A checklist to reduce prejudice

With the help of practitioners, experts and representatives of affected groups we, the Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen, have compiled a list with the most important questions photographers and picture editors need to ask in order to reflect on their own work and to find new, better images.

For photo editing departments

Are the images discriminatory?
When it comes to minorities and topics such as migration, people with disabilities, LGBTIQ*   common mistakes can be avoided: For example, don't use photos that show back views of women wearing hijabs to illustrate “migration”. Don’t use models without a disability to create pictures of people with a disability. Don’t just use pictures of events such as a Christopher Street Day parade to illustrate a story on gay rights.

Does the picture have symbolic value? 
Images that reproduce clichés and stereotypes and thus serve to reinforce prejudices should be avoided.

Is diversity represented?
Diverse images can be used to illustrate general topics such as stories about business, employment, education, family or insurance schemes. Same gender families, people from different ethnicities or with disabilities all serve equally well.

Does a person belong to one group only?
Show multiple affiliations: The woman in a hijab can be a mechanical engineer and a single mother, the man in a wheelchair can be a lawyer and a transgender* person.

Know the context of the picture
When using stock and agency material, the context of images and keywords should always be checked before use, since using the image in another context could be problematic.

When should diversity features be shown, when not?
Images should represent rather than stigmatize. The diversity in our society should be portrayed as it actually is. However, if a picture showing a woman in a hijab, for example stands for a whole group (e.g., all Muslims in Germany), that choice of picture is more likely to reproduce prejudice rather than to depict diversity.


For Photographers

Do you need to question photos and motifs?
When illustrating topics about minorities, always check for clichés (including your own) and feel free to challenge the viewing habits of those who are going to see your work.

Did you take the protagonists seriously?
They are the experts on the realities of their lives. They should decide how they want to be portrayed in which situation. They should have a say in the choice of motif.

How can disadvantaged groups be fairly represented?
It is much better to show your model in an active role or in an interaction, instead of portraying them in a passive (victim) role.

Have you cleared all rights with the models/ protagonists?
The right on how images will be used should be discussed in advance and appropriate consent obtained. If you intend to use the photos you have created elsewhere in the future, it’s advisable to explicitly request and receive the consent of your models by listing all the other possible uses beforehand.

Things to consider when selling to image databases
Keywords should be as precise as possible. This makes it easier to find the images and use them in appropriate contexts to depict a diverse society. Sometimes, however, for photos to be found, they must be tagged with very general keywords such as "foreigner".


Flyer and Poster

The poster is also available for editorial offices by mail. Order it free of charge from info​neuemedienmacher.de


Good Practice: Diverse Image Databases

  • If you’re looking for authentic images that try to avoid reproducing clichés try Gesellschaftsbilder a photo database for editors, media professionals and anyone else who in search of good images. The models and photographers who work for Gesellschaftsbilder work in close cooperation. This intensive interaction distinguishes their results from other photo databases. Gesellschaftsbilder see their models as experts who can decide on questions of representation and authenticity. The photos on this page are from a workshop on non-discriminatory photo reporting organised by the Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen in cooperation with Leidmedien and the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD). 
  • According to Getty Images, their Lean In Collection contains over 10,000 cliché-free images of confident and successful women and girls.
  • The non-profit initiative Women Photograph aims to make women and non-binary people more visible. Their database includes the works of over 1,000 independent photographers from over 100 countries.
  • Vice Magazine’s Gender Spectrum Collection offers non-stereotypical stock photos of trans* and non-binary models. The photos are licensed under a Creative Commons licence, which means they can be used for non-commercial purposes if the images are not altered.