Picture It: LGBTQ+ Representation in Stock Photography (+26 Sources)

by Van Gower
Picture It: LGBTQ+ Representation in Stock Photography (+26 Sources) thumbnail

Image Crisis

The stock photography industry, which began to emerge and gain prominence in the 1920s, has experienced an image crisis in recent years as being stagnant in its stock even while the previously-marginalized LGBTQ+ community has welcomed a long-overdue inclusive seat at contemporary society’s table, but the industry is slowly but surely undergoing an absolutely fabulous makeover.

Stock photography is professional, high-quality photographs of generic people, places, things, events and situations, and other categories that are made available via numerous websites and are licensed, usually either paid or free-of-charge, in exchange for attribution, for commercial, editorial, creative, and personal uses. It can even include video footage. This photography can be a cost-effective way to illustrate a wide variety of media and other projects without the need to hire a photographer.

One common complaint often leveled against the stock photography industry, however, is that it has tended to be lacking in diversity, especially LGBTQ+ and minorities, when portraying people either individually or in groups. The standard has, a majority of the time, been that of white people – particularly white, heterosexual couples and families.

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And studies show that when minorities and other marginalized populations, including the LGBTQ+ community, aren’t well-represented in advertising and the media, it can negatively impact their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

However, the scarcity of diverse, non-stereotyped images inclusive of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and gender-noncomforming people, and those of other sexualities – including from all races and those with disabilities – could be on its way to becoming a thing of the past, as evidenced by the growing number of websites offering LGBTQ+ themed stock photos. And while the stock photo industry still has a long way to go before it truly represents the full spectrum of the community’s diversity and place in society, it’s a start.

We compiled a list of 26 such sites below as a resource for you to use when representing the LGBTQ+ community in your communications and projects.

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26 LGBTQ+ Inclusive Stock Photography Websites

Things to know:

  • The LGBTQ+ community can encompass a variety of keywords that you can use when searching the below websites for relevant stock photos. They include: LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQ, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, pride, gay pride, gay pride flag, rainbow flag, gay couple, gay family, and others. Try different ones and different combinations to maximize your search results.
  • Always carefully check the licensing (including Creative Commons types), usage, and attribution requirements of images from stock photo sites before you use them. Restrictions can vary from image to image on a single site.
  • When using sites that offer free photos, always do your due diligence to link a photo to their original photographers and provide attribution to them when possible.
  • Always be respectful and mindful of how you use stock photos, especially when the images are of people. Consider how a subject in a photo might feel about the context their likeness appears in.

01. 123RF

Cost Structure: One-month free trial that includes 10 free images, then paid subscription

02. Affect The Verb

Cost Structure: Free

LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography
Photo Credit: Chona Kasinger

03. Alamy

Cost Structure: Paid, premium

04. Burst

Cost Structure: Free for commercial use

05. CanStockPhoto

Cost Structure: Create free account, then purchase credits or subscriptions

06. Creative Commons

Cost Structure: Free

07. Depositphotos

Cost Structure: Paid on-demand or subscription options

08. Envato Elements

Cost Structure: Paid, subscription

LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography
Photo Credit: sofiiashunkina

09. Flickr

Cost Structure: Free

10. Freepik

Cost Structure: Attribution is required for free use. Premium photos are marked with a crown.

11. The Gender Spectrum Collection

Cost Structure: Free

LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography
Photo Credit: Zackary Drucker

12. Getty Images

Cost Structure: Prices for photos vary by image size

13. iStockPhoto

Cost Structure: Paid, premium pricing

14. Pexels

Cost Structure: Free

LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska

15. Photos for Work

Cost Structure: Most photos are free for commercial use, with no attribution specifically required.

16. Pikwizard

Cost Structure: Monthly and annual subscriptions; annual subscription includes 30-day free trial. Two types of licenses: standard, and extended.

17. Pixabay

Cost Structure: Free

18. Queer in Tech by Mapbox

Cost Structure: Free, attribution required

LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography
Photo Credit: CC BY 3.0 US Mapbox Uncharted ERG
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19. Rawpixel

Cost Structure: Sort photos by free, premium, and public domain; most are paid.

20. Shutterstock

Cost Structure: One-month free trial includes 10 free images; then paid on-demand, FLEX Subscription, Image Subscription, Team, and Enterprise plans.

21. StockFreeImages

Cost Structure: https://www.stockfreeimages.com/faq.html

22. Storyblocks (includes stock video footage)

Cost Structure: Create a free account to download watermarked previews to try in your project. Then two paid plans for individuals and one business plan.

23. Twenty20

Cost Structure: You may have access to these photos for free if you have an Envato Elements subscription. If not, there is a Cost Structure.

24. Unsplash

Cost Structure: Free

LGBTQ+ representation in stock photography
Photo Credit: @theyshane

25. VistaCreate

Cost Structure: Free Starter plan and paid Pro plan, with monthly or annual subscription options. Images marked with a diamond icon are available only with Pro plan.

26. Wikimedia

Cost Structure: Free; attribution usually required

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Van is a Corporate Copywriter at DreamHost, based in Jackson, MS. He writes, proofreads, and edits internal and outbound content to drive engagement and action. In his free time, Van enjoys reading, watching documentaries, and playing with his pets. Connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vangower