Inclusivity in stock photos

I’ve recognized the lack of diversity and representation in advertising for a long time. As a person in the LGBTQ+ community, it wasn’t until recently that I began to see representation that I felt reflected who I am.

When you are aware of lack of personal representation, you realize how little it reflects a lot of people. This is coming from someone who grew up in the age of the United Colors of Benetton ads. They were, quite honestly, ahead of their time. Still, diversity continued to lack for a long time after.

Today, I feel we understand and embrace diversity and its importance to a higher degree, and our understanding of what inclusivity encompasses also has evolved and expanded.

Most advertising relies on stock imagery. Anytime it’s used, the goal is still to reflect a sense of realness and authenticity. As a brand, company, or organization, it’s important to make sure your images reflect your community, clients, consumers, etc.

That means more than just race or color. Considerations should be made for age, different body types, representing individuals with disabilities, gender identification, etc.

When we work with clients at Chartwell Agency, we dig into their audience – both current and potential – to understand who they are marketing to now and to whom they want to market going forward. Demographics and, naturally, diversity will come up and we will likely push you to be as inclusive as possible in your outreach.

We want to find the right imagery for everything from ads to marketing collateral to reflect the audience and our clients’ growth objectives. That means not inserting diversity just for diversity’s sake (and there are examples of where inclusivity can quickly morph into stereotypes with stock imagery).

While representing diversity in stock imagery remains a challenge, things are improving. We’re learning more and working toward better representation, and there are more options for photo sites today that specialize in diversity.

Stock photos will always be needed because of quick-turn needs and budget restrictions. But there are so many organizations – be that government agencies, healthcare practices and educational institutions – whose populations and consumers are diverse that it would be unfair not to reflect that.

The more representative and inclusive your brand is, the better people will connect with your organization.

So, continue to be an advocate for better inclusivity in marketing because demand drives the supply. We pledge to keep learning, to do better, and to create authentic work that reflects our clients and the communities they serve.