Diversity in Cannabis Photography

Cannabis is a fundamentally sensory experience. From the aromas of the terpenes to the visual richness of the different products, your senses are ignited with every interaction. As a cannabis business owner, it’s important to recognize these touchpoints and take advantage of them in your marketing materials.

Yet, if you take a glance around the cannabis marketing landscape, you’ll find that not a lot of brands are showcasing diversity in their marketing material. Part of this is because many brands use stock photography – which is limited, to begin with. Another reason is that despite our best intentions, diversity in cannabis marketing is simply overlooked.

Cannabis photography is one key element that brands use to recreate a sensory experience through marketing. Media assets like product photography or lifestyle images are essential in communicating what consumers can expect before purchasing your products.

In other words, your cannabis photography is a powerful tool to help buyers feel connected to your brand – without ever requiring a purchase.

What is diversity in photography and why is it important?

Diversity in photography means ensuring that your photos represent people from different backgrounds. This includes showcasing different genders, skin colors, abilities, religions, and more.

Representing a variety of people in your marketing is key to creating an inclusive brand. It’s the right thing to do – but it also impacts your sales. If your audience can’t imagine themselves in the lifestyle of your brand, why would they want to buy from you?

If your cannabis brand only caters to able-bodied white people, are you really capturing a large share of a market that’s already saturated? Moreover, are you going to be able to build any sort of brand loyalty or credibility with that approach?

Probably not.

As consumers grow more aware of company values, you may also attract criticism from the industry and your customers for failing to represent diversity in your photography or other media assets.

Diversity in cannabis photography is currently lacking. If your brand can be at the forefront of creating change in that area, you’ll be eons ahead of the competition – and your consumers will reward you accordingly.

How to ensure diversity in your cannabis photography

Of course, it’s easier said than done to commit to incorporating diversity in your cannabis photography. With over a dozen years of experience in digital marketing and a professional team behind us, Cannabis Creative has extensive experience in strategizing and executing a cannabis photoshoot.

Here are our tips for ensuring diversity in your brand photography:

Be aware of stereotypes when incorporating diversity

Sadly, there are far too many images of “diversity” in which Black people are playing sports and Asian people are studying, or women are doing yoga while men are lifting heavy.

Many of these associations come from harmful stereotypes and biases that do not make any progress toward a diverse, equitable, or inclusive industry.

Whether you’re a CBD brand or a cannabis brand, it’s important to consider the real people that may use your products. You have to acknowledge that they are human beings beyond these identifiers and likely take up activities that go beyond the stereotypes.

A great way to become more aware of these stereotypes is by critically examining search results when looking for stock photography. While custom cannabis photography is always recommended, many businesses in their beginning stages will use stock images.

Take a close look at the results when you search for people-oriented photos. Are they stereotypical in some way? Maybe you find that all fitness photos are mostly white men, while all self-care photos are mostly women. How many of the photos only feature able-bodied people? Are there missing groups that you could work to better represent?

The more you tune in to what is in the media around you, the better you’ll become at catching stereotyping in action.

Avoid tokenism when creating cannabis photography assets

Diversity is important. True. However, dropping in a single person to represent that diversity is not only unethical, but it is also disrespectful.

Real diversity comes when you are mindful about including different types of people in your marketing assets, and not just as a one-time thing because you feel like you might get “canceled” otherwise.

Not only does this hurt the vulnerable communities we’re trying to uplift (especially those impacted by the War on Drugs), but it’s also a missed opportunity to highlight how far-reaching your brand truly is.

Start by observing your local community or target audience that you are marketing to. Then take a look at your photos and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there anyone missing or excluded from these shots?
  • Can any models be swapped out for a different type of person?
  • Are you representing different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, and body types?
  • Are any stereotypes being perpetuated in your photos?
  • Can your target audience see someone like themselves represented in your photos?

While it may not be possible to include someone from every single underrepresented category, it’s important to bring in as many as possible to recognize the diversity around you.

Think about what happens behind the lens

Good photography starts before the camera is ever powered up. There’s no denying that bias shows up in photography all the time. Therefore, ensuring diversity in your brand photography involves clear and open communication with photographers and creative directors.

For instance, do they know how to balance the exposure of their shots for darker skin? Can they do justice to the uniqueness of each individual when editing? If you’re using a studio setup, can they adapt scenes and set up for a person in a wheelchair?

These questions are worth considering when determining your shot list and selecting your models. Not only will it ensure that your brand is inclusive from the jump, but it will also keep everyone aligned about your values in the delivery of your final photography assets.

Moreover, you have to consider who is taking your photos. Is your marketing team diverse? Do their experiences and backgrounds support your vision?

According to the British Journal of Photography, “Globally, 70-80% of photography students are women — yet they account for only 13-15% of professional photographers.”

National Geographic photographer Nina Robinson says her photography “opens the discussion of perception and how much of ourselves is driving the narrative because of our own racial and socioeconomic bias.”

That is all to say that when there is a lack of representation on or off screen, it sends a coded message to the audience of who and who isn’t valued by your brand.

Get custom cannabis photography for your brand

Now, if that all sounds complicated to you, you’re right. It is!

Ensuring diversity in your cannabis photography on top of making sure other elements – like lighting, shadow, color, model posing, and more – are on-brand and high-quality is quite the challenge. So, we wouldn’t blame you for wincing a bit at the thought of doing it all yourself.

Our in-house team of professional cannabis photographers takes all of these logistics into account when we do on-site photoshoots, lifestyle shoots, and more. That way, you get custom cannabis photography for your brand without the headache.

To inquire about a photo project, get in touch with us today.