How to capture hygge in commercial photography

This year, the Etsy Marketplace named “nesting” as one of their top home and living trends for the holidays, with people searching for everything from cozy layers, warm knits, and blankets to relaxed cardigans, quilted fabrics, and sweats. This idea of “comforting coziness,” embodied for many by the Danish word “hygge,” first started trending internationally in 2016.

Interest soared in 2017 following the publication of The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, and hygge came into vogue again this year as people found new ways to cope with loneliness and life in lockdown. As we head into the winter months, taking time for daily self-care rituals like lighting candles, cozying up by the fireplace, connecting with loved ones over a cup of tea, and showing gratitude could help create a sense of wellbeing and sanctuary during a dark and difficult time.


Cozy flatlay of bed, woman's hands holding wooden tray with vega by Nataly Lavrenkova on 500px.com

Beyond that, these ordinary, comforting activities could also serve as creative inspiration. “As many parts of the world continue to experience travel and social restrictions, a hygge-inspired shoot can be a great way to shoot commercially relevant content,” the 500px Content Team tells us. “Hygge content can be easily shot at home, with pets, food, or family.”

Here are our top tips for incorporating the resurgence of all things hygge into your Licensing portfolio—while creating seasonal stock photos that sell.


cute baby boy playing with cup at home, learning to drink, lifestyle capture in real life cozy... by Maria Kovalevskaya on 500px.com

Tip #1: Gather inspiration

We’re about to see a lot of hygge-inspired images, so consider creating a moodboard for yourself. You can use clippings from magazines and lifestyle blogs, cozy fashion shoots, and at-home moments tagged #hygge on social media.

Brands ranging from Starbucks to Carlsberg have tapped into the hygge theme, so take a look at how they’ve incorporated the idea into their visuals. There’s even a Hygge subscription box that delivers candles, fairy lights, chocolate, hot tea or cocoa—all prop ideas you can incorporate into your shoots.


happy redhead woman relaxing at home in cozy winter or autumn weekend with book and cup of hot... by Maria Kovalevskaya on 500px.com

Tip #2: Get warm

That warm glow of candlelight in a window on a cold winter night—that’s hygge. Warm lighting has been trending in commercial photography since 2019, and it’s a perfect match for the hygge theme. “It can be the sun streaming through a window, firelight, or candles,” the Content Team says. “Even a pet blissfully sleeping in a sunspot can embody hygge.”

When it comes to post-processing, a light touch goes a long way. The team advises, “Try to avoid using filters or overly adjusting the photo’s saturation to unnatural levels.” Keep your colors natural and inviting as well, incorporating warm neutrals; think Dulux’s 2021 Color of the Year, Brave Ground, and similarly warm, organic, and comforting beige tones.

Natural elements like pinecones, raw wood, and foliage—in addition to soft blankets and sweaters—can also help bring that rustic feeling to life, while illustrating the current “cottagecore” trend that’s taking over the internet these days.


Feet of unrecognizable woman in front of the fireplace. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Tip #3: DIY

One of the best things about hygge-inspired photoshoots is that you can create them at home with a shoestring budget; all you need to do is set the scene, incorporate some warm lighting, and gather props that make you feel safe and cozy.

You can create self-portraits of solitary self-care or capture the spirit of closeness and community with immediate family. Additionally, you can incorporate homemade elements, from knitted scarves to DIY decorations.


Winter morning by Anna Salynskaya on 500px.com

Tip #4: Take a digital detox

Hygge is all about savoring the little things, like reading a book, playing a board game, or talking around a fire, and many of these activities provide us with a much-needed break from technology. In the age of “Zoom fatigue,” consumers crave photos that celebrate the small moments in life, away from our screens; as early as last year, searches on Getty Images for “digital detox” rose by 153%.

Photographs of technology and the ways we interact with our devices will continue to be in high demand, across the board, but don’t forget to look for ways to highlight the warmth of human connection as well, without the stress of constant emails and work notifications. During the winter months, in particular, spending quality time with loved ones at home or in nature poses the perfect opportunity for a hygge photoshoot.


light white autumn background with tea, honey, and book for you.Copy Space. Place for text. Flat... by Svetoslav Sokolov on 500px.com

Tip #5: Embrace self-care

According to a survey conducted earlier this year, 64% of respondents said they were more focused on their mental health now than ever before, with 80% saying they will be more mindful of practicing self-care in the future.

Self-care means something different to everyone, but it fits in well with the idea of hygge, which is all about slowing down and savoring the moment. Turn to your own life for inspiration; maybe you practice self-care by curling up with chunky socks, homemade cookies, and a good book, or perhaps you prefer luxurious bubble baths.

Perhaps it’s as simple as snuggling up with your dog and watching a movie. Maybe it’s something you do with other people, like playing a game or enjoying a hearty home cooked meal. Create a list of things that bring you joy and comfort. Hygge isn’t about what you buy; it’s about how you feel.


country house living room interior details. Cozy couch, hot tea and decorative pillows by Maria Kovalevskaya on 500px.com

Tip #6: Make it sensual

Hygge, the celebration of simple pleasures, is about so much more than what we see. It’s also about the softness of a plush robe, the warmth of a teacup, the scent of sandalwood, fresh coffee, or baked goods. There’s a reason so many candle companies use the word hygge when describing their scents.

When shooting, include props that evoke smells and textures, whether it’s a wreath of pine, soft slippers, or a sprinkle of cinnamon on your morning cocoa. These little atmospheric details are what make a photo memorable, so check your kitchen and backyard for some seasonal props and ingredients.


camping close to home by Sam Brockway on 500px.com

Tip #7: Add relevant keywords

Hygge isn’t a trend but a concept, and it’s one that ties into many of 2020’s most enduring themes, including togetherness, wellness, and mental health, so when creating and uploading your photos, keep those ideas in mind and add them to your list of keywords.

Other keywords can be a mix of descriptive, literal terms (e.g., cocoa, mug, steam, lifestyle, rustic) and conceptual terms like “getting away from it all”, “quiet”, “relaxation”, “happiness”, “serenity”, or “cozy contentment.” Think about what terms a buyer or marketer might search when looking for images like yours, and take a look at what top photographers have tagged for similar shoots. The more evocative, descriptive terms you can incorporate, the better.

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