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Why Don't SparkPeople's Images Feature People Who Look Like Me?

259SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  197 comments   :  30,948 Views

"We're looking for women who have a shape like the rest of us in reality. We're not the size 4. REAL LIFE MODELS, PLEASE."

"A little disappointed that SparkPeople chose this image to accompany the article. That woman is strong, beautiful, and probably around a size medium, which is well below the average size in the U.S. I'm happy you published the content of this article, but please be cognizant of images and the messages they send."
 
"I wish SparkPeople would do a better job of using "real people" photos for their articles, and modifications for the less fit, less flexible and older members." 

"What in the world happened to that woman? She is so thin she doesn't look like she could stand, let alone cook. Is this SparkPeople's idea of a good role model? Even the runways now are requiring models be a healthy weight. How about SparkPeople following this trend?" 
 
When SparkPeople members speak, we listen. We've made many changes over the years based on suggestions and feedback from our members, and we take pride in the fact that we care about the user experience and are constantly working to improve. If you've ever thought or commented on an article with sentiments similar to the real member comments above, you too might be wondering why we consistently feature average-sized or even thin models in our article and blog images. We're not ignoring your feedback—the root cause is actually a bigger problem with stock photos in general and it is one that we struggle with regularly.

As part of the article and blog writing process, we create "header" images that go at the top of each piece to attract and entice the right reader to content that will benefit their healthy living journey. When it's time to create an image, we rely on websites like Adobe Stock, iStock or Shutterstock to find images that adequately represent the information included in the article. As a small company, we don't always have the time and resources to take our own photos, so we pay a fee to license the ones we use. Sometimes we get lucky and find a quality photo right away, but other times it takes a whole lot of digging to find a photo that is a good fit for the piece. This is where things can get a little tricky.

I, for example, recently wrote a piece about plus-sized workout modifications. I went to one of the sites listed above and searched for the keywords "overweight exercise." Although the search came back with thousands of results, many were not appropriate for a variety of reasons. Here are a few examples:
 
 

This man looks sad to be exercising—not exactly an image that makes a reader want to jump up and run to the gym.



Not sure if this is meant to be funny, but I wasn't laughing.



I'm not sure any chart would consider this woman overweight.



Once again, not exactly motivational.

The standard of beauty represented in typical stock photos can be unattainable at worst and discouraging at best. As these examples show, many photos of those who don't fit society's definition of "fit" are presented in a cartoonish or joking way, instead of being just a regular person with a body that's relatable and real.

SparkPeople makes a conscious effort to celebrate people of all shapes and sizes, and the images used on our site are no exception. We know and embrace that every body is different and strong in its own ways, so wading through photo after photo of stick-thin models for an article about how to lose 50 pounds is frustrating to say the least. Historically, content on our site performs better when the majority of our readers find it relatable, too. A more recent example was the SparkPeople blog about Curvy Yoga, which featured pictures of a real person with a relatable body doing all of the exercises rather than a stock model whose imperfections have been magically Photoshopped away. Members voiced their appreciation for seeing someone like them successfully performing the recommended workout in the form of comments and clicks.

In some ways, the trend seems to be shifting. Ashley Graham was the first plus-sized model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated's 2016 swimsuit issue. Tess Holliday is considered one of the first plus-sized supermodels and works to be a body-positive activist. More brands are embracing plus-sized models because people want to see individuals that look like them doing the activities and wearing the clothes advertised. Hopefully, this shift will soon extend to stock photos, giving us more options from which to choose when it comes to images for our content.

Does it surprise you that there are still limited options for stock photos? How would you handle it if you were in charge of picking images for SparkPeople?


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Comments

  • 197
    THIS ARTICLE THOUGH IS HAS SOME GOOD INFORMATION DOES NOT HAVE VERY ENCOURAGING PICTURES. - 12/3/2017   1:03:13 PM
  • 196
    "She is so thin she doesn't look like she could stand, let alone cook." Do you not see how that is insulting to say? First the female in the photo looked great thin but not to thin. I would love to look like her I did look like her but with a little more hips. She is not ill looking she is not to thin to stand. I have so much issue with someone that is saying "hey don't judge me because I weigh more but that skinny bitch has to go"
    Pot calling kettle!! - 11/7/2017   12:57:33 AM
  • 195
    Why not ask Spark members to provide photos of themselves that you could use to build your own stock library? You could offer some form of reward - financial or otherwise. - 10/31/2017   6:42:45 PM
  • 194
    Why don't you build your own stock? How about having a few photo contests themed towards the kind of things you usually need photos to represent? There are lots of good photographers on SP, and I'm betting few would think twice about releasing their photos for use on the website with credit. You could give SparkGoodie Points and/or free premium membership for a month as prizes. Win-win! - 10/18/2017   11:30:29 AM
  • 193
    I don't think we should see pictures of unhealthy sized people in the articles. We are surrounded by unhealthy sized people. I think this is a tough issue because so many people's self worth is wrapped up in their weight. So if I say it's inappropriate for a site focused on health and weight loss to use plus sized models, then people get their feelings hurt and feel like I"m saying anybody who isn't thin is "worthless" when I'm not saying that.

