In my efforts to improve the quality of my publications, I’m always on the lookout for stock photos to put on my covers. Unfortunately I find that the selection is limited when it comes to images of African-Americans and the African-American experience.
Over the past few years I’ve done dozens of searches for Images of African-Americans and I haven’t liked what I’ve seen. In those limited selections of to African-American photographs, the pictures the selection is just weak. None of the pictures tell a captivating story in a single image.
Most of the photos of White people in stock photos are active. Their pictures tell strong stories that an artist can build a cover on.
But most of the Black photos either have flat action or weak composition.
For example, when I was looking for an image of a nude for the cover of All About Marilyn, there were next to no Black female art nudes in the stock section of some sites. And the few that were there didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell.
However, the White female art nude section had dozens of great images. Images that told great stories. Stuff I could have used if the model was African-American.
When I was looking for an image of a Black man in a Tuxedo for the cover of The Tempation of John Haynes I couldn’t find an image of a well-dressedBlack man with a Black woman to save the life of me.
However, I easily found images of White guys and Hispanic guys in tuxes. And images of them in romantic and seductive poses.
A couple of months ago I was looking for a stock photo of a Rich Black woman or a Black teenager for the cover of All About Nikki, It was an exercise in frustration.
Even my efforts to find stock photos of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Ancient Egyptian symbols and Afrocentric symbols was a nightmare.
And just this week I was looking for a picture of some Black college girls for Book #7. I could find dozens of pictures of White College girls on campus doing a dozen activities. On the Lawn, walking around campus, In the dorms, carrying books, in class, in the library or studying
But when I typed in Black college girls. I got next to nothing. Just a few photos of Black girls sitting at a desk or at a computer. And most of those images were uninspired.
The search got even worse when I typed in Sorority houses. When I typed in just plain old Sorority houses, dozens of pictures of White girls came up. But When I typed in African or Black in the search bar along with sorority house, not a single photo came up.
People wonder why I draw my covers. The stock photo shortage is one of the reasons. Many of the stock photo places don’t have a diverse enough selection of African-American stock photos. Most of the activities being depicted in stock photos featuring Black people are so generic that it’s hard to create a compelling story with them.
I know it sounds like a trivial issue, but covers are the first thing readers see. And I’d love to offer better quality covers. But I can’t create better covers if the stock photo places produce bland pictures that tell next to no story in them.
If I was making some serious money, I’d start my own African-American centered stock photo business. The whole thing would focus on creating and selling stock photos, clipart and vectors of African-Americans Afrocentric themes, and African-American life. It’d be a place where Black authors and artists could find products for their book covers, eBook covers, flyers, newsletters and other desktop publications. I think it’d be a venture that would do blockbuster business. I just wish I had the start-up money.
But until then, I’m urging all the stock photo places to diversify their selection of African-American stock photos. People of color lead very active social lives and those stories need to be told in pictures. Maybe if they offered a much larger diversity of African-American stock photos, more African-American publishers would buy photos to use on the covers of their paperbacks and eBooks.