LGBTQ+ Representation in Stock Photography and Free Resources

close up photo of lgbtq letters on a person s hands

If you’ve ever seen a marketing campaign, then you’ve seen stock photography. Photos taken by artists all around the world that are sold for a license fee to end users. These licenses give companies and individuals the rights to use these photos in their marketing campaigns in exchange for the price they paid for the photo.

close up photo of lgbtq letters on a person s hands
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I use stock photographs in my blog posts all the time. Look, there’s one right there above this paragraph! Notice the caption there? “Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com.” That means I didn’t take that picture myself. Instead, using a service named Pexels, I was able to get a free license to use Sharon’s photos on my blog. Pretty neat, right?

How are LGBTQ+ folks represented in stock photography?

When it comes to representation, stock photography plays a huge role in how groups are represented in media. Since so many marketers use stock photography, they are limited by range of images and representation that are provided to them. That means, if you’re not represented in stock photography, there’s a good chance you’re also not being represented in the media.

This is a bad thing for many reasons, the largest of which is that it perpetuates a sense of “other-ness” when it comes to LGBTQ+ people. And while there are some resources out there that represent young, gay, white men, the representation for women, non-binary, people of color, and more are far harder to come by.

Thankfully, some of the top stock photography providers have taken notice and made pledges to increase not only the diversity of their photos, but also to highlight representation for LGBTQ+ folks. Getty Images, a popular paid stock photography site, has even noted that images should represent realistic lifestyles of LGBTQ+ folks, without upholding harmful stereotypes. This is yet another struggle that LGBTQ+ people face in the media. But Getty Images is vowing to put in the time and effort to make sure they authentically represent diverse LGBTQ+ individuals in their photos.

“Visuals have been used as a tool to sort of uphold stereotypes, and we are slowly but surely chipping away and breaking those down for all communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.”

Tristen Norman, the head of Creative Research, Americas at Getty Images

Some free LGBTQ+ stock photography resources

Now that you know a little bit more about LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography and, thus, popular marketing and media, what’s the secret to finding great, affordable stock photos that represent your diverse community?

While some services charge a fee to access their catalog of images, or charge by the download, a rare few actually offer free photos (no fees) that can be used in both personal and professional works. I’ve rounded up a few of these for you.

Pexels

women with gay pride body paint
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Pexels was purchased by Canva in 2018 and has a seamless integration with the publishing platform. As it turns out, they also happen to be making marked efforts to improve not only their representation of LGBTQ+ people, but also to normalize showing LGBTQ+ people for generic search terms like “people” or “love”. They even changed their search algorithm to be more diverse friendly.

The next time someone searches for ‘couple’ or ‘love’ they will find refreshing content that reflects life as it really is around us—straight couples, same sex couples, interracial couples, non-binary folks and more.

Monica Silvestre, Head of Community at Pexels

At the time of this article, Pexels had 1.67k photos and 375 videos that were returned when searching for “LGBTQ.” Oh, and they are free for commercial use!

Burst

Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst

Burst is a smaller repository of images, but they do have a dedicated Pride landing page. The diversity in the images is much better than other sites I’ve seen, but the quantity is just so limited. Only four pages of results existed at the time of this writing. These images are free for commercial use, as well.

The Gender Spectrum Collection

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection.

The Gender Spectrum Collection, now part of Vice, is a pretty awesome initiative to make sure that photos exist for diverse trans and non-binary people. The initiative goes a step further, and encourages the use of their photos for non-LGBTQ+ specific content, to help normalize and represent life as it more accurately is.

The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés. This collection aims to help media better represent members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities—people with careers, relationships, talents, passions, and home lives.

https://genderphotos.vice.com/

The photos are free to use and they represent diverse people in many different life and work situations.

Do you have a go-to for stock photography? Let us know in the comments!

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