• WORK

Sometimes Keeping it real can be really, really hard.

Truth in Advertising = Truth in stock

Hi my name is Nic., I'm a designer and like the bio says, I am Entrepreneur, Speaker, Consultant and UX Professional located in beautiful Ottawa, ON., CANADA — so obviously I play Hockey.

We have clients in Australia, Canada, the U.K and in the U.S. so the hours aren't exactly 9 to 5. Scheduling meetings around time zones and hockey games is especially hysterical to our Aussie clients.

Recently, after one of our games the conversation turned to sports; in particular, Cleveland baseball. "I mean, is the name really racist? They've had the name forever, It's a tradition and they should just stop complaining about it," was the prevailing tone.

Sometimes keeping it real can be really, really hard.

They've had that name forever, it's a tradition and they should stop complaining about it.

This post isn't about whether or not the name and logo are racist or not because, it is. The discussion after the game got me thinking about perspective and how we see things so instead, this post is actually about diversity or the lack of it in today's stock options.

Over the past 2 decades I've presented 100's of design comps with 1000's of stock options. Some time ago, I made the decision to use different races and ethnicities, different shapes and sizes... you know, real people. And what I've learned from this is, keeping it real is really hard.

Stockfresh is a small stock photo agency that provides photos and vector illustrations at a more reasonable price than iStock or Shutterstock. Mad Geek Love focuses on Entrepreneurs, StartUps and Small Businesses with smaller budgets so Stockfresh has always been a great option for our clients but, what about those different races and ethnicities?

Let's take a look by searching: Professional Business Woman.

A total of 64, 440 images with 95 image listed on page one. At a glance there are :

  • 73 Caucasian woman
  • 6 African American woman
  • 11 Asian woman
  • 5 Hispanic woman

Okay but, upon closer inspection the numbers might actually be a little better for diversity, I think, maybe?

You see, the issue is that most of the Asian and Hispanic women seem to have been photographed with some sort of Caucasian filter.

Young hispanic business woman showing copyspace. Isolated on white background.

The Results

When these 3 images showed up I almost forgot what we were searching for because Professional Business Woman isn't what initially came to mind.

And then there's this...

For the record, switch Professional Business Woman to Professional Business Man and there are only:

  • 3 African American men
  • 0 Asian men
  • 0 Hispanic men

In fairness, stock photography companies can't take all the blame. After all, they're in the business of selling images.

So what about the decision makers, the clients?

Wandering the planet in search of nice things. God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time.

- Ecclesiastes 3:11

Unsplash provides beautiful, free images gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers. I'm on the Unsplash website daily and have recently become a contributor.

With over 90,000 photographers and creators you're more likely to find those real people mentioned at the start of this post.

So, when asked to create a fictional website template for a Nature Photographer and Blogger, I recommended the following images from Unsplash but was told, "I'm not really feeling her as a Nature Photographer."

Sure, okay, makes sense? All that nature, the camera, the free-spirt; it lacks authenticity is what you're saying?

And for those you keeping score at home...

I'm not a nature photographer

and I am a business professional.

If I had my way, I'd use a professional photographer for each and every project but,  I understand it's not always an option.

So that means we're stuck with stock. I know, stock photography sucks!  Cheesy headsets, fake poses and smiles and worst of all, they're expensive, right?

Well, actually there’s been a growing number of websites with beautiful (and mostly free) stock photography popping up all over the web.

Here's a small list of alternative stock sites to get you started.

Unsplash offers a large collection of free high-resolution photos and has become one of the best sources for stock images. The Unsplash team combs through new submissions and features the very best photos on their homepage. All photos are released for free under the Unsplash license.



Dr Faith Uwadiae

Search  “Women of Color in Technology” and you'll notice a huge deficit of images displaying "Women of Color in Technology".

Stephanie Morillo + Christina Morillo decided to do something about it

Enter WOCINTECHCHAT, stock photos that put a face to the women of color in tech.

New Old Stock provides photos from the Public Archives and are free of known copyright restrictions. The collection is curated by Cole Townsend.



The Amazing Pattern Library by Tim Holman + Claudio Guglieri is an on going project that compiles patterns shared by the most talented designers out there for you to use freely in your designs.

Calling all StartUps, this one is for you. Startup Stock Photos offers free stock imagery for any purpose. Startup Stock Photos is curated by Eric Bailey + Sculpt.



Eye for Ebony is a lifestyle stock photography company that focuses on African American models. The community of over 200 models nationwide helps provide diversity in more ways than just race including age, body type & hair texture.

Black is beautiful & it deserves to be photographed.

Designed and developed by the digital flophouse that is madgeeklove and proudly based in Canada's Capital.

© Copyrights are mostly ego...

Bonjour Aloha, Hola, Olá and Hello. I am an Entrepreneur, Speaker, Consultant and UX Professional located in beautiful Ottawa, ON., CANADA.

Nicolson Aitken

Nicolson Nic. Aitken

Sometimes Keeping it real can be really, really hard.

Truth in Advertising = Truth in stock

Sometimes Keeping it real can be really, really hard.

Truth in Advertising = Truth in stock

In closing...

My 15 year old bi-racial daughter plans on being a doctor one day so, let’s stop showing her that Professional Women look like this.

and more like this.

Beautiful smiling sexy nurse standing and posing on white background. Looking at camera.


Immunologist @TheCrick | Lover of all things B cell and Tfh related       | Working on Malaria | Huge advocate for promoting BME diversity in STEM | Always accepts

Michelle Watts,Ph.D.


#StudentSuccess Professional. #YA & #BlackGirlhood researcher. #CASAVolunteer. Married to @WattsSoccer. Tweets are mine, all mine.

And this.

Sometimes keeping it real can be really, really hard.

But not impossible!