    The reality is, Sparkpeople doesn't exist to validate your current weight. Also, the model in this article looks great and fit. Whether or not you believe that result is possible for you, I don't think showing images of people who have let themselves go or who are examples of not healthy is productive to the supposed goals of the site. (you either let yourself go or you have a condition which prevents weight loss. You can't have it both ways.) I'm tired of all the politically correct nonsense. Everything in life is not about your feelings.

    Also, let's please stop pretending "real women" are all fat. It's incredibly shaming to normal weight and thinner women. ALL women are REAL women. But when your goal is weight loss, fitness, then your role models need to be healthy and fit. Not overweight or obese. I get that it's all a process but when I see motivational images I need to see the FINAL PRODUCT so to speak and not "this is what everybody looks like 3 weeks into this process."



    - 9/18/2017   2:28:43 PM
  • TRIMNUP
    192
    I appreciate this article.I can dismiss a photo I don't agree with, but read all articles due to their title promise of content that may be helpful to me. I understand the comments that I read. It helps me understand where others are coming from. I regret that some of the complainers did not offer a solution to what they felt is a problem. I appreciate the ideas some did offer. I think teamwork is part of being SparkPeople. Thanks to all SP staff, for all that they do with limited resources. - 9/18/2017   9:32:44 AM
  • 191
    How about having a contest with members of SparkPeople? We can send in pics and those who make the cut get a free tracker or other item. Have different categories for different types of articles. With the quality of our cameras on our phones and all the touch up software available I am sure you can get some quality images. - 9/18/2017   9:11:25 AM
  • 190
    It shouldn't be about "what's in." It really should be about achieving health. I disagree with the author of this article. The photo does represent a fit, healthy female body. Because that is not the norm in our society now, does not mean it cannot be depicted. I encourage everyone to achieve their best health. This involves a healthy weight, good quality sleep, managing stress, incorporating physical activity into life. - 9/18/2017   7:49:04 AM
  • PLCHAPPELL
    189
    Interesting perspective. - 9/18/2017   5:02:19 AM
  • 188
    Can you ask people who write the articles to submit photos to go with it? They might not all be usable, but could add to your "bank" of useful photos. - 9/18/2017   1:37:42 AM
  • 187
    I'd prefer before, mid and after shots to show what can be achieved. - 9/17/2017   11:43:11 PM
  • 186
    Thank you for creating the SparkPeople community and for the informative articles. While I haven't noticed any images that bother me, since you've raised the issue I will say that RIDETBRED, B-GINAGIN, and ARROWDEL make good sense. You've given to the community; maybe we can give back to you!
    - 9/17/2017   9:30:56 PM
  • 185
    Personally, I like images that match my goal body size. I find them stimulating as they are role models. Seeing someone chunky is NOT the image I seek. I find that the before/after pictures in the Community Feed is great because it shows me how others have succeeded, and it reminds me that I can get there too. When I go to my aerobics classes, I want fit instructors who can show me the muscles I need to work. I don't want to guess, because their muscles are behind fat! Same for advertisements, I want a healthy body. But I don't want to see rolls of fat. I also don't want to be able to count their ribs! It's a healthy look that I want, and need for my motivation. - 9/17/2017   9:29:19 PM
  • 184
    Love reading the comments. - 9/17/2017   8:24:36 PM
  • 183
    I've found great stock photos, but you need to enter the right search terms. Entering "plus size" pulled up a number of photos, including some empowering ones featuring models working out. They are arguably in better health than thin people who don't exercise. Health and fitness should be our greatest goals, with smaller jeans sizes as a bonus. :-D - 9/17/2017   7:31:00 PM
  • DMEYER4
    182
    very informative - 9/17/2017   5:53:48 PM
  • 181
    What I love about spark people the most is seeing the real people on spark showing pictures before and after of themselves When they have lost whatever Weight, whether it be 10-100 pounds. It's motivating to me I love the real pictures. The photoshopped ones are mannican shots which is fine to me. It's okay and not offensive at all for me to see the dream body but my favorites are the members ! - 9/17/2017   5:45:12 PM
  • 180
    People will always find something to gripe about. - 9/17/2017   5:38:03 PM
  • AZMOMXTWO
    179
    who cares about the pictures the article was very informative thank you - 9/17/2017   5:09:23 PM
  • ARCHIMEDESII
    178
    It's true. I searched on "overweight exercise" and found a large amount of negative pictures. However, when I searched on "plus size exercise" , the very topic you mentioned that you were writing about, I found lots of positive images of larger sized people enjoying exercise.

