Survey: How COVID-19 has affected stock artists

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted many industries. The Adobe Stock team conducted a survey of Adobe Stock artists to find out their plans for 2021.

Illustration of woman working on digital tablet

Credit: Adobe Stock /Lydia Hill.

By Sarah Casillas

Posted on 04-22-2021

COVID-19 has affected the creative community in a myriad of ways. As the world maneuvers through this new post-COVID era, these impacts are still unfolding. All of us are still collectively working to understand the new challenges that will affect our day-to-day lives in the months and years to come. As circumstances shift and reorient, it is critical to check in with our stock artist community to understand how to support them. A recent COVID-19 Pulse Check Survey indicates that Adobe Stock Contributors are bouncing back, continuing to generate strong content even during these turbulent times.

The survey collected responses from 6,374 Adobe Stock artists around the world to get a temperature check of the pandemic’s influence on their production last year — and their plans for the year ahead.

It may come as a surprise to some, but the creative stock industry is on a major upswing, artists are more inspired than ever, and our Contributors can feel confident that buyer demand is not just strong and steady — it is accelerating.

Reflecting on creative production in 2020

While the road toward creativity was bumpy last year, many artists were able to develop just as much content as they did in pre-COVID times. Of those surveyed, about half said their content was not impacted by COVID-19 restrictions or that they were more productive than in previous years.

While Contributors maintained creative output, 16 percent generated more COVID-related content, and 13 percent tried their hand at new file types like video and illustration. Survey respondents mentioned a continued dedication to their craft.

“2020 was a difficult year, but thankfully having the ability to produce stock photos kept me busy and less stressed,” noted one Adobe Stock Contributor in a comment. “I’m glad I’m a Contributor.”

Income from Adobe Stock remained relatively stable

Many creatives faced undeniably hard times during the pandemic. Artists have been hit hard, with cancelled shoots, projects suddenly on hold, and uncertainty about the future of their businesses — not to mention the personal health emergencies and concern for health and safety that affected all of us.

Many stock artists expected their revenue to take a hit in 2020 as businesses braced themselves for the negative consequences of the pandemic. In many cases, this is exactly what happened. However, it is not the whole story: 50 percent of Adobe Stock Contributors we surveyed said they brought in similar income as they did in 2019 — or that their income actually grew.

The survey showed that some artists did experience a drop in their income, but overwhelmingly, many artists earned well, and over 12 percent earned somewhat or significantly higher income in 2020. This is supported by our internal data at Adobe Stock, showing that Adobe Stock’s business experienced growth overall.

“The stress of dealing with the pandemic made any creative effort more difficult,” commented one survey respondent. “On the other hand, I did see somewhat more in sales, presumably because more people were working online and needed stock images.”

Ingenuity expected to flourish in a reinterpreted world

Globally, artists are discovering new ways to interpret the world around them as we emerge from the adversity of the past year. The pandemic has shifted how we all see the world, and artists are uniquely positioned to reflect these changing perspectives through creative mediums.

Contributors are excited about producing this content for the post-COVID-19 era. One commented, “With travel restrictions I photographed around my home almost exclusively. I realized there’s so much around that I didn’t ‘see’ pre-pandemic.”

When asked if they were likely to upload new content this year, Contributors gave us a resounding answer — yes. 79 percent of respondents said they plan on uploading new content in 2021.

Rejuvenated demand could make for a busy 2021

Pairing this promising data with our recent Global Creative Survey, we have found healthy signals for the stock industry as a whole. In this far-reaching survey, we asked creatives, designers, marketing decision makers, and technology decision makers to respond for their thoughts on the current landscape. Our findings were significant for stock content creators and users alike.

First, the velocity of customer demand for stock imagery seems to be increasing. When asked about their campaign development and projected output for 2021, 81 percent of decision makers reported that they are being asked to develop more content in less time.

Secondly, creative leaders and decision makers are concerned about their ability to stay on top of visual and creative trends: 86 percent of those we surveyed indicated that it is difficult for them to stay relevant to their customers.

The need for fresh, timely content is rising rapidly, driven by a transformation in the visual culture experience. And though artists may be worried that free, unlicensed content could be devaluing their work, this seems not to be the case. 2/3 of the 1,509 respondents to the Global Creatives Survey reported that they have misgivings about using unlicensed assets. They want to license properly vetted, IP-compliant assets — which is good news for professional stock creators.

Credit: Left: Adobe Stock/Lucy Schaeffer. Right: Adobe Stock /hedgehog94.

A promising future for the stock industry

After a year of challenges and deprivation, we are all craving revival. The spirit of regeneration, vibrancy, and connection forms the fabric of our 2021 Creative Trends. There is strong demand for high-quality stock from artists who understand the nuances of our post-pandemic world and can deliver visual representations of these evolving aesthetics.

Stock Contributors who keep a close eye on cultural shifts and how they may affect business needs have seen some especially strong revenue, even during the pandemic. Some of the best-selling content we saw in the past year was content edited, repurposed, or otherwise positioned to incorporate pandemic realities. For example, when more professionals started working exclusively from home, some artists were especially quick to take advantage of shots they already had depicting the WFH life. Those images and video clips showing diverse professionals using laptops and other devices to work and participate in video calls from home experienced a sudden, strong, and sustained demand.

Overall, the COVID-19 Pulse Check Survey conducted by Adobe Stock showed us that the appetite for fresh, culturally-relevant visuals remains strong — and that our Contributors are ready and willing to jump on the opportunities rapidly expanding in today’s market.

Topics: Trends & Research, Insights & Inspiration, COVID-19, Creative Cloud

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