Finding diversity in stock photos

Or, the search for photos that aren’t mostly of white guys

Image: Pressmaster

By Venessa Paech

Whether we create it, use it, or consume it, most of us have a love-hate relationship with stock photography.

It’s an indispensable asset for businesses who want to create a visual identity that communicates who they are and what they do in the world. But the reality is that many stock photos don’t look much like real life, particularly when it comes to things like race and sexuality.

If you’re searching for white men or heterosexual couples, you won’t come up short.

Need an image everyone else can see themselves reflected in? Grab a coffee, you’ll be here awhile.

We expect the people in stock images to be appealing and well photographed. But increasingly, we’re demanding that they also reflect our authentic selves, which means portraying the kind of diverse relationships, families and situations we see around us every day in life.

In 2014 Getty Images launched a collection of stock photography, in partnership with Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organisation, showing female leadership in contemporary work and life in new ways. Lean In also created a beautiful series of images of diverse American families to mark the recent victory for marriage equality in the U.S.

Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Stock photos can reflect who you are and the kind of customers or audience you’d like to attract. Reality isn’t neat or black and white, and it deserves stock photography that shows off its full spectrum of personality.

For stock photo professionals, this is a market trend worth watching. The future of our digital lives is visual and there are huge opportunities to stand out by showing off the best of real life, rather than one narrow lens. Even search engines prefer originality, so there’s bonus value in creating more interesting and authentic images people can use to improve their discoverability online.

There are huge opportunities to stand out by showing off the best of real life, rather than one narrow lens.

How to take more diverse photos

Here’s some simple ideas to help you capture things a little differently:

  • Seek out people of different backgrounds, races and situations to model for your photos or collaborate on projects;
  • If you’re shooting a traditional portrayal of a subject, consider if there’s a way you can challenge stereotypes in your staging. e.g. Dad at home minding the kids or doing housework, Mom off at work, leading the company;
  • Look for ethnically diverse models or non-models that better represent the world around us;
  • Look for new locations that show an unusual or unexpected side to your town or city.

You can’t always control who you have access to or the brief you’ve been given to work on. But building up a supply of beautiful stock photos that show a wider range of humanity means you open up more chances of making sales — and maybe open up some hearts and minds as well.


Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Envato’s story.