What Google Trends Says About Wedding & Stock Photography, and Photo Websites

In October of 2009, PetaPixel published a post titled “Current Trends in Photography” – using Google Trends to extract data about the photo industry.

Google Trends will show you how often a particular keyword or search-term is entered and compares it to to the total search volume across various regions of the world.

PetaPixel’s story searched for trends that are related to their sweet spot, camera gear (“dslr”, Canon vs. Nikon), and technology (“photoblog”). I, however, have a different sweet spot in mind – the business and marketing of photography.

Let’s start the with basics of the current price-conscious economy, with the term “saving money”.


As you can see, Google Trends shows that the phrase “saving money” has doubled since 2004, reaching its peak in the middle of 2009. Based on the performance of the economy as we know it, this all lines up with what you would expect.

What does this mean for you as a photographer? Should you lower your prices in order to compete? My suggestion: no. Instead, focus on increasing the VALUE of your products, and ramp up the customer service instead. If you’re a stock photographer, you might even consider producing innovative images that illustrate the topic of “saving money.”

Speaking of stock, let’s examine the trend graph for stock photography, an industry that’s been in change for a while.


The term “stock photography” shows a dramatic drop in search volume since 2004, the earliest date available within Google Trends. (I wanted to go back further, but couldn’t.)

For any photographer who has been historically generating revenue through stock photography, this is also no surprise – although the dramatic decline shown in this graph provides a new visual perspective on the slide of the stock industry.

Next, I decided to take a look at Getty Images.


There has been a steady decline since it’s peak in 2006, around the time when Getty bought microstock site iStockphoto.com.

The secondary graph at the bottom, “News reference volume” shows the number of times a topic appeared in Google News stories. In the first half of 2006, you can see a blip that corresponds with their highest point – most likely due to the iStockphoto purchase announcement.

The news reference volume started to take off in late 2007, and has continued through 2010. Yet, all this talk in the news hasn’t resulted in a change to the trend graph, as it continues to drop.

What could be contributing to this?


The trend graph for iStockphoto shows the exact opposite – it has been upward since 2005. This lines up with all previous charts shown thus far. People are looking to save money, and in the realm of the downward-trending stock photography world, the only thing that’s showing positive growth is the site that sells images for dirt cheap.


Alamy, another player in world of the stock photography, has also shown a trend decrease starting in mid-2008. This, by the way, was right around the time when Getty Images announced they has structured an image licensing deal with Flickr.

Sharing photos has always been the main reason people use Flickr, so I wanted to see if the birth (and rise) of Facebook, which also enables people to share photos, had any impact on Flickr’s trend numbers.


As you can see, the Flickr.com trend numbers were impressive up until the end of 2009, which, also happens to be a significant time in internet history…


Facebook.com hit it’s dramatic peak at the end of 2009 – at the exact same time that Flickr’s numbers started to nose-dive. Could it be that Facebook provides a better photo sharing experience than Flickr?

Facebook has since become a household word, so it would stand to reason that the number of people who are using Google to find it has decreased – which would explain the drop-off (and relatively levelness) in the trend numbers for Facebook in 2010.

Does this mean that Getty should strike an image licensing deal with Facebook now? 🙂 Let’s not give them any ideas.

Google Trend information can be a very useful tool to fine-tune your marketing and promotional efforts. The trend numbers for “wedding photographer” have been pretty consistent since 2004.


But what I found most interesting was the cyclical nature of the trends, which repeats almost exactly year-over-year.

According to this graph, January is the best time for wedding photographers to ramp up their marketing efforts. The end of the year shows a drop off in people searching for wedding photographers.

That means, right now, wedding photographers should be working on their marketing, PR, and website SEO so that they can be easily found come January. This includes taking a good hard look at your website to make sure that it’s performing at it’s absolute best with the search engines.

This brings me to my favorite topic…

For years I’ve been warning photographers about using Flash to power their website – for many reasons it’s just not a good idea anymore. The SEO penalties alone should be enough to steer any photographer away from this approach. The world is moving beyond Flash.

(I get my fair share of hate mail from Flash-lovers, which is to be expected. At PhotoShelter, I work with different types of photographers from all over the world, every single day of the year – and I see what’s working, and what’s not. The truth is, photographers who move away from a Flash-only existence are dramatically improving their SEO, and as a result, improving their businesses.)


