Capturing versatile and authentic holiday commercial content

Photo Stories

The holiday season is huge for brands and retailers every year, but this year, October to December might be more important than ever. Crowded, in-person Black Fridays may be a thing of the past, but a recent study reveals that more than half of Americans had already started their holiday shopping by October of this year. Three-quarters said they’re planning to use the money they would have spent on travel on gifts for loved ones, and almost half will do their shopping online.


Christmas Night Cookies by Dina Belenko on 500px.com

The 2020 holiday season represents a crucial moment for businesses small and large, and although seasonal campaigns this year might look a little different, brands and marketers will continue to search for creative, ready-made commercial stock images. For Licensing Contributors, the next few months pose the perfect opportunity to upload and submit relevant images.

“COVID-related protocols and lockdown orders have limited brands’ opportunities to commission their own campaigns, so many will be looking to commercial Licensing for content that connects with their brand, values, and targeted consumers,” the 500px Content Team tells us. Read on for our tips for making the most of this time of year and diversifying your portfolio in the process.


Laughing mother and daughters video chatting at laptop in Christmas living room by Hero Images Hero Images on 500px.com

Incorporate a timely twist

According to the annual Coinstar Holiday Survey, more than half (56%) of Americans say that COVID-19 will influence how they celebrate this year. Many are switching to virtual celebrations, with 21% saying they’d consider a virtual church service, 19% considering a virtual gift exchange, and 12% considering a Zoom holiday sweater contest. These trends can easily be visualized using a tablet or mobile device, with yourself or some friends as models.

Of course, there are many ways to portray this holiday season creatively, whether it’s through photographing smaller, more intimate gatherings or getting outside for some social distancing. 45% of Americans plan to cook and bake this holiday season, so consider getting the family together for an at-home shoot in the kitchen.


Christmas Lights by Marcia Fernandes on 500px.com

Keep it real

“Authenticity” has been a buzzword in commercial Licensing for years, but it took on new significance this year, as people turned to brands for information and support during a difficult time. Research from Facebook IQ shows that 47% of internet users say they’ve switched to a different product or service because a company violated their personal values, while 43% say they find it reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust.

In 2020, trust and transparency matter more than ever, but Getty Images noticed this push for “realness” in holiday photos last year as well, citing a 2018 report from Kantar that showed people reacted positively to advertisements that told simpler, more relatable Christmas stories. With “Christmas” emerging as the top global search term, searches for “Hanukkah Celebration” went up by 229%, while “diverse Christmas” rose by 227%.


Hanukkah Candles by Guy Bashan on 500px.com

People want to see themselves reflected in advertising, especially right now. Marketers and image-buyers crave holiday photos that aren’t just festive but also relatable, inclusive, and representative, featuring people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, body types, and backgrounds. Find inspiration in your family traditions, community, and local customs; this time of year means something different for everyone, so show us what the holiday season looks like for you.


round jelly doughnut sufganiyah for Hanukkah, Jewish holiday com by Irina Grigorii on 500px.com

Find micro-moments

“Micro-moments” (i.e., small, everyday rituals) are always in-demand in commercial lifestyle photography. That means you don’t have to wait until a big event to bring out your camera; a day baking cookies or carving pumpkins at home can easily become a photoshoot for your Licensing portfolio. Think beyond cliche poses and smiles; capture people living in the moment, whether it’s your models taking a break with some hot chocolate or chatting around the fireplace.

Working with your own family and friends can be ideal, since you can blend into the background and catch those truly candid, spontaneous expressions. Don’t forget your model releases, as any recognizable person will need to give their permission for you to license the photos for commercial use (even if they’re just on video chat!).


Decorating the Tree by Adrian C. Murray on 500px.com

According to Pinterest, “micro-holidays” will also trend this year, with seven in ten people saying they plan to celebrate the little moments, so think about photographing Friendsgiving or New Year’s brunch—2020 is the year to get creative and think outside the box.


A small boy with grandmother sitting at the table at home at Christmas time. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Make it universal

Consider incorporating subtle but timeless details into your photos this year, and brainstorm ways to make your images appeal to a wide audience. For example, if you’re photographing a specific holiday like Christmas or Hanukkah, you can also grab some more general, atmospheric photos that speak to the holiday season as a whole. With the right props and styling, a single shoot can touch on a number of different events, ranging from Christmas and Hanukkah to Thanksgiving and New Year’s, so aim for variety.


A grandmother with tablet making videocall with small grandson at Christmas time. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

The more ways you can illustrate the fall and winter season, the better; grab some specific images as well as more generic ones that can be used across many different campaigns. The Content Team explains, “Whether showcasing an intimate family gathering, a virtual family dinner over video chat, a person baking holiday treats, or a couple posing in holiday sweaters with their pets, there are ways to capture content that speaks more to a time of year than a specific holiday.”


Gingerbread house by Gabriela Tulian on 500px.com

Scout the location (even if it’s your apartment)

Many Licensing Contributors will be making images at home this year, so take the opportunity to capture photos you might not get in a typical studio. Before your shoot, scout the various rooms in your home, and set up around sunrise or sunset for that warm, natural golden hour light. Alternatively, wait until dark to turn on your holiday lights.

Bring out seasonal decorations you have around the house, order some festive garlands online, or make some DIY ornaments. Of course, if you’re shooting at home, don’t forget to sign a property release to license your images; if you’re photographing someone else’s home, you’ll need their signature.


Woman holding glass of champaigne and gift box, Christmas eve by Anna Ivanova on 500px.com

When setting up your space, beware of sneaky copyrighted details like brand logos on toys or presents or even Disney ornaments or patterned wrapping paper. Any tech you use (e.g., a tablet for video chatting, a phone for FaceTime dinners, etc.) will have to be generic as well, and any identifying details (interface, buttons, ports, etc.) will need to be obscured through staging or edited out in post.

Help your family with styling, too. Select seasonal attire (cozy sweaters, comfy PJs, festive outfits) without any branding or graphics. Steer clear of clothing with trademarked designs, sayings, or characters. The more generic and timeless, the better.


Young couple under christmas tree by Igor  Milic on 500px.com

Look toward the future

Cultural and social movements are changing the way we celebrate the holidays, and there are always ways to incorporate relevant trends and ideas into your Licensing portfolio. In 2019, for example, customers on Getty Images searched for more sustainable depictions of the holidays.

As interest in “conscious celebrations” grew, people looked to reduce consumption and cut down on meat; as a result, customer searches for “turkey carving” and “pile of Christmas presents” went down, while searches for “veganism”, “sustainable Christmas”, “zero waste Christmas”, and “minimal Christmas” boomed.

Going forward, this emphasis on sustainable celebrations will continue to reshape the way we visualize the holidays, creating new opportunities and ideas for your Licensing portfolio.

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