We Need to Talk About Stock Photography for Women Entrepreneurs…

For a long time I've felt troubled by the stock photography aimed at - and used by female entrepreneurs.

Not only did it not align with the women I see in REAL LIFE around me - but it also made ME feel somehow 'inadequate' because I don't look like those glossy women - and so, I held back from running my business the way I WANTED to.

The photos often shown to us are 1) pink-themed, 2) impossibly slim and beautiful white women.

I remember sitting in an office at the Student Union at University and there was a poster on the wall which read "there are 3 billion women on the planet - and only 7 of them are supermodels" - yet, were you to base your ideas of "womanhood" on the marketing  photography you see in the Online space, then you could be mistaken for thinking every single online entrepreneur out there had a previous career on the pages of Vogue!

Not only do I see photos which have no bodily representation - but they're also really thin on the ground for non-white women.

I use a paid stock photo site - which granted is waaaaaay better than the free sites - and you're not running risk of accidentally using a photo which has been illegally uploaded to the free site... yep, it happens! 

It makes searches easier and there's usually a better quality and greater variety. 

I love bold visuals. I love luscious portraits of decadent women reclining on couches, 40s/50s/60s style glamour, pop-art - and almost anything where the woman's wearing a "fuck you" face! 😁

But when I search for "plus-size" or "fat women", I'd say a fair number of the images returned in these searches show a woman seasoning her green salad with salty tears, hauling on fitness wear or stood on a pair of scales in her underwear.

Fuck that!

Don't know where YOU are with your weight - but despite me being very much overweight - I'm a woman. I walk, I run, I work, I play, I eat salad - but fuck me, there's more to my life than crying about my weight!

Where are the images of women who look like me? Overweight - but reasonably well-dressed, rolling her eyes at the latest slice of shit of life?

What about the images of black women? Ooof - even HARDER to find an overweight black woman. Sure... there are photos of black women - but overwhelmingly challengers to Tyra Banks - not the woman stood behind you in the checkout queue or sharing a joke at school pick-up.

It's insulting to ALL of us!

It brings us back to measuring our value and "womanhood" in terms of beauty, thinness and common or garden "sex appeal".

And I am soooooooo over that! Approaching 50, I give exactly ZERO FUCKS whether others find me attractive or not - I'm me. Just me. Just me and my brains doing my stuff.

Stock photography is SLOWLY getting better - but I implore you, to go further, go harder and search out these images for your marketing which represent women like you, your family, your friends, women in your circles.

Of course there are beautiful women out there and nobody is denying that - but to build a business around looks alone does a disservice to us all.

Leave a Comment... I'd love to hear your thoughts!

  • I can see where you’re coming from, but I think you’re taking this a bit far. Sure it would be nice if stock photos would show a bit more diversity. But the people in stock photos aren’t “super” something or “impossibly” thin. They are normal people in normal bodies. I just searched for some photos and in all honesty, those people are all normal, healthy size. To call them impossibly thin just doesn’t make sense.

    Of course people want to see more people like them in blogs and elsewhere. But possibly one reason that stock pictures tend to portray mainly certain size people is that while people claim they want to see something else, in reality those photos might be the kind of photos that actually work. I mean I don’t want to read a blog post where there are pictures of people with dirty hair and wearing sweatpants, even if that’s what I look like right now. It’s not attractive, it’s not interesting and it’s not inspiring.

    • It’s the overwhelming influence I think, everything from the perfectly shiny white desk without toast crumbs and coffee stains 😁 – through to the “perfect white girl”.

      Maybe it’s because I’m auld and when I look around, not many of my peers are still rocking the “impossibly slim” bodies they had 25 years ago 😁… it certainly seems impossible to me!

      I do agree though – everyone says they want more inclusivity – but it’s been proven hasn’t it? Put someone like Lizzo on the front cover of Vogue and they make fewer sales… disappointing. πŸ™

      Oh well – I’ve never been one for doing stuff just because “everyone else is”!

  • Wow – great post! Although we as women have made great strides in asserting ourselves, so much of the objectification continues subversively. I was recently reminded of just how pervasive it is in our culture after reading “How to Get Sh*t Done” by Erin Falconer. She mentions something called “habitual body monitoring,” which is essentially the process of thinking about your body in terms of how others see it. For example, while sitting in a meeting, you might stop and ask yourself whether your stomach looks poochy and then proceed to suck it in. Falconer notes that women do this body monitoring once a minute. Once a minute! The sad part is that I realized just how often I do this myself and had never called myself out on it before. How much space is this type of thought pattern wasting? Space that could be used for something positive and impactful rather than to feed dissatisfaction and self-loathing. Awareness is step one and again, this is an important topic that needs to be discussed more often. Thank you so much for posting!! πŸ™‚

    • Wow! Once a minute? Jeez… so that means every minute we take our brains offline (!) and worry about our stomachs. This is BONKERS – but yeh… guilty. Ugh.

      Thank you for the book recommendation, I’m going to look it up.

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    About Alex Sheach

    Alex is an expert strategist with a flair for expressive writing which connects with her audience and evokes emotion.

    She believes in the power of harnessing the written word and using it to demonstrate expertise, confidence and clarity when marketing online businesses.

    She's anti-BS, anti-fluff and embraces grown-assed methodology for growing an online business with authentic Sales & Marketing strategies.

    Nae drama!