How to Use Google Trends to Identify Profitable Stock Photo Trends


The Brutally Honest Guy is back, and this time I'll be discussing using the awesome Google Trends to uncover potentially profitable trends to incorporate into your stock photography/footage business.

This is a Part II blog post on the subject where I'll be diving even deeper into the subject, with a particularly dystopian twist. For Part I, check out the post at the Brutally Honest Blog.

Let's get started…

Google Trends Recap

Here's a brief recap of how the Google Trends tool works:

“Using Google Trends, you can research the popularity for a particular keyword and filter the results by location, time frame and category.

As a stock photographer/videographer, the results may be tremendously useful in order to gauge present and potentially future trends. Or alternatively, to identify trends that may be running / have run their course and as a result, not waste your time capturing such concepts.”

In other words, we're bypassing all the creativity needed and going straight down the hard-facts route of BIG-DATA. Then it's up to you to convert the data into strong visual concepts that should hopefully sell regularly.

Someone's watching your browsing history…

Google Searches vs Stock Content Searches

The main assumption, which makes logical sense, is that what the average laypersons' searches on google (from billions of searches) should be mirrored by what stock content buyers' searches. In other words, the stock searches are a reflection of what's going on in the wider world…with some kool-aid for a slightly happier tone, since there's an incentive to entice buyers to purchase goods and/or services (commercial images).

Enough introductions, I'll move right along to using it.

What's Trending? Let's Brainstorm!

Last time 'round, I brainstormed 12 keywords/concepts to analyse whether they were trending or may have already passed their trending shelf-life, with surprising results.

That format in Part I proved quite popular and in late-November 2018, I've brainstormed a further eight keywords/concepts, which I'll do some in-depth analysis. Considering the general state of the planet, from a sociological point of view, I'm in a particularly dystopian mood – let's see if the trends tool agree with me.

Comparing between keywords/concepts

Then towards the end of this post, still using the tool, I'll compare five similar keywords/concepts and analyse whether there's merit, from a business perspective, in focusing on one or the other keyword/phrase. Throughout this exercise, I would encourage you to feel free to play around using your own words and concepts surrounding your niches, which I discussed on a previous post: tips to make $500/month in stock photography.

Check out my latest blog post

Well, here's the result of my brainstorming session in alphabetical order:

1. Biological Warfare

28 months later…after a biological attack on London…


Kicking off the list with a bang (pun intended), the threat from biological warfare/terrorism, is one that keeps most policy-makers awake at night. According to Wikipedia, “Biological warfare —also known as germ warfare—is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war.” Scary shit.

Big Data Analysis

Definitely some upward potential


With each coming day, this type of threat becomes more real, reflected by the Doomsday Clock which currently stands at “two minutes to midnight”. Stock content isn't always about happy people in bright scenarios, as in my opinion, it needs to accurate reflect the wider world (especially editorials). If you're uncomfortable working with such themes, fair enough…stick with your happier niches.

Happy happy joy joy still sells

From looking at the above “interest over time” graph, considering the real and ever-present threat, I believe there's huge upward potential! God-forbid something terrible happens and then we'll see a spike…if you do decide to create such images, take the royalties and purchase yourself and your family a one-way ticket to Fernando de Noronha before it's too late…

A quick look at some of the results for this phrase on suggests that this a potentially profitable concept to develop content at an average of $1.60 per sale for “biological warfare”.

2. Botox

Forever young…


Less frightening but perhaps equally scary, we'll now be looking at the niche of cosmetic surgery and in more detail, Botox. If you're unfamiliar with Botox, it is actually the trade name for a substance injected into the skin which is known to inhibit muscle movement and that can prevent wrinkles from developing or worsening.

Big Data Analysis

Apparently it's on the up-trend!


There's clearly an up-trend for interest related to “Botox”, even though the wider “cosmetic surgery” indicates a dead/dying trend. Nevertheless, focusing on model-released images of pretty much any medical procedures (minus anything gruesome) should be highly profitable (assuming technically excellent), since few contributors have access to such scenarios. Add a few clips into the mix and you may just be onto some winners.

As for Botox, is indicating this search term yields a whopping $8.10 average sale per file.

