January 12, 2020

Show Me Love:
Visual Portrayals of Modern Romance

The holiday of love is coming up which means it’s time to start thinking about the things people do to show their affections. This often translates to a box of candy from the drugstore, a bouquet of flowers grabbed on the way home from work, or a last minute reservation at an underwhelming restaurant. With the pressured expectations and passive executions associated with Valentine’s Day, it’s no wonder the holiday has suffered something of a cultural disenchantment over the past few years.

Visual media portrayals of Valentine’s Day often showcase the same repetitive empty gestures that perpetuate an oversimplified manner of showing love — which results in a further disconnect from real people working at real love. But there is great opportunity to turn the tide and reclaim February 14th as a day that centers around the real way modern love is shared — via thoughtful communication founded upon respect for individual needs. Representing modern communicative love with authentic, diverse, and art forward Valentine’s Day stock footage + photos can showcase a more accurate and intriguing depiction of the ways contemporary couples share and show romantic love — whether on February 14th or not.

The Languages of Love

Communication tactics in romantic relationships have come a long way since the polarizing methodologies of the past. Even though the massively popular Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus was published just 3 years before Gary Chapman’s 1995 hit The 5 Love Languages, the latter has been sitting pretty on the NY Times bestseller list for the past 8 consecutive years. Why? As modern lovers can attest, communication is paramount for building healthy relationships and approaching effective communication is a bit more nuanced than a simple heteronormative binary can address.

The love language approach suggests that the greatest cause of communication breakdown is that people express love differently from one another and in order to effectively give and receive love, partners need to learn one another’s love language. Most people fall into 5 different love language types:

  1. Quality Time
  2. Words of Affirmation
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Although imperfect in its execution (it still may seem a little over simplistic to put 7 billion people into 5 nicely wrapped communication boxes), the 5 love languages have caught contemporary couples’ attention because they speak to progressive romantic values. The method offers a framework for understanding individual needs rather than grouping people by gender, race, or socioeconomic demographics.

Our imagery can do the same by relying less on the stereotypical young-hetero-male-gifting-his-similarly-caucasian-girlfriend-a-box-of-chocolates Valentine’s Day stock footage + photos, and instead offer realistic depictions of modern lovers sharing their love languages with one another.


For the people that value quality time over all else, Valentine’s Day is about doing something special that is free of distractions. We can take this opportunity to showcase a variety of couples sharing in activities that communicate a thoughtful effort to be together aside from the typical Feb 14 restaurant plans. This can take the form of an adventure together, i.e. a senior couple out for a hike, going camping, taking the chopper out for a rip. Or perhaps it looks like sharing a slow day spent indoors, drinking coffee, reading books, and taking long naps. More imagery of Quality Time >>


Some people value positive affirmations above all, whether written or expressed verbally. Valentine’s day stock footage + photos can take the form of artfully crafted love letters, graffiti scrawled on walls, or letterboard type treatments to convey the concepts of expressed appreciation. In lifestyle applications, showing that beaming smile when a loving text is received speaks to the validity of modern communication technology as a means for sharing love. More imagery of Words of Affirmation >>


For some, gifts have acquired a bad rep as anti-materialism sentiments have grown from an increasingly consumerist culture. When it comes from a good place though, gift giving is still a legitimate way to show love. Some Valentine’s Day presents feel pretty cliché at this point but we can turn that familiar tune on its head and opt for capturing all kinds of people receiving traditional Valentine’s gifts. PSA: Men like flowers too. 
More imagery of Receiving Gifts >>


For a lot of people, the greatest way to communicate love is to take off some of the burden of the everyday without being asked. We can show the extra effort with imagery of common errands like doing the dishes, helping with the heavy lifting, preparing dinner or cleaning the bathtub. Combine those mundane activities with representations of varied partnership structures, keeping in mind that love comes in all shapes and sizes.
More imagery of Acts of Service >>


Some people are all about connection through physical contact. Not just making out, but touch of all kinds. We can take that physical connection a step back and implement imagery that eludes to the concept of touch for something more thought-provoking. A still life mannequin reaching to touch another’s hand offers introspection. An image of a few people hugging with plenty of exposed skin and the omission of faces can lend focus to the subject of touch without distraction and can elude to alternative polyamorous partnership structures. More imagery of Physical Touch >>

Modern love is built upon an evolving communication. Rather than using imagery that speaks to the thoughtless clichés associated with February 14th, we can implement art-forward, authentic Valentine’s Day stock footage + photos that showcase real love in the real world.

Stocksy United is an artist-owned photo + video licensing co-op run by relentless creatives and risk takers. We are motivated by a shared love of visual art, working together to inspire and elevate design that challenges convention. Created by artists, united by respect. ?

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