    The term overweight does have a negative image attached to it where as plus sized is more positive. Now maybe that's just twisting the words around, but showing plus sized people who enjoy their workouts might encourage more people who want to lose weight and be healthy to start working out.

    I don't know what the legal issues are, but it seems to me if Spark is looking for more positive images of plus sized people working out (and loving it), they should look at the Community Feed. Many members have posted photos of themselves doing a workout.

    Let's showcase more members if there aren't enough positive free images that can be used. I'm sure the ones you're using now are not copyrighted.



    - 9/17/2017   4:23:32 PM
  • 177
    I don't understand the negative thoughts of some Sparkers. We get everything FREE that some sites charge a fortune for! I can't believe some people! This article is a keeper! Thank you for caring and sharing! I am a very grateful Sparker! - 9/17/2017   3:21:13 PM
  • 176
    I just feel that sometimes we let too many things upset us in general. I am more focused on what Spark People does to help me be healthy that what the photos look like with their articles. I'm just saying....maybe that is the problem and not so much the pictures. - 9/17/2017   2:26:11 PM
  • 175
    I can't believe that people are so concerned about an image in an article! If a picture of a fit person in an article is that disappointing and demotivating, then just focus on the content of this article. It would be nice if all media represented each and every one of us, but it doesn't and probably never will. Move on and focus on your own goals. - 9/17/2017   2:01:22 PM
  • 174
    A couple people complained that this is a recycled article. I don't know how that can be when this blog is dated 7/17/17! Also, I can't believe the amount of negativity! Let's be thankful that we have a site like Spark People that offers so much for zero dollars!

    I do understand some of the frustration voiced in the introductory comments. I tried to make a Vision Board once as an activity recommended by Spark Coach, but quickly gave up because all of the pictures I came across were of women that were in their 20s. I am 65 and so I could hardly relate! Overall, it was not a game changer for me. I gave up on the idea of a Vision Board, but I still embrace all of the other things here on Spark People.

    Lets be grateful and thankful for SP and everyone who positively contributes! - 9/17/2017   1:42:02 PM
  • ROBBIEY
    173
    Very nice - 9/17/2017   11:53:22 AM
  • 172
    Thanks for the article. I appreciate photos that show a diversity of people being active and trying to get fit. Thanks for making the effort. I particularly am inspired by Before and After photos in your success stories. I'm disappointed that so many responders seem to want to only look at perfect (and UNREALISTIC) bodies! There is an amazing diversity of shapes and sizes that are HEALTHY -- from muscular, short and solid, pleasingly plump, thin, flat chested, curvy. - 9/17/2017   11:36:54 AM
  • 171
    Interesting article!!! - 9/17/2017   11:17:31 AM
  • 170
    What would I do? Stop being cheap and take my own photos. You're a small company, but not a broke one. Your SparkCoach videos are well-done, if low-budget, and you could do the same for photos. - 9/17/2017   10:57:12 AM
  • 169
    Perhaps the Sparkpeople team could put up a picture request among the members and then request use of them when appropriate to articles.
    A few examples:
    Let's see your motivational face
    Let's see your favorite exercise
    Let's see your favorite healthy meal
    Let's see your worn out equipment (holey shoes, towel, etc)
    Let's see you in an old outfit that is too big now
    Let's see you take your favorite measurement (waist, arms, legs, wherever you are proud of)

