Representing Hispanic and Latinx People and Culture in Imagery

Celebrate Hispanic and Latinx heritage in your photography and illustrations with authenticity, accuracy, and creative insight.

September 15th to October 15th marks National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, and while you don’t need an annual event to celebrate your ethnic heritage, it’s a great time to honor these respective cultures and educate ourselves on how to accurately represent cultural traditions in imagery. As photographers and visual creators, we have the power to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of the Hispanic and Latinx people and their communities every day in the imagery we create.

What is Hispanic Heritage Month? 

The U.S-centric celebration was meant to recognize, educate, and celebrate the achievements of the Hispanic American community, and to recognize the positive impacts and achievements Hispanic Americans have left on the country. Ancestors of Hispanic Americans came from across the world— from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. 

What is Hispanic Heritage MonthNational Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated in the USA from September 15th to October 15th. Illustration by scoutori.

What’s the difference between Hispanic and Latino?

According to the PEW Research Center, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latinx” are pan-ethnic terms meant to describe people of that ethnic background. The two terms have both been debated by Hispanics and Latino, Latina, or Latinx identifying individuals. Some state that the identification Hispanic is from Spain or from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, while Latinos, Latinas, or Latinx are people from Latin America regardless of language.

Difference Between Hispanic and LatinxHispanic-identifying family in the living room. Image by Monkey Business Images.

Because of these distinctions, it’s important to check with the individual person or persons on how they choose to identify their ethnic background. This is especially important when capturing images of Hispanic or Latinx individuals, and you should always check with your model on their preference before assuming how they identify their ethnicity.

What does the term “Latinx” mean?

The identity label “Latinx,” has emerged over the past few years, and was created as a gender-inclusive choice for Latino and Latina identifying individuals. Similar to other ethnic terms and debates, some critics say that it minimizes the Spanish language and it’s gendered form of speaking and writing, while others recognize Latinx as both a gender- and LGBTQ-inclusive term.

Exploring Latinx Identity and CultureTacos are a favorite pastime amongst these friends in Mexico. Image by Marcos Castillo.

The emergence of the term Latinx partners with a global movement to use gender-neutral nouns and pronouns versus female and male specifics. For the context of this article, we will be using Latinx to describe Latino, Latina, or Latinx identities as a whole.

Why is it important to discuss Hispanic and Latinx culture relating to visual imagery? 

As of 2019, the Hispanic population in the U.S. is 61 million— making it the largest minority group in the country. This number needs to be representative in the imagery that we have in stock, and we need Hispanic and Latinx individuals to be involved in the creation of that content to truly showcase accurate and representative imagery. If we do not have an accurate view of society as a whole in visual content marketplaces, we show a partial and particular view of society. Depicting Hispanic and Latinx culture and heritage in visual imagery in non-stereotypical ways is important to have an inclusive and visually representative marketplace. Visual imagery is a key location for visualizing the true world, which is why this content is so important to be available on stock. 

Todos Juntos, a Shutterstock Employee-Resource Group

This past year, we introduced Todos Juntos, an ERG that supports and brings voices to our Hispanic and Latinx employees. Members have heritage from many locations around the world, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Cuba, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. In speaking with Todos Juntos members about the lack of representation for Hispanic and Latinx culture in visual imagery, members of the group shared key thoughts which should be takeaways for creating and sharing imagery in this space. 

Questions with Todos Juntos on Latinx and Hispanic Visual Imagery

What are the biggest misconceptions you see about Hispanic and Latinx heritage and culture?

Kaori Abe, Field Marketing Manager for LATAM (Latin America). Kaori identifies as multi-racial, Latina, Japanese, and Brazilian: “That they are all the same. Latinx is a broad name, but every culture is a completely different world.”

Lorena Jimenez Serra, Accounts Receivable Specialist. Lorena identifies as Spanish: “As someone who is Spanish and is from Spain, this becomes misunderstood around the world. In the US, Spanish meant I was from Mexico or Latin America instead of from Spain.”

Juan Diaz Morales, Account Manager. Juan identifies as Latino: “I don’t appreciate that people think Latinx people all have the same culture. While we share a lot, we have very big cultural, musical, language, and family differences.”

Abraham Guerra, Software Engineer. Abraham identifies as Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, Ecuadorean, Ecuadorean American, and American: “I don’t see an appreciation for the history and culture.”

Diversity Across ContinentsThere is no one same Latina, Latino, Hispanic, Latin American, Latinx person. Image by SVPanteon.

The role of media and misrepresentation

Sylvia Mendez, Client Success Manager. Sylvia identifies as Latinx: “In the media, there’s a lot of misrepresentation of Latinx folks. For example, I was watching a scene taking place in Sao Paulo. To set the scene, they played salsa music in the background. It was a missed opportunity to highlight great Brazilian genres, such as Bossa Nova or Samba. This is really indicative of the times that the media lumps all Latinx folk together without paying attention to the diversity of the Latinx community.”

What are the biggest gaps in visuals representing Hispanic and Latinx heritage and culture?

Kaori: “The lack of cross diversity. For instance, Hispanic people with disabilities, identifying as LGBTQ+, seniors, or of different body types.”

Lorena: “Different bodies, skin tones, races, and languages. We have so many, and all of them are incredible!”

Juan: “I work in the Scandinavian markets and I often get asked for more diversity in day-to-day situations in the images clients are searching for. Kids organizing their room, kids playing. We don’t have enough diversity when it comes to images of kids.”

Abraham: “The representation of people. The diversity of Latinx individuals includes all shades of skin, textures of hair, sizes, etc.”

Children and Growing Up in Diverse CulturesWe need more images of representative Latinx and Hispanic families in everyday situations. Image by

What do you want to see our stock artists create more of at Shutterstock?

Kaori: “Authentic latin lifestyle. We do have some Hispanic content, but the majority of images are dated. Some new imagery would be awesome!”

Lorena: “Diversity! Something that every single person can identify with.”

Another member of the group suggested that Shutterstock “create more local incentives for contributors in specific geographic areas to apply and share their unique culture through a local lens.”

Diversity in Age and Skin ToneDiversity of ages, skin tones, ages, and abilities should be a priority in the images photographers submit. Image by Diego Cervo.

How would you describe your culture to someone?

Lorena: “Rich, hard, and colonialism beliefs are there but there’s also a feeling of being on the same boat and something stronger that bonds us together as people. Calor, playa, arepas, chipotle, bright colors, music, salsa, friendship, family, and smiles. That means everything to us.”

Juan: “The closeness of our families is a big part of my culture. Regardless of where we are, close or far, la familia comes first, we respect that a lot.”

How Would You Describe Your CultureTraditional tortilla making in Yucatan, Mexico. Image by Leon Rafael.

Abraham: “Latinx heritage is rich with historical accomplishments and leaders. It’s a culture vibrant with food, music, and strong family and social networks. My Latinx heritage is a great source of pride for me.”

If you’re a contributor interested in applying and submitting your work to Shutterstock, click here to apply. For customers interested in learning more about our Hispanic and Latinx imagery, click here to get in touch.

Looking for more articles to read? Check these out:

Submitting Lifestyle Imagery with Shutterstock’s Digital Model ReleasesSeptember Fresh: New Content We LoveWhat is Stock? A Guide to Creating with Stock PhotographyDigital Model and Property Releases for Shutterstock Contributors7 Stock Photographers You Should Follow on Instagram

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