Module 5: Image Workshop

5.3 Reimagining Stock Photos and the Importance of Image

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Stock photography offers an opportunity to think about image and representation in commercial contexts. What sorts of bodies attract and lure someone into a stock photograph and the content it supports? In the context of capitalism and commercialization, what types of bodies are considered ‘marketable’? The idea of ‘marketability’ can be dense and theoretical, but you are touched by the ‘politics of marketability’ in your daily life. Perhaps the related concept of ‘branding’ rings more of a bell. Have you encountered the phrase ‘sex sells’? If so, you have had an encounter with the politics of marketability and clear branding choices. In this case, physical attraction and ‘sexiness’ are being used to sell a product, a lifestyle, and a brand. In speaking about branding businesses, a recent Forbes article states “you can appeal to people’s emotions through branding and make them feel more connected to your company. Branding allows you to build relationships with your audience, which can eventually turn them into loyal customers” (Jones, 2021).

  • How are disabled people, their bodies, and identities mobilized to send a message, and what message(s) do disabled people and their bodies send?
  • What emotions do the bodies of disabled people elicit?
  • How do audiences shape their relationships with brands that use disabled people in their photographic branding?
  • Are disabled people seen as an asset or hindrance when it comes to building connections in branding and marketing?

These are large questions that cannot be fully unpacked in a single Pressbook.  However, we can walk through some analytical skills and learn to be more critical consumers of images.

It is important to develop and apply critical analysis skills to the stock photography we encounter in our everyday lives.  For this activity navigate to a mainstream stock photography website such as Shutterstock ( or Unsplash ( Use the following questions to guide you as you critically analyze a stock photography website of your choosing.  As you work through an analysis of your own, flip the prompt cards over and compare your answers to those in the sample analysis.  How are your own answers similar?  How are they different?

Please note that the analysis offered in the flipcards of this exercise centers the stock photography website Pexels ( and speaks to the images found when searching the website with ‘disability’ as the key term.  You may find similarities and differences between stock photography websites.

Next, let’s take five minutes to explore some stock photography websites that were created to increase the representation of disabled people.  Some examples include Affect ( and Disability:IN ( Answer the following questions and then click ‘check’ and ‘show solution’ to see some sample responses. Just a heads up that what you write here does not save anywhere, so if you want to save your answers, copy and paste them to an external google doc or word document.


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Digital Methods for Disability Studies Copyright © 2022 by Esther Ignagni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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