According to this graph, the trend numbers for “flash websites” have been in overall decline since 2004, yet in the past few years it has remained steady at approximately half of trend levels it experienced in 2004.

In contrast, the trend numbers for the new HTML5 show the opposite.


The relatively new HTML5 is seen by many as a SEO-friendly replacement for Flash (that is also iPhone/iPad friendly). The graphic above shows that currently there is a very high level of interest for HTML5.

Why? Simple – because Search Engine Optimization is extremely important.


Since 2004, the trend numbers on “SEO” have been in a constant upward climb. People are always looking to improve their own SEO, and are looking for ways to do so – today, more than ever.


You might think that it doesn’t matter just as long as you have an HTML shadow site in place for the search engines. I disagree for many reasons – and here’s a whole new reason: Google Instant Previews.


Google Instant Previews, which launched just this month, allow people to take a look at a page on your website without ever having to leave Google. A preview of a web page will appear on the right side of the page when you roll your mouse over the magnifying glass icon.


Whatever Google sees, is what they’ll show. This means people are now viewing that “shadow site” – something that’s designed only for search engines. I highly recommend that all photographers view their website through Google Instant Preview. Then take a look at your competitors.

Then ask yourself, which site looks more impressive?

Grover Sanschagrin, co-founder of PhotoShelter, contributes several articles to the PhotoShelter blog each week. Follow him on Twitter at @heygrover.
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There are 18 comments for this article
  1. Phil Robinson at 12:37 pm

    I can’t agree that the article really shows any trends, except those in Google searches. Most stock sales do not result from Google searches. Existing customers and anyone knowledgeable about the industry can bypass Google. It’s a very useful tool to find your way in a new and emerging industry (web-based stock in 2004, for example) but not so necessary when everyone has their suppliers on their favourites tab.

  2. Jeff Sullivan at 5:34 pm

    The drop in Yahoo-owned Flickr status in competitor Google’s trend ratings was probably more due to internal workings of the Goolge search engine to stop referring Google image search results over to their competitor’s site Flickr. I used to get nearly 30% of my Flickr views from Google search users, now I get close to zero. Meanwhile my Google hits on Panoramio have skyrocketed to over 5 million views on a handful of images. The same is probably true for Google’s referral to anything over on Facebook, since Facebook is now emerging as a competitor for Google’s dominance over Internet eyeballs. Facebook’s drop in Google’s ratings is far too precipitous to be attributed to a simple familiarity with Facebook’s name. It’s clearly an engineered reduction in referrals.

  3. Allen Murabayashi at 5:16 pm

    @phil i would agree that we can’t link google trends with how people are really licensing images from stock portals. but i think it’s a useful proxy. i have yet to meet a photographer who makes more money from stock today than they did before microstock and digital cameras. so in that respect, i think the trend does mirror photographer income from stock.

  4. Brian at 2:54 am

    Hi GROVER, a good shot at analysis in a general sense, but two things to keep in mind. Google trends only compares your search term traffic with all other traffic (and possibly from diff servers over time). This means that the ‘Growth’ of one term is not relative to itself (but the whole of the search market) which should be going upwards, but in certain months may not. For instance if stock photos is going up, but the whole search is going down, it will appear that stock is doing much better than it is, relative to itself. To overcome this I have compared google trends for s single word, with Google keyword tool, for the same word. Of course keyword does monthly values, which are very much approximated, and include searches on affiliate sites effectively doubling the search volume. BUT comparing the same term on Keywords with Google trends ofter gives completely opposite growth trends, Google insights confuses things further. Just suggesting to keep where and how the data is extracted in mind …

  5. Wolfgang at 1:55 pm

    I wish we could compare googling with the next step, purchase or participation etc. How does sharing on Twitter and Facebook compare with the above charts? It makes sense that when a subject becomes so popular that you don’t have to google for it, the searches go down. But the overall volume of sharing could still go up or down.

  6. Trick Photography at 10:34 am

    A simply best article. If a photographer is an expert then why should he lower his/her prices, no way perhaps you can charge more. But I’m afraid of the marketplaces who sell stock photos for a few bucks.

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