Diverse representation in stock imagery

At Adobe, we believe in the power of “Creativity for all.” One of the ways we do that is through the visual stories we tell.

Two girls with their arms wrapped around eachother.

Image source: Adobe Stock / B. Alyssa Trofort/Diversity Photos.

By Lindsay Morris

Posted on 03-09-2021

As part of our regular Adobe Stock Webinar series, this month we discussed Diverse Representation in Stock Imagery. We are excited to have brought in the co-founders of our co-exclusive partner, Diversity Photos, Nicole Carter and Gerald Carter, to talk about their work as creative changemakers and their initiatives to empower artists from diverse communities. We also got to speak with Harvey J. Austin, VP and managing director of Video and Art Production at Syneos Health Communications, about his work fostering a new generation of diverse creatives within the advertising industry.

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At Adobe, we deeply believe in the power of “Creativity for all.” It is one of our core tenets that everyone should have the opportunity to express and share their creativity, making the world a more vibrant place. One of the ways we can do that is through the visual stories we tell. We know there is still much work to be done — but there are also victories along the way. In this session, we highlighted the work of community leaders who align with our goals to not only bring diverse and inclusive imagery to our collection but also to elevate artists of color behind the camera.

Woman doing yoga with a child sitting on her back playing with her hair.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Gerald R Carter Jr/Diversity Photos.

Natika Soward, content development manager for Adobe Stock, is leading our internal initiative to bring on the types of partners who recognize the unique content needs of underrepresented populations. “We are taking the mission to diversify our Adobe Stock collection very seriously,” she says, “and we’re working to scale our acquisition strategy to better align with our customers’ needs.”

Last summer, we surveyed over 600 industry creatives for our State of Creativity 2020 survey. We found 89 percent want diverse and inclusive stock collections. 90 percent of creatives say trends in visual culture and topics are evolving faster today than ever before, not surprising given how the world shifted in 2020. 91 percent of those surveyed agreed that the events of 2020 inspired their team to incorporate real-world issues into their creative work. We believe this resonates with many of our customers as we look to the future of creativity.

“The next steps in our diversity initiatives going forward are based on what our CEO, Shantanu Narayen, outlined in our company vision for 2021,” Soward explains. “We are making commitments to address diversity, inclusion, and equity, and the three points that really stood out to me were: ‘Empower all voices,’ ‘Lead and speak out in areas where we can make a unique impact,’ and ‘Advocate in terms of investment.’ These directly align with our strategy across Adobe Stock.”

Man meditating outdoors.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Mhandy/Diversity Photos.

Relevant imagery for genuine storytelling

In the webinar, Soward spoke in more detail about why these initiatives are crucial for Adobe and our customers: “Our partners recognize the content needs of top industries and the business impact of unique and authentic depictions within stock.”

“Over the past year, we’ve seen shifts in lifestyles and priorities, and these shifts have effectively changed the types of visuals that creatives need to use in campaigns in order to remain relevant in their messaging. That’s a huge priority for all of Adobe Stock’s collections — relevant imagery for genuine storytelling,” says Soward. “It’s so important. It helps brands stand out and create real connections with their customers through moments that tell stories from a unique point of view. Points of view that are diverse and inclusive, culturally relevant, and industry-specific.”

Woman sitting at a table outside looking at a laptop.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Gerald R Carter Jr/Diversity Photos.

The importance of authentic imagery and creative empowerment

One of our key partners in our mission is Diversity Photos. Co-founders Nicole and Gerald Carter joined us in the webinar to talk about their work infusing the stock industry with authentic representations of people of color. They also head the Creative Empowerment Program, a joint initiative with Adobe Stock designed to provide artists of color the tools they need to overcome any barriers to launching into the stock space.

Nicole and Gerald Carter began Diversity Photos in 2016 after becoming frustrated with the lack of representation in stock images. “There were few options, and they didn’t come close to covering the breadth of our communities, communities that I saw personally, every day with my own eyes but not in media,” explained Nicole, who also leads Diversity Photos as CEO.

