The changing face of stock images

Stock images give us immediate access to a library of ready-made images. They can be used internally, to give a client a feel of photography style or in live campaigns. Whatever their intended purpose, they are slightly comical, incredibly contrived and a bit samey.

A quick search of the word ‘meeting’ on Shutterstock supplies multiple versions of the same image: a group of white co-workers huddled around a MacBook with grins plastered on their faces.

It’s hardly representative, and it’s a problem that affects almost any term you search for on these sites.

As a creative marketing agency, we’re frequently involved in the purchase of stock images and we want images that are real, representative and diverse. Diversity is not a passing trend and as such the imagery we use in our campaigns or creative projects must be diverse.

According to Dove, as many as 70% of those surveyed in their study of 9000 women don’t feel represented in the media or advertising. That’s why they partnered with Getty Images and creative network Girlgaze to address this imbalance with Project #ShowUs – to establish a more inclusive and diverse depiction of beauty.

To do this, they’ve curated an image library of over 5000 photographs of women from 39 countries that haven’t been digitally distorted, captured by women, non-binary and female-identifying photographers. Women of all ages, ethnicities, cultures and body types are represented and they’re depicted doing real things in a non-staged way. The women featured in the photos were then involved in writing their own search descriptions and tags to ensure authenticity.

This initiative builds on a previous campaign launched by Dove’s parent company Unilever titled ‘Real Beauty’ which was originally launched in 2004.

Opening up such an extensive stock image library that includes photos of women usually ignored in media coverage or advertising is good for two main reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, it challenges the stereotypical image of what a woman should be or look like which promotes inclusivity and diversity. Secondly, it allows marketers to directly tailor their campaigns to these women to boost engagement instead of using ill-fitting stock images that don’t resonate with them.

Project Show Us will help to broaden universal standards of beauty, improve inclusivity in the media and advertising, as well as empowering the women who are now represented.

View the ground-breaking image library and even submit your own photographs here.

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