As multicultural bloggers, you know how hard it can be to find the perfect images for your articles and maintain your multicultural visual strategy. Some of us write about our own mixed families and some of us write about other cultures in the hopes of educating others or offering tools for multicultural homeschooling families or worldschooling families. Some of us are are travel bloggers but not great portrait photographers. So we rely on stock photography for illustrating our articles, most of the time coming up short with what we find.
An option of course is to take photos of our own families. Unfortunately that’s not always an option if we want to keep our children away from the vast expanse of the internet and its unseen dangers.
Multicultural Visual Strategy & Stereotypes
To properly represent our personal stories, we are constantly searching for images of children, families, and people of all cultures doing normal things, but with different kinds of hair and different color skin. What happens when we look for these images, specially the FREE ones? We find stereotypical settings and un-natural situations that feel contrived and don’t always look real or like something these people would be doing on a regular day. These might work for NGO’s with small budgets or travel agencies, but they don’t exactly work for us.
Take a look at the classic images that show up when you search for the term “multicultural”. Does your family pose like this on a regular basis or have sunset picnics all the time, or frolic in the woods with your multiracial friends? No, I didn’t think so. These photos might work for our stories once in awhile but they are not exactly representative of a real multicultural families, or even of a multicultural group of people working together.
“Indigenous” and Country Specific “Cultural” Stock Photography
Let’s talk about what happens when we search for visuals to illustrate our educational and feature articles about cultures, countries, and other stories about people around the world. Cultural Stereotyping is strong in these searches, and unless your stories are stereotypical as well then the results will not help much.
For example let’s say you are doing a piece on Peruvian Independence Day. Sure, you will find lots of photos of historic depictions, flags, and maybe an illustration of a Peruvian person wearing the classic quechua outfit of chuyo and poncho. But what if you want to depict modern Peru and what it’s like over there? You start searching…. “Peruvian People”, “28 de Julio”, “Peruvian Independence’, and “Peruvian Celebrations”. What do you get? You get a whole bunch of these:
Let’s say you want to write about living as a Muslim woman in this crazy messed up stereotypical world but you can’t exactly buy stock photography cause your blog is new and when searching for images you get a lot of this;
Didn’t you know that Peru is all about the Andes and Muslim women are all about burqas and mysterious eyes? Sigh….
There is a certain level of stereotyping that one has to follow when doing marketing but the line between what is acceptable and what is ridiculous is blurry. For example if you were to use a photo of white Latino for a story on Peru it would look odd to a lot of people. This is because they have been indoctrinated to believe that in Peru everyone looks like the lady in the red poncho when in fact there are plenty of white Peruvians and very many black Peruvians as well. So what can you do to fight back against that stereotypical belief, try and use a mix of images that depict as much diversity as possible.
Diversity in Stock Photography
Apart from cultural or multicultural photography, some of us are searching for photos of black families, or black working women, or maybe of Asian families, or LGBT families. I asked in a Facebook group about this topic and someone told me they always had a hard time finding photos of LGBT families that didn’t have a rainbow in the background. More stereotyping right?
In my searches online, I found a post by ND Consulting that lists 10 great online sites to find diverse stock photography. I bet that soon there will be more sites like these to choose from, people from diverse backgrounds want representation too!
Multicultural Visual Strategy Options
Free vs. Paid Stock Photography
To some extent variety between free and paid stock photography does make a difference when searching for multicultural and culture specific stock photography. Unfortunately, paid stock sometimes only means “higher quality” stereotypes. Either way, if you really want to find a varied and more real depiction of multiculturalism and diversity you have to pay.
The main Stock photo sites will have some photos but like I said before, it is very stereotypical and repetitive, yet it does improve when you pay. In my research I have found that the best and most diverse site for multicultural and culture specific photos is the adobe stock site.
Another way to creating imagery for your posts and articles is to use illustrations. You can find vector illustrations that can be changed and moved around to create scenes. If you use illustrations you can even use the same ones over and over again just changing the scene or the set up. 123RF is a great site for illustrations, but no, it’s not free.
Some illustrations are vectors and really easy to cut away from the background to create your own scenes.
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