There are hundreds of millions of pieces of content created for the internet every day Want to break through the noise? The best writing won’t stop someone’s thumbs from scrolling through their feed. You have to first nab them with an eye-catching pic. Then you might have a shot to keep their attention long enough to read about your new offer, hear your fundraising pitch, or learn more about whatever you’re talking about.
My general go to stock image site for finding high quality, free* photos online is Unsplash. Unsplash refers to itself as “the internet’s source of freely-usable images. Powered by creators everywhere.” It’s a website full of beautiful, interesting and dynamic photos from all over the world. Type in whatever you need in the search bar and get ready to scroll through countless wonderful photos, brilliantly capturing your subject matter.
But representation matters — especially to kids. Early impressions leave an indelible mark that shape what children imagine is possible. Think a picture is worth a thousand words? It’s probably closer to a a few million!
High-quality, representative stock photography is absolutely crucial for any business, whether you’re writing a blog post, creating a graphic or promoting an event.
I use Unsplash all the time. But sometimes I need photos more geared specifically towards diversity, intersectionality or multiculturalism. While scrolling Unsplash will typically get me where I need to be, there are other options out there that focus specifically on representing the under-represented through high-quality stock photography.
Here is a compilation of 10 free (or affordable) stock photo sites that go further than tossing a BIPOC cherry-on-top of a scoop of vanilla. You might even say these collections are pretty much the whole damn sundae.
*Quick caveat: I’m not a lawyer and I’m certainly not your lawyer. While many of these sites offer free stock photos for you to use, I’m not telling you what you can and can’t do with them. If you’re worried about what’s okay or not, talk to a lawyer, read the fine print, or… you know… head to Google and read up.
This Flickr photo stream features hundreds of images of women of color working in tech. Everything is free under a Creative Commons license, so you won’t have to pay a cent.(That said, as is the case throughout this round-up, the above caveat applies.)
This authentic stock site is a finely-curated “for-us-by-us” set of lifestyle+business content featuring Black women. A subscription runs ~$10/month, but given that the pics are behind a paywall, you’ll have access to exclusive content (unlike some big box stock photos you see on every 3rd ad in your timeline).
Pexels is a well-known free stock site, granted, but it’s included here to point out their solid suggestions engine. Try searching for “Black people” in Pexels and not only do you get accurate results, but Pexels will suggest related tags, making it easy to hone in on exactly who you’re looking for.
Search “coffee” on your standard stock site. While the latte might be brown, the hands holding it rarely are. Nappy refers to itself as providing “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free.” I can’t really sum it up better than that.
Picnoi is a hand-picked collection teeming with great shots of hip, young Black & Brown folks. You can also browse their co-op’s collection directly in Unsplash.
Intersectionality can be particularly difficult to find represented on stock photo sites. Body Liberation Stock is an impressive stash of shots depicting body-positivity in folks from all walks of life.
From Vice, these photos are intended to articulate the complexity of people not necessarily defined by their gender. You’ll find a solid variety of non-binary and trans people at work, school, and off the clock.
This is a wonderful reclamation for disabled BIPOC. In a unique—and incredibly vulnerable feature—this collection features interviews with each model, engendering a true intimacy rarely felt in stock photos.
Intended for editorial use, TONL feels like an enlightened version of Adobe Stock. If you’re looking for exceptionally high-quality and exclusive imagery, you can pay as you go (~$2/pic). The content curation will save you hours of scrolling those big name free sites.
A lot of stock sites can really miss the mark when trying to depict modern Muslim life. Salam Stock remedies that with a hefty collection that includes free and paid plans.
Those are a few diversity-first stock photo sites I’ve found helpful over the years. Do you have any to add to the list? I’d love to hear about them. Share them in the comments or slide on over to my DMs.