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How to Use Inclusive Stock Photos That Represent Your Community

Representation matters.
Most traditional stock photography resources offer images that use almost exclusively white, young, thin, traditionally attractive and non-disabled people. While many of these stock photos are beautifully shot and composed, you should stop to ask yourself…
Do stock photos accurately reflect the diverse community around me? Do they represent my customers?
More and more people are asking–or rather, demanding–better practices from the companies they do business with. Whether that’s ensuring equal pay, better corporate social responsibility, or–you guessed it–representation.
No matter what kind of business, nonprofit organization, or side hustle you own and operate, your customers are likely not one-size-fits-all cookie cutter copies of one another. They probably run the gamut of size, shape, skin tone and more. After all, we’re each 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 actual customers (provided you get their permission, of course)! If that’s not an option, there are several resources online that offer free-to-use or royalty free images.
Here are some inclusive stock photo resources to help you get started
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1. The Getty Images Project #ShowUs
Getty Images recently teamed up with Dove and Girlgaze to present Project #ShowUs – “a ground-breaking library of 5000+ photographs devoted to shattering beauty stereotypes by showing female-identifying and non-binary individuals as they are, not as others believe they should be.”
Photos on Getty Images are under a royalty-free license with a one-time payment required.
The Gender Spectrum Collection by Vice | Image by Zackary Drucker
2. Vice’s Gender-Inclusive Stock Photo Library
Vice describes their Gender Spectrum Collection as a “stock photo library featuring trans and non-binary models that aims to help media better represent members of these communities.” It is a photo library of over 180 images of 15 trans and non-binary models. You can read more about how the library started, as well as recommended usage guidelines, here.
All photos within the Gender Spectrum Collection are free to use with credit.
The Take Collection by TONL
3. TONL
TONL was started by Karen Okonkwo, a Nigerian-American social entrepreneur who struggled to find diverse stock photos to display 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 “challenge the stale, homogenous look of traditional stock photography by showcasing the many ethnic backgrounds of everyday people.”
Images on TONL are available for individual purchase or via a monthly subscription plan. TONL’s Take collection also features a selection of free photos.
Natural Women Collection by Canva | Image by Elle Hughes
4. Canva’s Natural Women Collection
The team at Canva grew tired of “overly-photoshopped images that perpetuate traditional stereotypes” and suddenly the Natural Women Collection was born. “We’ve put together a collection of everyday women, whose personal stories and experiences challenge both gender norms and societal standards of beauty,” Canva shared in an article. “Every woman in this collection reflects an important yet under-represented minority in stock photography. Women whose distinctive body shapes, facial features, or tattoos may not conform to the traditional norms of beauty, but who deserve to be seen and given proper representation.”
Each image in this library is free to download and free to use.
Nappy by SHADE
5. Nappy
Nappy’s founders realized that finding stock photos for coffee, computers, or travel is easy, but you’ll rarely find people of color in the search results. “But black and brown people drink coffee too, we use computers, and we certainly love traveling,” they share on their why Nappy? landing page. Nappy was launched to “provide beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people to startups, brands, agencies, and everyone else. Nappy makes it easy for companies to be purposeful about representation in their designs, presentations, and advertisements.”
Photos on Nappy are free to download and free to use.
Image by B Forrester for PUSHLiving Photos
6. PUSHLiving Photos
PUSHLiving Photos was started by Deborah Davis, a wheelchair user since the age of 18. The site’s about page mentions that they represent “one billion persons with disabilities spending billions in travel and lifestyle dollars in economies all over the world” but who are “rarely seen or acknowledged 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. CreateHERstock
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 question whether there were any resources that “catered to women who look like [her]” and she decided to change that. CreateHERstock was launched in July 2015 and features over 2,500+ images spanning wellness, business, lifestyle, and much more.
CreateHERstock includes premium options as well as a selection of free photos.
Being conscious of your photo choices, and language can help you stand out and reach new demographics
There is power behind seeing someone like yourself in an image. If your business is using only traditional stock photos, you may be causing your customers who don’t relate to these photos to feel that your business just isn’t for them. Also, remember to be aware of the language you are using on your website, within your social media posts, and more as words also carry 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 that you think should be included?

Is Obama Strong or Weak? Coming Vetoes Will Test the President

President Barack Obama . (Photo by Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images)

President Barack Obama . (Photo by Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images)

For the last six years, President Obama has been pilloried by opponents as a power-hungry President willing to ignore constitutional constraints to pursue his radical left-wing agenda. Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas and likely presidential candidate in 2016, made this charge in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in January in which argued that “Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat.”

Such criticisms are not surprising given that Mr. Obama took office on a groundswell of hope for progressive change and has presided during a very partisan period in American history. It is, however, somewhat notable that this perception coexists with a not quite as widespread view on the left that Mr. Obama has been a weakling, unwilling to take strong progressive stances, too quick to compromise and often failing to speak out about various injustices. Cornel West is a good standard-bearer for this view of the President. “[H]e [President Obama] acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair.” It is not at all clear how both these views of the President can be true at the same time, but these two perceptions have defined how the right and left have viewed the President since 2009.

Mr. Obama has just over 25 months remaining in his presidency, and will spend almost all of it with a Republican majority in both houses of congress. Given how difficult it will be to pass presidential initiatives through a Republican-dominated congress, it is very unlikely that any major legislation will come from the White House during the next two years. The President’s use of an executive order on immigration reform is an example of how the Obama administration may have already given up on passing any meaningful legislation during what is left of his time in office. The Republican congress, however, will likely propose a great deal of legislation. How the President responds to that will be informative.

The President will likely veto most of the legislation produced by the Republican Congress. If this happens, his image as timid will erode, but the conservative criticism of the President will seem more accurate. This will not help the President garner popular bipartisan support, but it may help him among his progressive base. Since the midterm election, President Obama has taken a strong stand on internet neutrality, signed an executive order on immigration reform and nominated a progressive candidate for attorney general. This suggests that the President has been strangely reinvigorated by the drubbing his party received last month. Either that or he feels he has nothing left to lose during the remainder of his presidency.

A policy of bold nominations, executive orders and freely using this veto pen will do little to change the image that many conservatives already have of the President. In fact, it will do the opposite and reinforce the conservative narrative that President Obama pursues his left-wing goals despite an election in which the American people have clearly rejected them, and the President himself.

The policy of being just cautious enough to infuriate his progressive base, while acting boldly enough to enrage conservative detractors has worked better than many on the left or right might think for Mr. Obama. President Obama has spent much of the last six years causing people on the left and the right to get angry at him while handily winning reelection, and six years into his presidency, maintaining a level of popular support very comparable to those of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush at the same time of their presidency. It is also very possible that the Republican Congress will provide precisely the foil Mr. Obama needs for his popularity to rebound over the next two years. But maintaining this balancing act may no longer be possible for the President. An emboldened Republican Congress will force Mr. Obama into a corner where he can either fold entirely or come out fighting. Thus far, he appears to have chosen the latter, and deliberately or not begun to undermine the progressive criticism he has confronted during much of his presidency.

Lincoln Mitchell is national political correspondent at the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell.