Seeing the Same Diverse Stock Photos? Here’s Why

Seeing the Same Diverse Stock Photos? Here’s Why

Published on April 17, 2020

Status is reachable Eric Diaz CFO | Multicultural Advertising Innovator | Marketing & Advertising Consultant | Social Media & Statistics Professor 25 articles Following

Infamously, the Trump administration was found to be using very creative stock images and videos as part of their 2020 re-election Facebook advertising campaign last year. Not to be outdone, Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, in an effort to appeal to African American voters, accidentally chose stock photos featuring a Kenyan woman to show his plan to dismantle racism in the U.S. Obviously, there are problems in political stock photography choice – but how does this issue of using the same diverse stock photos apply to business nationwide?

What are the Issues when Companies use the Same Diverse Stock Photos?

When it comes to multicultural stock photos – why is it that we see the same images over and over? While it is commendable that companies are making an effort to represent diversity, there has to be a better way.

There are many issues in using the same stock photos, The Balance – Careers details it well. In summary:

  1. Stock Photos are Not Original – The images are intentionally vague to be relevant across industries – so you will see very similar executions of stances or situations.
  2. Stock Photos can be Bought by ANYONE – Your same image could be used on any variety of websites or industries that have messaging you may not agree with.
  3. Stock Photos are often Clich√© – Think men in sombreros, Native Americans in traditional dress, businesspeople balancing on tightropes, family picnics, etc.

Another difficulty specifically regarding multicultural stock photos is that since there are so few options when it comes to diverse imagery you are more likely to see the same images again and again, making your brand forgettable.

Let’s look at it from a data perspective. Below is a graph that details search results gathered from iStock Photos to find how many images exist for different ethnicities in regards to ‘family‘. The results are fascinating and you can see how limited search results can be for specific ethnicities, especially ones such as ‘Hispanic family’, ‘Indian family’ and more.

Why do Companies Use the Same Diverse Stock Photos?

Firms use the same diverse stock photos because these photos are high quality, inexpensive, and often available within minutes via a quick search of common stock photo vendors.

We have all seen Diverse Stock Images Similar to these:

Common overused images: the happy Hispanic family, the two Latina professionals smiling, the same African American man shaking hands. Have a look at 6 top examples of stock photos that get used ad infinitum.

1. The Hispanic Family

We see this image on report covers, family medicine billboard ads, and many other locations across the web. Yes – it is a happy Hispanic family. But, because it is the number 1 result via Shutterstock, it is an image that we already saw on last year’s TPX report. Our advice, find another.

2. The Smiling Hispanic Business Woman

A standard image of a Hispanic businesswoman, dressed in business casual, smiling to the audience.

3. The Hispanic Couple

We are also familiar with the happy Hispanic married couple walking down the street, both with and without the dog. The problem is that the background is cliche. Our advice – don’t be afraid to change it up!

4. The Diverse Selfie!

It doesn’t matter if it is a couple or a group of friends – the selfie is so overplayed in 2020. Skip it.

5. African American Businessman

We have all seen a similar image of a diverse colleague working in front of a laptop. Let’s go a little further in the search results and see if there is anything new, shall we?

6. Friends Having Fun

Last but not least, a group of friends having a great time in a park. This image doesn’t seem staged at all, right?

Prevent the Same Diverse Stock Images from Dampening Your Marketing Presence

I am happy that more companies are looking for diverse imagery for their website, but how can we advance diversity in a more authentic way?

  1. Use your own team! Everyone has a new Galaxy/iPhone/Pixel in their pocket these days. Take time to create your own high-quality images.
  2. Use unique sites such as Pexels and Unsplash to find royalty-free images that aren’t as staged. For example, Unsplash has great photos from the National Cancer Institute which show authentic images for health professionals. Note, not all of these images are original, but many of them are.
  3. Invest in Imagery. Hire a photographer to take professional photos just for you and have them in stock for when you need them. You can also use a paid account such as which provides great diverse image options.
  4. Go past Page 1 in Search Results. If you are using a stock photo library such as Shutterstock, go to the middle, or even last few pages to find some less commonly used photos. If you found them on page 1, everyone else did too.


Don’t be afraid to be different. I am sure your audience will remember your campaigns more if you give them something new to represent you. The next time you have a campaign try one of these options above and test your results. Good Luck!