Stock Photo Models

I can’t speak for all authors.

Some of us are self-pub, indie, or trad. Or a hybrid of two–or all–of these publishing methods.

However, maybe you’re a writer similar to me, and you get to look through stock photos when it comes to designing your book covers? Maybe you get to have some input? Maybe you get to go through stock photos for promo that you or your publisher are designing?

Regardless of how things work for you and your writing career, you’ve probably sorted through some stock photos at one point or another.

It can be a slog.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing I love more than “stock photo day”–that day I have to sort through dozens or hundreds of model photos to give input on what I’d like to see on a book cover or in a piece of promo.

I’m gay because I like men. Skinny, fat, short, tall, light skin, dark skin–all men are gorgeous to me. I’m drawn more to redheads who are older than me, but that’s neither here nor there…

So, it’s with much consternation that I see a lack of diversity in stock model photos. I’m not sure about smaller agencies that license photos, but the big ones have a problem with diversity for certain.

Most of the model photos I see–and my imprint is so good about finding a variety of models for me, though they have to work with what’s available–are white dudes who are extremely fit or at least not out of shape.

My imprint and I struggle to find models who are Black, brown, Asian, Fat, older, etc.

It can be a real pain in the ass and defeating.

The lack of variety of models is not the only problem, unfortunately.

If we find Black models, they are usually fitness photos, bodybuilding photos, very catalog-y, or the models are placed in hoodies and look menacing. Sometimes the photos are outright racist in their positioning and use of Black models.

When it comes to Fat models, they are usually eating, or doing something silly so they can’t be taken seriously.

Middle Eastern/Asian models are usually very catalog-y or they are dressed in costume-y clothes (that are meant to look “traditional” but fail). Or they are put in glasses, a suit, and given a piece of tech to post with in the photo. It’s racist.

Older models (not even that old–maybe as young as 45/50) are placed in odd positions or told to do odd things for the photos. For example: could you sit in this wheelchair and let us drape a blanket over your legs even though you look like you just sent a kid off to college and are in the prime of your life?

Don’t get me wrong (again) – I’m not trying to beat down the white, fit models. They’re all incredibly good-looking. And we all need to work, right? I can’t hate on anyone getting their bag. Especially when they often don’t make the decisions or get asked their opinions about diversity.

White, fit guys are hot, too. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that Black and other POC, different body types, and a range of ages, are not available.

When they are, they are not photographed like white, fit models.

They are asked to do silly or stereotypical things so that their photos could never be used for a book cover or editorial pieces. They aren’t allowed to be sexy, serious, or artistic. They’re asked to play a role.

It’s insulting.

It’s not just insulting to the models–though, I can’t imagine how they feel–it’s insulting to people looking to license photos.

How could you possibly want a photo of a Fat model unless they’re eating or doing something ridiculous?

I can’t lay all the blame on the stock photo sites. They often have to decide what to offer based on what freelance photographers have in their books.

Freelance photographers can’t shoulder all the blame because they’re often told what sells and what doesn’t, so they tend to go with white, fit models.

Honestly, I think the blame has to be shared between the sites and the photographers. If sites demanded more variety and diversity in models, and photographers hired a wider variety of models, the problem would be fixed.

If people who license these photos demanded more diversity and variety, and then actually licensed those photos, things would be fixed.

My intention is not to hate on any particular type of model. Again, I just enjoy looking at the men, regardless of their size, shape, color, or age.

Stock Photo Model Day is always the best day, no matter what.

I just wish that more skin tones, body types, and ages flashed across my screen as I was making my decisions.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase