Most mainstream stock photography resources feature images that almost exclusively use white, young, thin, traditionally attractive, non-disabled people. While many of these stock photos are beautifully shot and composed, you should stop and wonder…
Do the stock photos accurately reflect the diversity of the community around me? Do they represent my clients?
More and more people are asking – or rather demanding – better practices from the companies they do business with. Whether it’s ensuring equal pay, better corporate social responsibility or, you guessed it, representation.
No matter what type of business, nonprofit, or side business you own and operate, your customers are likely not identical copies of each other. They probably run the gamut in size, shape, skin tone and more. After all, we are all unique. But marketing can often fail to speak to people in this way.
Of course, the best way to accurately represent your customer base is to use, well, photos of your real customers (provided you have their permission, of course)! If that’s not an option, there are several online resources that offer free or royalty-free images.
Here are some inclusive stock photo resources to get you started
Embed from Getty Images
1. The Getty Images #ShowUs Project
Getty Images recently teamed up with Dove and Girlgaze to present the #ShowUs project – “a groundbreaking library of over 5,000 photographs dedicated to breaking beauty stereotypes by showing female-identifying, non-binary individuals as they are, and not as others think they should be.”
Photos on Getty Images are licensed royalty-free with one-time payment required.
The Gender Spectrum Collection by Vice | Image by Zackary Drucker
2. Vice Gender Neutral Photo Library
Vice describes its Gender Spectrum collection as a “library of photos featuring trans and non-binary models that aims to help media better portray members of these communities.” This is a photo library of over 180 images of 15 trans and non-binary models. You can read more about starting the library, as well as recommended usage guidelines, here.
All photos in the Gender Spectrum collection are free to use with credit.
The Take Collection by TONL
TONL was started by Karen Okonkwo, a Nigerian-American social entrepreneur who struggled to find various stock photos to post on her own blog, and Joshua Kissi, a Ghanaian-American photographer. TONL’s mission is to “transform the idea of stock photography by displaying images of diverse people and their stories around the world” and to “challenge the outdated and homogenous look of traditional stock photography by bringing highlighting the many ethnic backgrounds of ordinary people”.
Images on TONL are available for individual purchase or through a monthly subscription. TONL Take collection also offers a selection of free photos.
Natural Woman Collection by Canva | Image by Elle Hughes
4. Canva Women’s Natural Collection
The Canva team had had enough of “overly photoshopped images that perpetuate traditional stereotypes” and suddenly the Natural Women collection was born. “We’ve assembled a collection of everyday women, whose stories and personal experiences challenge both gender norms and societal norms of beauty,” Canva shared in a post. “Each woman in this collection reflects a significant but underrepresented minority in stock photography. Women whose characteristic body shapes, facial features or tattoos may not conform to traditional standards of beauty, but which deserve to be seen and to be represented correctly.
Every image in this library is free to download and use.
Lying down by SHADOW
The founders of Nappy realized it was easy to find stock photos for coffee, computers, or travel, but you rarely find people of color in search results. “But black and brown people also drink coffee, we use computers and we certainly like to travel,” they share on their why Nappy? landing page. Nappy was launched to “deliver beautiful, high-resolution photos of black and brown people to startups, brands, agencies, and everyone else. Nappy makes it easy for businesses to focus on representation in their designs, presentations and advertisements. »
Photos on Nappy are free to download and use.
Image by B Forrester for PUSHLiving Photos
6. PUSHLiving Photos
PUSHLiving Photos was started by Deborah Davis, who has been in a wheelchair since she was 18 years old. on The page mentions that they represent “one billion people with disabilities spending billions of dollars on travel and lifestyle in economies around the world” but who are “seldom seen or recognized in advertising and editorial images”.
Photos on the site are available for purchase through a monthly or credit-based subscription.
Free photos by CreateHERstock | Photo by I’sha Gaines
6. Create HERstock
CreateHERstock is the “destination for images featuring women of color”. While working on a blog post, founder Neosha Gardner struggled to find an image to use. She began to wonder if there were any resources that “caused women who looked like [her]” and she decided to change that. CreateHERstock launched in July 2015 and features over 2,500 images spanning wellness, business, lifestyle and more.
CreateHERstock includes premium options as well as a selection of free stock photos.
Being mindful of your photo and language choices can help you stand out and reach new demographics
There is power behind seeing someone like you in a picture. If your business only uses traditional stock photos, your customers who don’t care about those photos may feel like your business just isn’t for them. Also, remember to be mindful of the language you use on your website, in your social media posts, and more, because words also have weight and power. Show that your business is welcoming and inclusive by representing your community in each of the photos and words you choose to use.
Did we miss a resource you think should be included?