    It would be fabulous to see ourselves in these articles, and I'm sire you could get a variety with these requests.
    - 9/17/2017   10:02:07 AM
  • 168
    I already knew how terrible my image was when obese, or "Fat", I would not be inspired to read an article if the image accompanying was someone like me. I want to see thin, I want to work toward that.
    No problem with this image to me.
    There's so many obese people on the streets, in everyday life, it's an over load of obesity.
    We need more inspiring photos of healthy people.
    Tisha
    - 9/17/2017   9:33:05 AM
  • RO2BENT
    167
    It's a shame - 9/17/2017   9:17:06 AM
  • 166
    I was disappointed to read that you make this decision not based on principles but because that's what's available.
    I would have rather you told us to "suck it up buttercup"-this is what healthy looks like. I do NOT want to see overweight models, that is not motivation. It's kowtowing to a complacent mindset. - 9/17/2017   8:21:20 AM
  • 165
    I work in sales and marketing so this makes total sense to me. But times are changing and they are using more reasonable sized models now, so maybe there will be more realistic pictures soon. - 9/17/2017   8:09:30 AM
  • 164
    I would post thin bodies --but perhaps not as thin as the movie stars look--- We need something to strive for---- but honestly--some pictures look gaunt! - 9/17/2017   8:03:38 AM
  • 163
    Since I'm 68, I remember when I was growing up there were FEW fat people unlike today and being "slim" WAS normal. That picture of the woman in the white outfit isn't "too skinny." We just have a society today with way too many fat people which has led us to being unhealthy. Yes, when I was a kid, we went outside and played, rode bikes and had fun. Today kids sit inside and watch TV or play video games. We also only ate at mealtime. Sparks needs to keep sending the message that being fit and a "normal" weight is healthy. - 9/17/2017   8:00:40 AM
  • 162
    I would take my own photos. - 9/17/2017   7:35:17 AM
  • 161
    With limited resources since this is mostly a free site, I'll simply say Thank You for making this available to so many without charge. The photos don't bother me no matter if they are trim, slim, fat, chunky, fit, old, or young. We come in all sizes, shapes, and from countries throughout the world. Most of us want to be fit and healthy with emphasis on healthy rather than thin or skinny. It amazes me when people start complaining about a FREE web site that helps them along on their journey. It's real simple. If you don't like it, try one of the others, perhaps it will suit you better. If SparkPeople makes a little off of advertising, so what? They have to pay the employees and last I heard, there is no PayPal button or GoFundMe page to help them out. The premium option has only come into being over the past few months. Prior to that, for *years*, this site has been free to use. How about we show some appreciation instead of complaining? *Usual disclaimer, comments are my own, no disrespect directed towards any one from any nation.* - 9/17/2017   6:20:32 AM
  • 160
    I think that you could easily ask for volunteers who are on your website who would be more than happy to be photographed for the site. Just ask for volunteers and see what happens.

    Someone has posted a comment about wanting to see instructors being slim (I refuse to use that word thin because this equates with unhealthy to me). I agree that this is true because we don't want instructors who can't show us what a healthy body should look like. It would send the message that they are not following through with their own advice. So, yes, slim bodies are okay for instructors in my mind but overweight bodies are also okay when showing us how to do a certain exercise because one can look at that body and say "if they can do that then so can I". - 9/17/2017   3:21:10 AM
  • 159
    You wrote a whole article of excuses. That is not the spark way. - 9/17/2017   3:19:15 AM
  • 158
    This article is back again. Thin IS in; overweight is not normal. This article seams to cycle through every month. Perhaps it is time to retire it. I do not believe showing unfit people will be inspiring. - 9/17/2017   3:13:34 AM
  • 157
    Any volunteers for 'normal looking body' models?


    Uh...I think the key here in this article is that you 'HAVE TO HAVE PERMISSION to use them'. They can't just go ANYWHERE and use ANY photo. - 9/17/2017   2:42:30 AM
  • 156
    It has been a while, but I read this article some time ago and had forgotten it. I liked re-reading it, as I realize by doing so how much I've changed since then! - 9/17/2017   1:04:52 AM
  • 155
    There are PLENTY of POSITIVE and inspiring images of larger people exercising (and smiling while they do it)! This article lends the appearance of manipulation (not so subtle, either). PLEASE try just a little bit harder and omit attempts to excuse being out of touch with the average "Sparker"! I know you can do better than that! Thanks so much for all you do and I still believe you sincerely care about helping people along the path to wellness. Much appreciated! - 9/2/2017   12:45:19 PM
  • 154
    Seriously? - 8/29/2017   11:38:04 AM
  • BONDMANUS2002
    153
    good stuff - 8/25/2017   4:22:16 PM
  • BONDMANUS2002
    152
    good stuff - 8/25/2017   4:22:16 PM
  • 151
    This is a great article - 8/24/2017   12:36:46 AM
  • 150
    Thanks for an interesting article - 8/20/2017   12:24:52 AM
  • 149
    Hey - I love Spark and I don't really mind the pictures of the thin people exercising. But if you wanted great pictures for articles of regular people exercising. You can find a whole slew of them at realbodyfitness.org - 8/15/2017   2:45:25 PM
  • 148
    In this article, the only overweight people shown are men. Why? - 8/15/2017   11:00:54 AM

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