Creating Imagery That Accurately Represents Disease Outbreak

Coronavirus Images: People in Masks Illustration

These simple tips lay out how to contribute to effective and accurate coverage of outbreaks and disease prevention.

As the latest in a series of high-profile pandemics that have occurred in recent history, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly affecting the entire global community — in the real world and online. With an issue commanding as much attention as the coronavirus, it’s more critical than ever that content creators draw from accurate depictions of the event as it unfolds. Coronavirus images are depicting empty streets, closed-down cities, masks — even images from NASA on how air pollution is changing with transportation restrictions.

Creating Accurate Coverage of Coronavirus

An issue has emerged among stories and reportage that feature images depicting coronavirus and virus prevention. While a disease may start in a particular country or region, effective coverage should not encourage or promote the spread of discrimination against any particular geographical location or ethnic demographic. The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) released a helpful guide on creating and sharing accurate, representative images for coronavirus.

Coronavirus Images: Illustration of Girl Coughing with Masked DoctorsImage by a_compot

At Shutterstock, we encourage both our contributors and customers to share images that provide an accurate depiction and representation of any global health issue, including coronavirus. That means sharing and creating accurate depictions of all demographics and events around the globe.

People around the world are searching for imagery that depicts disease outbreak. But it’s important to stay safe and listen to government restrictions on travel, as well as advice from organizations like WHO on what you should and should not do as a photographer or content creator while coronavirus is on the rise.

Tip 1: Creating Illustrations

Coronavirus Images: Fighting GermsImage by Delook Creative

Illustrations and vectors give you the opportunity to visualize the Coronavirus outbreak in ways that aren’t possible with photographs. With difficult news stories like this, it can be hard for content creators to strike a positive or non-alarming tone using photography alone.

Illustrations are useful for publications catering to children or teens, who need to discuss this issue while also mitigating fear. They’re also a great way to communicate details and statistics in a straightforward, calm manner.

You can create images that depict people receiving health check-ups, wearing masks to depict subjects who are feeling unwell, and washing hands to show the various stages of disease management.

Coronavirus Images: Mom and Daughter Washing HandsImage by Valeriia Naumenko

Tip 2: Depict Social Distancing in Public Places

The World Health Organization recommends at least one meter (about three feet) of distance between yourself and people who are coughing or sneezing. Show this in imagery with the appropriate distance between different subjects within your images.

Tip 3: Images that Show People Washing Hands

Customers around the globe are looking for images that depict infection prevention, including washing hands at home and using hand sanitizers in public places. Images should be modern and usable, with a variety of close-ups and lifestyle images featuring people washing hands to avoid spreading viruses and germs. (Be sure to get a model release for your subjects.)

Tip 4: Images Showcasing Medical Care

It’s recommended to stay home and avoid public places if you’re feeling unwell. So, customers are searching for home healthcare images depicting at-home health care and checkups. For public health care, clients are searching for images depicting health workers wearing masks in medical offices and hosipitals to prevent the spread of disease. 

Image via aseq.

However, take into account this important consideration for depicting masks in images: images that depict people wearing face masks must provide the proper context. Prior to the spread of coronavirus, people in many countries used masks for protection against air pollution. Consider how and why you are using masks in the context of your image.

Tip 5: Variety of Demographics in Imagery

The most important thing to remember when photographing a global health issue is that it is, in fact, a global health issue. Images should be representative of the global population, not one ethnicity or specific demographic. The more variety you can show in your images, the more you can contribute to a global understanding of this disease.

It does appear that specific age ranges show a higher risk of contracting coronavirus. In a February study led by the Journal of the American Medical Association, children (10 and under) accounted for just 1 percent of all COVID-19 cases, whereas adults in the 30-79 age groups represented 87 percent of all cases. The age-related risks may be a reflection of the strength or weakness of the respiratory system. Keep this under consideration when you are creating model-released content.

Coronavirus Images: Man Sneezing in WarehouseImage by Stratford Productions

With regard to gender, at the time of writing there have not been significant findings on any gender being more at risk for the virus. So, it’s important to showcase a variety of genders and ethnicities within your images to represent a global disease outbreak.

Tip 6: Images of Covering Coughs and Sneezes

One of the best things that you can do to prevent the spread of disease is to cover coughs and sneezing into disposable napkins, or sneezing into the elbow instead of the hands. Depict these in your images to show the best ways of preventing the spread of disease.

And, finally, for more ideas on how you can contribute to accurate and effective coverage of the outbreak, see how other contributors are visualizing global health in this collection of Coronavirus-appropriate images.

Top Image by Angelina Bambina.

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