3. Freddie Mercury

We will rock you! source: Fotolia/jehafo


Now onto popular culture, I've recently watched the excellent film, Bohemian Rhapsody about the iconic band, Queen, leading to the climatic reenactment of their Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. I'm curious to see how the anticipation and launch of this film has impacted for the search term of the band's lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

Big Data Analysis


Wow, didn't expect such a spike! The major conclusion I can draw from this is to anticipate which popular culture films will be launched and plan your concepts around those. Which concepts? Well, it's beyond the scope of this post but how do you think you would look dressed up as Freddie Mercury? 😀

Seriously though, if you know something is being filmed NOW and will launch in a year or two then start creating now so when it is launched you'll be ranked highly. Otherwise, here's a a link to a list of films to be launched in 2019, which includes fresh versions of Aladdin and the Lion King. Time to work on your magic carpet vectors!

I'm writing here very generally but hope it gives you some good points when you're doing your own research.

4. Gilet Jaunes (yellow vests)


I won't blame you if you never heard of the Yellow Vests movement or just don't care (just skip this part), but in France this is huge news, and the rest of Europe is keeping tuned since these are rarely country-isolated incidents.

The Gilet Jaunes are a protest movement in France that began on Saturday, 17 November 2018. The “yellow vests” blocked roads and caused traffic chaos. The demonstration arose from anger towards Macron's administration over rising fuel prices and taxes. The latest incident on the weekend of Nov 25 at Champs-Elysées in Paris were reminiscent of “battle scenes”.

Big Data Analysis


Protests in France are nothing new, but this one seems different since the protesters have so far rejected all political affiliation and have won widespread public support. This is one trend to stay tuned and if you do happen to be travelling to France in the near future, something to keep an eye on. Forget the Eiffel Tower and focus on content that has potential to sell!

These types of protests can easily spread to other parts of Europe as during the past 20 years populism has emerged as an electoral force in Europe [See Link to Guardian Article].

5. Mars Mission

Martian-looking landscape in the UAE


In a major space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama predicted a crewed Mars mission to orbit the planet by the mid-2030s, followed by a landing. So that's about 10+ more years of worth of mars-themed stock photos that you can produce ahead of the anticipation of launch – journey – landing. Play around with those 3D graphics and composites and they should have a long Martian shelf-life.

Big Data Analysis

What happened in Oct 2015?


Not much happening lately on the Mars-front, except for that huge spike in Oct 2015. Digging deeper, that's when the film featuring Matt Damon, The Martian, was launched. Go figure. So, another example when popular culture is a predominant driver of trends which is likely to influence buyers' habits over in the stock world.

6. No Deal Brexit

Tension is building in Westminster


Following the 2016 EU Referendum, Britain is set to leave the European Union Trading Bloc after March 29, 2019. As the deadline approaches, UK Members of Parliament will vote in mid-December on whether to approve a highly-contentious draft deal recently negotiated by Theresa's May government and the EU. There's a strong chance that MPs will reject this deal leading to what is known as a “no-deal-brexit”, leading to further political and economic uncertainty. This topic should be trending!

Big Data Analysis

Focusing on search results in the past 12 months in only in the UK


Certainly trending and the algos are even indicating that it should increase, so be quick! The breakout search results are also interesting to brainstorm concepts:

7. School Shooting


With the prevalence of school shootings in the US, this is obviously an important and highly emotive topic.

Big Data Analysis

Focusing on the US during the past 12 months


Unsurprisingly, three big spikes in the last year following three major school-shooting in 2018:

  • February: Parkland, Florida
  • March: Lexington Park, Maryland
  • May: Santa Fe, Texas

“Bad stock” and “dark humour” aside, this topic has huge potential which I'll leave up to your imagination if you choose to go down this route. Just don't expect these to stop anytime soon while Trump buries his head in the sand sending his “thoughts and prayers”.

8. Climate Change Denial

It's a fact that sea levels are rising but there are differing opinions as to the root cause


According to Wikipedia, “Climate change denial, or global warming denial, is part of the global warming controversy. It involves denial, dismissal, or unwarranted doubt that contradicts the scientific opinion on climate change, including the extent to which it is caused by humans, its impacts on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions.”








Big Data Analysis


Appears to be a steady trend and the world is your oyster on which concepts you may wish to create surrounding this movement, which appears to have inside interests from some multinational companies.