She highlighted a study done by the Heat agency showing that the stock price of brands featuring the most diversity in advertising performed 69 percent better than that of brands that featured the least. “It’s not to say that diverse advertising all by itself will shoot your stock prices up,” she said, “but it does seem to have a direct correlation. It shows what type of company you are and how well you are relating to and serving your customers.”

Image source: Left: Adobe Stock / Melissa Alexander/Diversity Photos, Middle: Adobe Stock / Melissa Alexander/Diversity Photos, Right: Adobe Stock / Melissa Alexander/Diversity Photos.

Nicole likened inauthentic imagery to finding a typo in the middle of a good book — images that feel false or unlikely will pull attention away from what you are trying to accomplish. To avoid these missteps, we need representation behind the camera as well as in front of it. The Creative Empowerment Program is meant to help address this issue.

“Underrepresented minorities have been limited in meaningful participation in this industry by wealth gaps that have only widened through generations of systemic racism and inequalities, especially here in the U.S.,” she says. “The Creative Empowerment Program tackles this problem head-on. It invests in diverse communities in order to economically empower creatives from those communities.”

The pilot program began in August of last year and has been wildly successful. By taking a holistic approach to mentoring the artists in the first cohort, the group completed 35 photoshoots in six months, producing over 4,000 images as well as video content. The next cohort is scheduled to launch this spring.

Gerald Carter shared that they are looking forward to more exciting projects in 2021, including an upcoming maternity-themed photoshoot at a new medical facility. Diversity Photos also confirmed that they will be expanding into the video content space.

Image source: Left: Adobe Stock / Mhandy/Diversity Photos, Middle: Adobe Stock / Gerald Carter/Diversity Photos, Right: Adobe Stock / Gerald Carter/Diversity Photos.

Diversity as a standard, not just an option

Harvey J. Austin joined the webinar to talk about his passion for elevating and supporting people of color in the industry. He defined the need to have “diversity as a standard, not just an option” in marketing and advertising. Growing up in the field, Austin did not have mentors who looked like him or had a similar background. Today, Syneos Health is committed to making a change with several pillars of diversity and inclusion within the organization.

Over the summer, Austin and a few others created the Black Employee Resource Group at Syneos Health. “The Black Employee Resource Group’s mission is ultimately to attract Black candidates and foster career advancements for Black employees while still supporting the company, business priorities, objectives, and brand values,” Austin said. “We want to make sure we’re increasing representation of Black and BIPOC individuals and executives within our organization, and then focusing on career development and mentorship, recruitment, and retention of those individuals.”

This year, Syneos Health recognized and celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month. Adobe has been a creative partner in creating this campaign, providing relevant imagery for the program.

Austin’s work continued after joining 100 Roses from Concrete, a network of people of color in advertising, marketing, and public relations. From this membership and as a response to the pandemic, Austin helped to establish the G.R.O.W.T.H. Initiative. This virtual internship connected multicultural college students to mentors from 100 Roses from Concrete for 8 weeks to tackle a real brief for a non-profit client. With Adobe’s help, Austin’s group built City Living NY, a full advertising campaign, including a broadcast commercial. They are already accepting applications for 2021’s G.R.O.W.T.H. Initiative program.

Coming from not having a mentor in his career to becoming a leader in the space, Austin recognized that meaningful change must come from within. “We just have to make sure that we are making proactive efforts to bring individuals who are diverse into this industry because we are ultimately serving a diverse world.”

Image source: Left: Adobe Stock / alvaro Right: Adobe Stock / Santi Nunez/Stocksy.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Hero Images/Hero Images.

The future of creativity

We ended our webinar with an announcement about our new program, designed to center creatives who represent diversity within their work.

To showcase new voices and visuals of underrepresented communities, we have launched the resource Adobe Stock Advocates program. This program includes an Artist Development Fund to equip artists with financial support and opportunities to promote accurate and inclusive cultural representation within the creative industry. Our first recipients have been chosen, but applications are open and will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

View the webinar, Diverse Representation in the Stock Industry, on demand.

Get inspired with the gallery of images from the first cohort of the Creative Empowerment Program on Adobe Stock.

Topics: Creativity, Insights & Inspiration, Trends & Research, Creative Inspiration & Trends, Photography, Media & Entertainment, Creative Cloud, Diversity & Inclusion

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