How To Find Stock Images That Accurately Portray Modern Women

Posted on 2/11/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and author of Lean In, is working with Getty Images to try to identify images that portray woman in more empowering ways than many of the stock images of old-fashioned stereotypes found in today’s advertisements and media.

Ms. Sanberg’s nonprofit organization has worked with Getty to create a special collection of 2,500 images culled from Getty’s existing collections. According to Lean In the images selected represent women and families in more empowering ways. Photographers may want to review this collection for shoot ideas.

Both Getty and Lean In staffers were involved in choosing the images. Pam Grossman, Getty’s director of research, who is responsible for tracking demographics and visual trends says about a quarter of the images are new to the agency. The plan is to continue to add photos to this collection.

Jonathan Klein, co-founder and chief executive of Getty, told the New York Times that this initiative is particularly important right now given the surge of image-based communication that has arisen from smartphone cameras and sites and apps like Pinterest and Instagram. “Imagery has become the communication medium of this generation, and that really means how people are portrayed visually is going to have more influence on how people are seen and perceived than anything else,” Mr. Klein said.

This is the first time Getty has jointly created a collection with a nonprofit and shared its licensing revenue. Ten percent of the revenue from the photos will go to

Finding The Collection

To find the collection customers going to must know enough to enter “leanincollection” into the search box and then add additional keywords if they want to narrow their search. So far, there is nothing on the Getty site that tells customers about the availability of the LeanIn collection.

The Leanincollection is not listed among any of the 197 collections in the advanced search tool.

Customers can also get to the Getty collection by going to, but it is hard to imagine that people looking for images to use in a project will make their first stop Lean In. It is unclear if this collection will be promoted in other ways.

Most of the images in the Leanincollection have been pulled from the 11 major collections on the Getty site that I listed in my search return analysis article last week. There appears to be very few Image Partner images represented in the Leanincollection. The Image Bank collection has much better representation than was the case in the search return analysis.

Royalty Split

It is also unclear how the 10% of sales given to Lean In will be calculated. Certainly, many of these images will be found and licensed as a result of doing a normal search on One would think that Lean In would only get a percentage when “leanincollection” is one of the keywords used to find the image.

When it comes to calculating the photographer’s royalties, will Lean In be treated as a Partner Portal with the 10% taken off the top before the image creators percentage is calculated? Or will the royalty be calculated on the gross sale price and the 10% taken entirely from Getty’s share of the sale? If Lean In gets it share upfront then the photographers whose images are selected will be giving up an extra percentage of their royalties.

Advantages For Customers Of Narrowing The Search

This strategy could offer some powerful, time saving advantages to customers that are looking for images that illustrate the Lean In philosophy. Presumably, someone has gone through a major part of the Getty collection and isolated images that promote “women's empowerment.”

For example: 451 of the images have men in the picture, 214 have computers, 413 are in an office environment, 41 are in the kitchen, and 498 show children. Now consider how many images there are in the Getty collection that have those keywords.

  Lean In Total Getty
men 451 1,400,000
computer 214 154,000
office 413 154,000
kitchen 41 57,000
children 498 635,000

The Lean In strategy offers an interesting solution to the image over supply problem the industry faces. In might be expanded to other special interest groups. Various trade organizations or industrial groups could go through the Getty collection on a regular basis and create collections of images they feel are representative of the message they want to convey to the world. Then, rather than doing a generic “Best Match” search their members, or people interested in the their point of view, could more quickly find the images they need. Such a strategy might surface a lot of images that are either buried or overlooked.

One difficulty will be in finding a way to let random searchers know that such collections on topics that interest them exist. In addition editing time will be an issue. Will any of these organizations feel that the imagery used to illustrate or represent their community is an important enough issue to be willing to spend the editing time necessary to separate the good from inappropriate. Evidently, Lean In does.

For an alternative point of view on this initiative read this story in The Guardian.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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