Seeking stock imagery of faith and ritual as modern as our world

Man dressed traditionally, bowing over a mat.

Credit: Adobe Stock/Hideo Tsuto.

For all the talk about humanity living in a secular age, the world around us is teeming with spiritual beliefs, practices, and engagement with the soulful part of life. Religious holidays like Eid-al-Fitr, Hannukah, Christmas, and Diwali continue to bring families across the globe together and provide a focal point for our yearly cycles. Practices like yoga and meditation are a part of people’s daily lives in both hemispheres. Online, communities devoted to everything from crystal healing and reiki to neopaganism and tarot card reading are attracting millions of participants.

The Adobe Stock Advocates program seeks to inspire and promote thoughtful, accurate, and impactful visual representation across the stock image landscape. Our creative brief Beliefs and Rituals asks us to think deeper and more widely about the spiritual world around us and how we can promote imagery that speaks to rituals big and small across the globe.

We invite visual artists from photographers and videographers to designers and illustrators to dig deeper into prayer, tradition, ritual, and faith — and push for imagery that is as modern, authentic, and diverse as our world.

Left image, room filled with eclectic art. Right image, women laughing together walking with a bike.

Credits (left to right): Credit: Adobe Stock/Johnér, Credit: Adobe Stock/Maskot.

Belief for the billions

Religion continues to play a major role in billions of people’s lives across the globe — roughly 5.76 out of the 6.8 billion people on the planet. But rather than a stable, inflexible set of practices as they are often imagined and depicted, religious practices and beliefs are constantly changing and adapting to the world around us.

Religions and religious people across the globe are rising to meet the anxieties of the modern age and engaging with modern tools to do so. Young Muslim women are pushing back online and in print against the patronizing assumption that their faith is inherently anti-female. Churches in London are centering their mission in community support, education, creativity, and charity above evangelizing.

These movements mix social media savvy, engaging visuals, and a values-over-dogma approach to reach across divides and connect people together. However, the stock imagery we see of religions, especially non-Christian religions, can feel stuck in stereotypes, or in the past. Prayers and rituals are often depicted only in the most traditional settings. Religious practitioners are seen as homogenous and monolithic.

Stock imagery is at its best when it represents the world around us, rather than the assumptions we have about it. Great stock pays attention to the voices asking us to think in new ways. The Beliefs and Rituals creative brief from Adobe Stock asks creators to share their own personal journeys, practices, and rituals.

Collage of colorful art and women.

Credits (clockwise from top left): Credit: Adobe Stock/Carlos David, Adobe Stock/Adaeze Okaro, Adobe Stock/Adam Perez, Adobe Stock/Alp.

From “woo woo” to #witchtock

In America, we have come a long way from the Salem witch trials. In fact, according to a recent Pew study, roughly one-in-six Americans believe in at least one of a handful of what are considered “New Age” beliefs: astrology, reincarnation, psychic powers, and that spiritual energies can be located in physical objects.

This rise in New Age beliefs hasn’t just changed how we see the world: it has changed what consumers are buying and how brands are positioning their products. The rise of healing crystals is a perfect case study. Long a part of witchy and hippie subcultures, crystals are now a billion dollar industry. From Goop to the now ubiquitous Himalayan salt lamp, the belief that rocks can help your mental and spiritual wellbeing has made its mark in fashion, wellness, and interior design.

The New Age craze is not just limited to adults with deep enough pockets for $100 crystal water bottles either. On TikTok, Gen Z creators have spearheaded the subculture known as #witchtok, a tag with 18.8 billion views. From money spells to tarot readings for the next 24 hours, younger users are engaging with all things occult to try and bring a sense of control, order, and self-empowerment to their lives.

While the rise of New Age may seem fun and innocent to some, it is important to remember the power dynamics that come into play when older and Indigenous practices suddenly become popular commodities.

A lot has already been written about the whitewashing of yoga and how the beneficiaries of yoga’s incredible rise in popularity are rarely the Indian practitioners with whom it originated. This skew towards white yoga users is reproduced in brands and media outlets and translates to the stock image landscape, where often the default visual representation of yoga is often an able-bodied, fit, white woman in clean modern athleisure.

A similar dynamic plays out in popular rituals like saging and oracle decks: practices that draw from Indigenous spirituality and sacred ways often jettison and sanitize those roots when they become popular enough to be interesting to major brands.

Artists and creatives can help offer an important correction to these biases through their work. Brands, especially smaller, social media dependent ones, don’t always have their own in-house creative teams or production houses. Instead, they are looking for images and design in the stock landscape that reflects their values and reaches a more diverse, global, and young audience.

Stock imagery, illustration, and design that connects spiritual practices to their roots and gives space for diversity of races, bodies, abilities, and gender will resonate not only with consumers but will help remind us where these healing and nourishing practices originated.

To directly support more diverse and authentic imagery, Adobe has created an Artist Development Fund to help inspire, promote, and financially support artists. This $500,000 initiative is set aside to give resources and support creators who are making inclusive, authentic, and boundary-expanding work.

Collage of different belief rituals.

Credits (clockwise from top right): Credit: Adobe Stock/Carlos David, Adobe Stock/Amaal Said, Adobe Stock/Carlos David.

Belief and rituals as diverse and modern as our world

What’s common throughout New Age practices is that the language is not couched so much in believing absolutely that amethysts will cure your anxiety or a spell will bring you wealth, but rather in the language of wellness. From birth charts to chakra cleansing, what is most salient are people talking about self-care, self-love, and reminding yourself that you can take control of your destiny (and life).

Modern religious practices and practitioners are rooted in values beyond dogmatic traditionalism. They are about carving out space and time for traditions that connect us across generations, allow us to love ourselves and our communities, and think about things bigger than ourselves.

The way we visualize faith, belief, ritual, and prayer should reflect these values. Depictions of yoga, meditation, and scrying should be as diverse and multifaceted as the global base of people engaging with these practices. Stock images that center communities of belief and show spirituality as a regular part of the modern world will resonate more strongly with billions of people.

Contributors wanted: Get inspired with Beliefs and Rituals and other Adobe Stock Advocates program creative briefs. Then upload your best photographs, video clips, and illustrations to share your vision and sell your content on Adobe Stock.