Comparing Keywords – Which one to Focus on?

Another handy feature of this tool is the option to compare different keywords/phrases over time to analyse which may be potentially more “trendy”. When in doubt between focusing on one concept or another, this may help to make up your mind.

Let's look at some examples.

Berlin or Paris?

Montmartre, Paris

Supposing that you're considering traveling to Europe to capture stock concepts but you're not sure whether to visit Paris or Berlin (you only have the choice of one). Without going into specifics about various landmarks…which city has a higher search-engine results, according to Google Trends? Play around and insert various cities/countries, including your own.

Paris wins by a nose…and you can take advantage to capture some of the “yellow vests” protests!

Keto or Atkins Diet?

Remember how 10+ years ago so many people were advocating the Atkins Diet…whatever happened to that trend? More recently, many of my friends were endorsing the Keto(genic) Diet. So let's look at how these two fads compare over time.

Atkins vs Keto since 2004 (Worldwide)

Wow, the above is quite interesting since prior to Mid-2016, few people were searching for the Keto diet (or any of those in fact). Notice how popular the Atkins Diet was in early 2004.

Cats or dogs?

Dog remains man's best friend in the main search…except….

…in Morocco, South Korea, Algeria, Japan and Russia!

Judo vs (Brazilian) Jiu Jitsu?

Now, getting very specific. Let's see the popularity between these two similar martial-arts in Brazil.

Since Feb 2009, focusing on Brazil, Jiu Jitsu has overtaken Judo as the more searched for martial art. The only exception was the latest blue spike, which was during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where Judo is an Olympic sport

Comparing the major stock agencies

Another interesting feature is comparing 2+ searches. Let's finish off this piece by comparing how often Google users are searching for specific agencies and see if we can draw any meaningful conclusions, such as which agencies are on the up and up and which ones may die off, such as in the case of ImageBrief.


We can see that something huge happened at Dreamstime in August 2015, but other than that the only major trend is a small but steady rise of Adobe Stock in the search engines. Interesting.

Your turn to Brainstorm

I trust you've found the above suggestive trends useful (I can't give you away all my secrets). Now it's your turn to come up with your own and while I'm at it, I would suggest you check out another cool tool is the Wikipedia Analytics, which works in a similar style to Google Trends.

Some Homework for you – Read the Tipping Point

This brings me to some ideas highlighted in the book, “Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference” [link on Amazon] by Malcolm Gladwell. Here's a small summary from LitCharts of this fantastic book which will help you to think about trends that may be emerging in order to create profitable and long-lasting stock concepts:

“In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell tries to explain why certain ideas, products, behaviors, and messages become popular while others do not. Although this is an extremely broad topic, the book argues that all successful trends must reach a “tipping point”: in other words, a point at which they move rapidly from being almost unheard of to being very popular. A successful trend reaches its tipping point; an unsuccessful trend does not. As the phrase “tipping point” would suggest, trends don’t necessarily become successful because of large, conspicuous changes. Instead, a trend will often catch on because of a very small change in the content of the trend, the people who spread the trend, or the environment in which the trend is being spread. On the simplest level, then, The Tipping Point is about how small changes have enormous effects.”


Hope you've enjoyed this piece and found it useful. Although I don't have a crystal ball, this is the next best thing! I trust you'll have success playing around with it when brainstorming your own concepts. Make sure to also check out the competition before investing time on concepts which may already be saturated.

Please comment below if you've had some success using this tool or anything else about trends that you would like to share. Also if you have any questions I'll be happy to try to answer them!


About Author

Alexandre Rotenberg is an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images and increasingly footage. He's determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and he has devoted six years to 'making it' both as a travel photographer and photojournalist. He's based near Lisbon, Portugal and regularly travels around Europe and Brazil. In 2017, he published the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography which is available on his Brutally Honest Microstock Blog, as well as on Amazon Kindle (rated 4.6/5).


  1. Is there a feature on Google trends where you can see a list of topics or keywords that have significantly increased from the previous week? That would help give you ideas that you may not have even thought about.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure, will look into it.

      I know for sure that you can set up “Google Alerts” on your gmail account for certain keywords and get regular updates once one pops up. I’ve set up a few for microstock and stock photography in general…also use my name which can be handy to see where my images end up.


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