Creators, We Need to Talk About Diversity in Stock Photography


The Good News

If you create and share creative content on the internet, chances are that at some point you’ve used free stock photography sites to find that perfect picture to accompany your creation.

I use them a lot, with Pexels and Unsplash being my long-time favorite go-tos. Both sites are free and easy to use, as well as chock-full of high-quality CCO – or Creative Commons Zero – licensed photographs.

If you’ve not come across the term CCO before, it essentially means that the person who created the work (for our purposes here, the photographer) has dedicated it to the public domain, waiving all rights to that work worldwide. This means anyone can use, modify, and distribute the work (so, the photograph) for commercial or non-commercial use without having to ask for permission or providing credit.ย 

This is great news for folks like me who want to make posts and graphics pop with high-quality images but who can’t afford the hefty fees involved in licensing images from major stock photography sites like Getty Images. (Agencies like Getty Images are more geared towards the likes of international news agencies and major advertisement campaigns, you see.)

So What’s the Problem?

As you might have suspected from the title of this post, I want to talk about representation and inclusivity in respect to the photographs that many of us use in our blog posts and across our websites.

While it’s certainly become a lot easier as of late to find freely shareable photographs of people who aren’t skinny young white women laughing while eating salads, the reality is that you still have to dig around a bit to find photographs which feature people who are Black, Muslim, Sikh, disabled, curvy, elderly… I could go on, but you get my point.

So what can we be doing to help ensure everyone has a better chance of seeing themselves reflected in the images we share?

What We Can Do

If you’re a photographer:

  • Photograph real people, doing real things, realistically.
  • If you can, share your work with free stock photography sites under a CCO license, so that more people can use them/be exposed to them.

If you’re a blogger or other person who deals in content creation and sharing:

  • Take the time to really think about the images you are choosing to post with your work and why you’ve chosen them.
  • To help with this, ask yourself questions such as ‘Does the person in this image of someone birdwatching/fly-fishing/knitting/working in IT have to be young/white/wearing glasses?’ (These categories are just examples, of course. The idea is simply to get yourself thinking about assumptions and biases that may have been previously unknown or ignored.)
  • Do remember that while it’s fine to be keeping in mind your particular site’s typical audience demographics, you can still work to ensure that you don’t unnecessarily alienate or exclude any potential readers/viewers by only ever sharing images of people who look like X or do Y.


Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about these suggestions and ideas in the comments below. ย 





4 Comments on “Creators, We Need to Talk About Diversity in Stock Photography

  1. This is really very insightful and deep. I havenโ€™t used images from such sites yet, but just incase I do in future, I will keep these suggestions in mind ๐Ÿ™‚

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