5 Stock Photo Sites That Will Make Your Content More Inclusive & Diverse

Some stock photos are bad. Some stock photos are good. Most are bland, by design. But there’s also a weird subsection of stock imagery that emphasizes stereotypes. Given that the U.S. Census Bureau shows America is becoming a more diverse nation, especially among people between 18-39 years old, why do images like this still exist for companies to pluck and put on their sites:

bad stock photo

We can all see the elephant in the room—the South Asian man showing his colleagues something on his laptop. The colleagues are dressed in casual business clothes while the man wears an ornate outfit. That outfit is actually called an Achkan, by the way, normally worn for special ceremonies like weddings (face-palm).

A lot of brands and media companies rely on stock imagery when creating digital content, especially for their blogs. But when the different skin tones, identities, body shapes and, abilities are not respectfully taken into account, not only is that an act of unconscious rejection against those specific communities, you are also limiting your brand to a very specific group of audience.

This is troublesome for marketers, because different audiences want to see themselves reflected and represented well online. When people recognize themselves in a piece of content, they’re more likely to respond.

According to Censuswide research, 88 percent of U.S. marketers believe that “using more diverse images helps a brand’s reputation.” Inclusive marketing is not just the right thing to do—it’s also good for business. If you’re struggling to find good stock imagery, here are few resources that can help diversify your content.

The Gender Spectrum Collection (Free)

Representation of transgender and non-binary people isn’t common in stock photography. The Gender Spectrum Collection, a visual project created by Vice’s Broadly publication, was designed to address that very problem.

gender spectrum stock photo Source: The Gender Spectrum Collection

Representing members of these communities are important as their individualities are not solely defined by their gender identities—but also their careers, hobbies, relationships, etc

TONL (Freemium)

The mission behind TONL is to transform the generic and staged look of most stock photos by highlighting the stories of people from all backgrounds. The site partnered with big name brands to create realistic narratives for minorities that have been misrepresented and stereotyped in stock photos.

TONL images Source: Jenjira Milan

Here’s a little exercise, Google “Native American mother and child,” and take a mental note of the images you see. Then compare that to the picture above.

CreateHER (Freemium)

In a desperate attempt to look for outsourcing images to fit her lifestyle blog, Create Her founder Neosha Gardner realized that she wasn’t the only one struggling to find stock images that featured women of color. With that in mind, she founded her own site, a pantry of visuals with artistic compositions that look more like candid photos than typical stock imagery. CreateHer Source: CreateHER Stock

nappy (Free)

The people behind nappy knew of the outrageousness of traditional stock photos—the unrealistic representations of real people doing real things. So they went on to create a stock imagery resource filled with “beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people.”

nappy Source: Caio Resende

nappy works together under a creative common license with websites like Unsplash and Pexels to offer high quality photos for free. The shots are organized by useful themes including: active, food, people, places, things, and work.

Body Liberation Photos (Paid)

Just as the name suggests, this stock image-source aims to go against the norms of featuring young, thin, white, able-bodied people. Body Liberation’s collections cover people, abstracts, fitness, etc. Their representation of plus-size people is especially commendable, as stock image sources tend to hire traditional models instead. You do have to pay for most access, but you can receive three free images a month if you sign up for the site’s newsletter.

Body Liberation Photos
Source: Lindley Ashline

I hope this list shows that there are accessible resources out there that can help you make your content marketing more inclusive. Think about your audience instead of just going through the motions when choosing visuals. Our communities are becoming more diverse, so your content should as well.

Get better at your job right now.

Read our weekly newsletter to master content marketing. It’s made for marketers, creators, and everyone in between.

Trending stories