Using Inclusive Stock Photos in Marketing Campaigns

Four boys playing in the water. This photo is from a library of inclusive stock images.

Photo by @kasuma from nappy.co

There are more than enough stock images out there to use in your marketing campaigns, but trying to find inclusive stock photos can be more challenging. However, there is a wide range of diverse stock photography out there, if you know where to look. Making the effort to incorporate inclusive stock photos into your marketing campaigns is a worthwhile endeavor that both your business and customers will benefit from.

Why Inclusive Stock Photos Matter

When we think about different types of media that struggle with diverse representation, the stock photography used on blogs, social media feeds, and websites probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. We’re more likely to think about TV shows, films, or the news. But representation in stock photography is just as important to this cultural conversation as the content of our Netflix queues.

Marketing Campaigns with Stock Photos Are Everywhere

Advertisements are all around us. But did you know that by some estimates we each see somewhere between four and ten thousand ads a day?

Not all of those ads use stock images, but many of them do. We can find these stock images attempting to sell us a product or service everywhere: from bus ads to Facebook posts, hair dye boxes, and website designs. Seeing marketing campaigns with stock photos is more routine than brushing your teeth.

But to not reflect on the impact of stock photography is a mistake. Advertisements with non-inclusive or misrepresentative stock images can affect us more than one might realize.

Two women in tech careers. Inclusive stock photos should show people from all walks of life engaged in a variety of normal activities.

Photo from #WOCinTech

Underrepresentation and Misrepresentation Have Real-World Consequences

Although we may not be conscious of it, the media we consume shapes our perceptions. When we primarily consume media that lacks inclusive representation, that media changes how we interact with people we’re not used to seeing on our screens. 

It’s not just underrepresentation that’s a problem, but also misrepresentation. Media portrayals do not help with efforts towards inclusivity and equity if those portrayals end up relying on and reinforcing negative stereotypes.

For instance, studies have outlined how Black men have been very underrepresented in positive and holistic contexts in the media. This underrepresentation correlates to the fact that non-Black audiences tend to be less sympathetic and more antagonistic towards Black men

Negative stereotypes and missing story lines can impact not only how people see each other. These can affect how people see themselves too, such as by damaging their self-esteem.

Underrepresentation and misrepresentation within the media doesn’t exist in a bubble. These portrayals affect how we see ourselves and others in the real world too.

Photo from The Gender Spectrum Collection

Using Inclusive Stock Photos Can Help Your Business’s Advertising Efforts

Incorporating inclusive stock photos into your marketing campaigns helps to contribute to more positive and accurate real-world perceptions of all kinds of people. And, as an added bonus, it’s good for your business, too. 

Why does using diverse stock photography help your business? Because people want to see themselves reflected in the media and your advertising campaigns. When your company makes the choice to use inclusive stock photos, you let people know that your business values those from all walks of life.

For example, Johnnie Walker’s Keep Walking America campaign, powerful for its reading of the lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land” in both English and Spanish, has driven over 66% of the brand’s digital engagements over the last five years. Proctor and Gamble’s ad “The Talk” won both the Cannes Lion Film Grand Prix and Outstanding Emmy Commercial awards. Companies that create ads with positive portrayals of queer people can up their sales by about 40%.

The ability to see yourself portrayed within the media has huge importance for people from all cultures and backgrounds. When people feel represented and understood by a brand, they are more likely to respect that company. And that respect can lead to heightened interest, engagement, and sales.

Some Favorite Libraries of Inclusive Stock Photos

Photo from Disabled and Here

Ready to start incorporating diverse stock photography into your advertisements? Here are a few of our favorite libraries of inclusive stock photos to get you started.


MACRO is a free collection of inclusive images taken by BIPOC creators in New Orleans and DC. The goal of MACRO is to share the diverse work of these photographers with a larger audience. The photos include people in an office, food and drink, landmarks, city life, and more. All the photos also come with the attribution included to ensure the photographers get the credit they deserve.

PUSHLiving Photos

PUSHLiving is a library of diverse stock photography featuring people with disabilities. Whether you want inclusive stock photos of individuals with disabilities at a wedding, on a hike, or just going about their days, this library likely has the shot you need. The photos are available for purchase individually or in bundles.


Nappy offers inclusive stock photos of Black and Brown people at the office, on the go, with their families, and more. This amazing collection offers plenty of free high-quality stock images, as well as a series of premium shots that can be purchased through iStock.

Gender Spectrum Collection

In partnership with Vice, the Gender Spectrum Collection contains photos of trans and nonbinary people, and these images, in their words, “go beyond the clichés.” You can find images here of people at work, school, and home doing a variety of activities. All of the photos in this collection are free.


Looking for inclusive stock photos of Black women to use for cybersecurity software, IT firms, or other tech-related settings? The WOCinTech collection, created by Flickr, offers a wide collection of photos showcasing women of color in tech settings. This collection is free to download.

Disabled and Here

Disabled and Here offers free diverse stock photography of people with disabilities. They aim to also feature individuals who are Indigineous, Black, or people of color. This library of stock photos currently has categories for lifestyle, socializing, working, and LGBTQ+ imagery.

Project #ShowUs

GettyImages, Dove, and Girl Gaze partnered up to create these inclusive stock photos of women and nonbinary people. Their goal is to break apart traditional standards of beauty by showing the beauty of these communities as they truly are. Images are available for purchase individually or in bundles.