful.

    What we’re seeing more and more is the use of creative types of photography including drones which is something I’m desperate to get into as it’s quite new and there’s not many images YET from drones. In a few years it’s game over and too late. I’m also diversifying into footage but very early days as it’s quite different to photography but I’m a quick learner! 🙂

    “Do you think photographers will lose their jobs as a result of artificial intelligence?”

    I think photography has a low chance of automation as it requires a connection between the photographer and subject. Robots cannot (yet) capture emotion!

    Some photographers have already lost their jobs! Just look at passport photo booths, someone once upon a time used to take passport pics. I’m actually hoping for more automation, particularly when it comes to keywording…I hope one day I can just upload an image and it will keyword itself. Would also be nice to take an image, upload it and an algorithm gives you an estimate on how much it should earn over its lifetime.

    Best of luck!



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