Hollywood isn’t the only one with the diversity problem.

When you don’t have amazing original images at your disposal for a creative project, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and opt to use stock photos.

The bad generic ones probably come to mind, right?

Like some of these bad boys for example. Happy people in addition to campy cooperation in the workplace AND employees wearing the same drab suits?

Yikes.

Girl cringing at the ridiculousness of stock photos - Diversity in Stock Photos is a Lie
This girl should be an adult by now, and probably have her own tag or filter on stock photo sites because she’s become a regular throughout the years.

Then there are the unrealistic ones.

Time for your check up!

Expectation.

Not all doctors look that good though. As much as we want a handsome or beautiful doctor examining us, our chances are slim. (Dr. Mike is a fuckin’ unicorn.) Don’t try to fool us, fancy medical center. You so fake.

But you end up with dis.

Dr. Carl Kupfer - Diversity in Stock Photos is a Lie
LOL. Sorry, Dr. Carl. Credit: The National Eye Institute

Essentially, stock photos are ready-to-use licensed images intended for creative or business purposes. Now we won’t go into detail on copyright rules and licensing. At some point, we will cover what you need to know about copyrights, fair use, and other legal jargon though. (Seriously, those topics are a freakin’ beast.)

In fact, you can find stock photos pretty much everywhere, from billboards to magazines, to websites and TV.

Even on university posters.

I was a bit surprised to see Finn from Star Wars on a poster at my University

About two years ago we worked on designing a website for an up-and-coming youth tennis program in Miami. Unfortunately, our client was in the starting phase of his nonprofit organization and couldn’t really supply many media assets. We needed affordable, authentic-looking images featuring young boys and girls of various ethnic groups not only playing a bougie sport that is generally unpopular among children, but also reading books and doing homework.

$575 for a picture comprised mostly of people with less melanin? Get outta here with that nonsense!

Desperate times call for desperate measures; we had no choice but to scour dozens of stock photo libraries using reductive and stereotypical keywords upon keywords.

No hate towards anyone who does use stock photos in their work. Honey and I are just not a fan of how costly and limiting they are. Stock photo sites are slacking in the diversity department, especially in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, and size.

One time I was art directing an article about a tech entrepreneur who also happened to be a thick woman of color. Since her PR rep didn’t provide any assets, I struggled to find images of a heavyset, light brown-skinned woman using a laptop, coding or simply drinking coffee. I was so beyond annoyed that I just cropped images and modified random models in Photoshop.

There are millions of stock photos available. Yet when it comes to any good, realistic stock imagery, you’re out of luck.

But not for long though.

We understand the struggle in finding stock imagery that celebrates diversity and cultures. So we’ve compiled a list of stock photo websites by groups fighting the good fight and recognizing the need for positive, constructive portrayals of diversity in stock photos.

Resources

10 places to find GOOD stock photos of diversity. These images are realistic and great for bloggers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, web designers, graphic designers and other creatives. Our collection also includes free images.

Blend Imagesmulticultural commercial stock photos that celebrate the human experience.

Colorstock – images that genuinely reflect the stories of Asian, Black, Latinx, and other ethnically-diverse people.

CreateHer Stock – images of Black women doing what they do best.

Graphicstock – presents the raw, natural essence of ordinary people and the less traditionally perfect.

Fotolia by Adobe – image bank with more than 62 million images. Hint: include the word “multicultural” in the search box.

Faces of Asia – explores the variety and beauty of Asian men, women, children, and more.

Lean In Collection – over 6,000 images of empowered women and girls in contemporary work and life.

PicNoi – free collection of diverse multi-racial images.

Offset – images curated from artists and photojournalists all over the world.

WOCinTech Chat – showcases women of color who really work in tech. Most of all, it’s free!

Did we miss anything? If you have experienced a diversity problem, how did you handle it? Let us know in the comments.

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