2020 was an unprecedented year. How we live, work and interact has fundamentally changed and the repercussions of 2020 will be felt for years to come.

So, with unpredictability and uncertainty set to remain key fixtures in people’s lives but with hope now on the horizon, what does this mean for the world of imaging? Looking ahead, Canon Europe has identified five key trends set to shape what we see in 2021.

Commenting on the trends identified Susie Donaldson, ITCG European Marketing Director for Canon EMEA said: “As we look ahead to 2021 we see a number of trends that will influence the world of imaging – from the way we consume media and the trust we place in news sources, to a nostalgia for the way things were.

“Canon has a role to play in the technologies driving these trends – whether that’s a mirrorless camera or a home printer – and we will continue to develop innovative tools that empower users to reach their creative potential through connecting with the world around them.”

  1. Nostalgia in the now

People are leaning on the past to comfort them in the present – just look at the viral ‘Me at 20’ trend from earlier this year[1] and the resurgence in ‘zines (self-published booklets) as people crave the aesthetic of seemingly simpler times. In the two months following lockdown, the number of Google searches including the terms “80s” or “90s” almost doubled.

Research suggests that trends such as nostalgia move in 30-year patterns[2], so we’re likely to see a transition from 80s nostalgia to 90s in 2021 that will last throughout the rest of the decade. At Canon, we anticipate this having a significant impact on the visual trends for next year as the 90s nostalgia aesthetic grows in popularity.

The power of nostalgia will not just be in the images we capture but in the products we buy, as the devices used to capture still or moving images continue to combine retro styling with the latest cutting-edge features, such as pocket-sized printers that create long-lasting photos straight from a smartphone. Likewise, algorithms and filters used to process and edit images can recreate the imperfections of physical photos of the past.

  1. AI-driven imagery to become part of the everyday

While AI itself is not new, what we’ve seen to date is a fraction of the impact AI, machine learning and deep learning will have on society. Although human expertise will still be needed, the continued advances of AI will tighten the gap and enable everyday photographers to achieve professional-grade images. In 2021, Canon anticipates that AI-enabled devices and technologies will become more prevalent in the daily capturing of content as people realise the potential it can give in capturing great images, whatever their skillset, with as little time and effort required as possible.

There is also an expectation that AI-driven imagery will continue to grow in popularity in terms of the role it plays in streamlining everyday lives. Recent findings highlighted that 62 per cent of millennials want to be able to search using images – rather than keywords – over any other new technology[3].

As a result, expect the return of devices like Google Glass and of lifelogging – a record of day-to-day activities – which will generate huge streams of visual imagery to be captured, collated, understood and archived. We may see the day, for example, when an AI can populate our social streams, using images collected for us, with commentary added in a style that mimics our unique tone of voice, vocabulary and personality.

  1. The power of deepfake and a move back towards trust

The abundance of user-generated content, contentious social media algorithms and the rise in conspiracy have led to mass distrust in information. Deepfakes – the method used to combine and superimpose new images or videos onto the original – is just one of the techniques contributing to fake news and online hoaxes.

Just as the tools of content production are being transformed, so too are the tools of authentication, and we expect to see the emergence of services and features which make videos and images more trustworthy. From embedding metadata about where and when an image was taken to tagging photos with edit history, advances in technology will help combat mistrust in media.

  1. Body neutrality set to be the new body positivity

It’s nothing new that expectations of body image have been greatly affected by social media, with as many as 18 per cent of all posts on Instagram using a filter of some kind[4].

Thankfully though, we are seeing a reset. 2020 has encouraged people to reassess what is really important and as a result of this, coupled with societal shifts towards diversity, inclusivity and tolerance, we’ve seen a refocus on what our bodies can do, rather than what they look like – a philosophy coined body neutrality. In 2021, therefore, we anticipate a shift towards the celebration of physical accomplishments over aesthetics, a greater demand for unedited, more inclusive images which will see brands and media continuing to move away from championing a single type of beauty, and social media feeds set to become more authentic, diverse and unfiltered as a result.

  1. Honing the home office and the home printer revolution 2.0

Lockdowns and social distancing measures have forced workers out of offices and into their homes, working on dining tables, sofas, beds and, for a lucky few, dedicated home offices. Overall, 78 per cent of employees indicated a preference for working from home at least occasionally, even if there were no COVID-19 restrictions[5].

Initially, most at home workers were using a temporary set-up with a ‘make-do’ attitude. However, many are now creating more sophisticated spaces in their home from which to work as the permanency of the new working situation settles in, with a greater dependence on printers that are suitable for both work and creative pursuits.

As a result, we are on the verge of a second home printing revolution after the original advent of home computing in the 1990s. A study of hybrid working found that over three quarters of UK workers are printing in the home and 64 per cent of home workers who reported higher productivity say they are printing more than they did in the office[6].

In the US, 48 per cent of businesses have assigned individual printers to employees, and a further 34 per cent are planning to do so[7]. Globally, the trend of printing at home and hybrid working models is only set to continue in the coming year.

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