The Lack of Diversity in Stock Photos and How Brands Like “Brown Girl Hands” Are Pushing Back

As someone who runs a platform amplifying the experiences and interests of a diverse demographic and uses images  to help tell stories, it wasn’t long before I ran into a problem. Stock photos aren’t diverse. I resorted to using similar images or getting creative and using inanimate objects. You see when people of color say that white skin has been deemed the standard of beauty, that messaging is everywhere. Even down to a simple photo that only depicts hands rubbing in a cream. Those hands are almost always white.

Why is this an issue? There is is inaccurate narrative among adertisements that white is for all but if those ads center someone who is black, for example, there is this thought that this products is only for black people or the conversion rate will not be high. That trickles into images on websites and platforms. A simple Google search of “stock photos of hands and cream” yeilds these results:

Stock Photo Website 1

Stock Photo Website 2

If I expanded to show all of the images from various websites, I see this:

Notice how I did not Google “stock photos of white hands and cream”. I just Google searched hands and cream and this is what populated because Eurocentric standards of beauty are still seen as the default. I would have to be specific if I want more diverse photos by using phrases such as “stock photos of black people and hand cream.” I have to write “people” in this case because if I simply added black, very few people would populate. I do not have to add such phrasing when I want to showcase white hands using a lotion. The results are below.

Website 1

The same top stock photo site from above yeided these results. Where is the hand cream?

When I expand to all images, this is what I get:

Then I stumbled upon Instagram accounts such as Brown Girl Hands, who also combatting the lack of hands in beauty shots.  I know I am not alone in my assessment. Hannah, its owner, stated on the brand’s Heritage page, “

Beyond the features and clients, Brown Girl Hands invites the viewer to reflect on and embrace diversity and inclusion. A social media editor once said she didn’t post Black hands because they didn’t get enough engagement or for some they weren’t ‘aesthetic’ enough. Simply put, Brown Girl Hands proves that brown hands can be beautiful and that people want to see them represented.

Our mission is to diversify the beauty industry through the niche sector of product photography.”

It all seems so simple and surface level, but imagining is important even if the entire body isn’t shown. I thank people like Hannah and her brand Brown Girl Hands for helping keep this converstaion going and bringing awareness that black people and their hands, feet, and legs can also be photographed beautifully and sell product.

Image Credit: Brown Girl Hands

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