Authenticity in LGBTQ+ imagery is vital to creating truly representative images. Use these tips to capture genuine, authentic imagery of LGBTQ+ community members.

No matter what the subject, when it comes to creating authentic content, the key is to move beyond cliches and find the unexpected moments that capture real life. In stock marketplaces, authentic LGBTQ+ imagery can be difficult to find, which makes it difficult for customers to purchase authentic, real imagery, and further complicates the way the LGBTQ+ lives are portrayed by the media.

Though stock photography that reflects the lives of members of the LGBTQ+ community is intended to be diverse and inclusive, these photos often reinforce and perpetuate stereotypes. Imagery that is overtly sexual, or imagery featuring highly defined LGBTQ+ cues, such as rainbow flags and Pride parades, fails to reflect the whole and unique everyday lives of gay and trans people. This needs to change — we need to create imagery that’s truly representative of all aspects of daily life.

This week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees against employment discrimination based on sex. As we move in the right direction and achieve real change, it’s important that we continue to commit to creating and sharing imagery that’s truly representative of the LGBTQ+ community.


Going Beyond the Cliches

How to Capture Authentic LGBTQ+ Content - Representing the LGBTQ+ Community
It’s essential to create imagery representative of normal aspects of everyday life. Image by Addictive Creative.

A quick search for “LGBTQ people” turns up images ranging from two women kissing or two men in bed, to photos that focus solely on the cosmetic appearance of non-binary and transgender men and women. Often, photographs of the LGBTQ+ community show people at events like Pride parades, marches, and protests. That, or the images are overly sexualized.

Instead of being showcased as human beings with hobbies, careers, and relationships, LGBTQ+ people are often defined by their sexual and gender identities.

How to Capture Authentic LGBTQ+ Content - Showcase Everyday Activities
Showcasing everyday activities allows for a more genuine feel to the content. Image by Maskot.

In order to more accurately showcase LGBTQ+ people when creating content, it’s important to move away from sexual and gender-driven content. Instead, get back to what people do in everyday moments, like buying a house, traveling, commuting to work, or having coffee with friends.

When planning a shoot and selecting models, diversity matters. Including models who identify as LGBTQ+ brings a more genuine and authentic feel to the content. The audience will experience a stronger sense of visibility and a positive connection to the story it’s telling.


Show Diversity in the Community

How to Capture Authentic LGBTQ+ Content - Capture the Diversity of a Community
Take pictures that represent the diversity of the community you’re representing. Image by Rawpixel.com.

A lot of stock imagery lacks diversity, and this is also true with the LGBTQ+ community. Often, the LGBTQ+ content that we see predominantly shows white, male models in their early-to-mid-twenties.

When photographing people in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to take pictures that are as diverse as the community itself. This includes older individuals and couples, interracial families, queer youth getting ready for their high school prom, or a middle-aged, non-binary person with their partner.

How to Capture Authentic LGBTQ+ Content - Capture Authentic Moments
Capturing a simple, spontaneous moment demonstrates the authenticity of your work. Image by Annette Shaff.

Be Aware, Not Afraid

If you’re new to capturing images of people in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to be aware of sensitivities like those mentioned above. But, that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to take photos. Be creative, but also be thoughtful, respectful, and diligent when creating a shot, especially with community members who identify as transgender or non-binary. For example, don’t depict trans women with photos of cisgender men (term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth), or depict trans men with photos of cisgender women.

How to Capture Authentic LGBTQ+ Content - Represent Your Subjects Accurately
Represent your subjects accurately and with dignity. Image by Adam Hester.

Remember, your image could be the first representation of an LGBTQ+ person that an audience member has ever seen. A good rule to follow: If you’re not sure about something, don’t take the photo. Instead, do some research and ask someone before moving forward with your shoot.

As a gay woman, I can remember how the lack of authentic and accurate queer visibility impacted me growing up. Seeing yourself represented in the world with dignity is important. When you capture images of the LGBTQ+ community, you’re capturing people.  

Help us share our stories but, at the same time, not own the narrative. Pictures should encompass the full breadth of the LGBTQ+ community, but also move away from strict rainbow branding. It’s about choosing imagery and shot compositions that celebrate our diverse community and help to break down stereotypes. Our goal should be to shatter the erasure that we see in stock photography today.


Cover image by Rawpixel.com.

Looking for more tips on shooting authentic images? Check these out.