Diverse and Inclusive Photography

Images we use should be truthful representations of our community that accurately include those underrepresented on campus, and used in the right context. Here are some guiding principles and questions to consider when taking or choosing photos.

Be authentic

Wherever possible, collaborate with students, faculty and staff to capture or source photos that accurately depict people, events and activities as they would truly appear. For example, planning photography of a science field trip to promote the Faculty of Science. This approach will result in truthful representation of diversity at SFU.

When photographing or using images captured spontaneously (like the example at right), ensure all identifiable people are informed of the photoshoot and give appropriate consent. When planning/staging photography to capture a specific topic or action, do not attempt to engineer diversity when selecting volunteers. Select volunteers from your community “as they are”.

Faculty of Science field trip

Look beyond skin colour

Showing diversity in our photos can be challenging. Gender identity, religion, mental health and some physical disabilities may not be “seen” but can be portrayed using subtle cues. 

  • Students wearing a cross, hijab, turbin, yamaka etc.
  • The rainbow flag
  • Pins, patches and stickers on backpacks, water bottles and laptops
  • Symbols and signage around campus
  • Signs for gender neutral bathrooms
  • Braille on building entrances
  • Ramps for stairs 
  • Closed captioning examples

Ask questions

Approaching photography with an inquiring mindset will help you recognize bias and increase your ability to make sound and equitable decisions.

Who is missing?

Seek ways to include members of underrepresented and equity-deserving groups, but ensure they are not represented in a stereotypical way.

How many people?

Use images containing more than one person unless the narrative of your story features an individual. This puts less pressure on a single person to represent the topic (e.g. business) or their perceived race, gender, etc. Only use a photo with a single person if they have consented to its intended use.

What are they doing?

Images with a person performing an action reinforces the message of your communication and aligns with our guideline for brand photography. From an EDI perspective, active images are preferred because they reduce pressure on people to represent the topic of the photo—instead, the action is representing the topic. 

Images with passive action, (e.g., people smiling at the camera) are acceptable when active photos are not available or challenging to produce.

Does my collection of pictures support EDI?

Be mindful of not using a single prominent photo on a website landing page or brochure cover photo that includes various aspects of diversity, while subsequent photos do not. Approach photography through an EDI lens by reviewing the collection of photos used in a brochure, website, social channel and other forms of communication.

Who is in the photo?

Better photos include people specific to their topic—for example, the Beedie School of Business would use business students and Athletics would use student athletes. 

Use generic photos only if they align with your message.

Does this picture reinforce a stereotype?

Include members of underrepresented or equity-deserving groups. For example, not all post-secondary students are young adults.

Is anyone being tokenized?

Making a perfunctory effort to photograph people from underrepresented groups to be inclusive in your communications is tokenistic. Also, using the same individuals repeatedly in your photos can be tokenistic. 

Learn more about Tokenism

Inclusive Stock Libraries

Stock photography can effectively support the narrative of your story, but improper use can misrepresent SFU if used indelicately. Consider other more authentic sources of photos before stock libraries.

Browsing inclusive collections such as TONL, nappy, Getty #ShowUs and Jopwell Collection will give you a better idea of what diverse photos should look like, and what it means to be truly inclusive. Be mindful of copyright usage and licensing.