Adventures in Stock Photography

In the last year or so I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing. For 90% of the articles I write I’m also charged with finding an image to go with it. For some slideshow style pieces, I’ve had to find as many as 25 images for one story. This has resulted in me spending A LOT of time looking at stock photography sites.

Now, my biggest complaint about stock photography is that it is often cheesy and super posed and fake looking when I’m looking for something more natural (my guiding question when chosing an image is often something like “have I ever, in real life, seen this many people smiling so cheerfully at a business meeting? Does the air of carefully crafted diversity infused productivity seem legit or like they are all on mood stabilizers?”). This is a prime example:


But then there are other pictures where I find myself trying to imagine how they came to be.

1 Photographer #1: Hey, do we have an adorable gap tooth kid to pose with a totally normal looking school lunch?

Photographer #2: You bet!

Photographer #1: Is the lunch filled with healthy stuff, but like, just thrown in the lunch box? Nothing wrapped up, I hope.

Photographer #2: Loose celery and carrot sticks? Of course. And three pieces of fruit. And a bunch of radishes. Kids are crazy for radishes.

Photographer #1: Obviously.

I also feel like I have to address the fact that if you do a stock image photo for the phrase “pregnant woman eating” you get this:

321I don’t know about the rest of you, but I FOR SURE spent most of my pregnancies thinking about the most effective way I could give myself more gas. Every day, I would put on my white crop top and head to the fridge, where I would not-at-all look like an insane robot standing in front of my fridge, which contained nothing but alarming fresh produce. I’d smile, in a totally natural way, while making myself a huge salad with no dressing. The more broccoli the better, I’d think, listening happily to the sound of farts like machine gun fire ripping out of my ass.

And then there are the pictures where I struggle to understand why they are tagged the way they are. For example:

I search for “feminism” and I get 1,000 images of Rosie the Riveter and then this one:

1Because feminists love (or hate?) mustaches?

Or I search for “hot guy” and find this kindly gentleman:

1He is in a sweater, scarf and hat. I don’t think he is hot in really any sense of the word.

I looked for “kids halloween candy”. This is clearly what I had in mind:

1I have long since learned that any searches involving looking for plus sized women is sure to anger, confuse, or sadden me.

Exhabit A: found while searching “average looking plus sized woman”

1Yep. Just your regular old size 18 Target shopper there, amiright?

I won’t even talk about the horror show that is looking for photos of not-skinny women exercising, except to say that if you belong to gym that just leaves hamburgers laying around on the floor, maybe switch gyms?

1I would comment on the shit show that is stock photos of motherhood, but I can’t compete with the brilliance of It’s Like They Know Us so I won’t even try.

Occasionally I have an article on a saucier topic, which is how I came to be searching through stock photos using the term “threesome”. I think we can all agree that these images capture the sexual energy of a three people engaged in hot, hot sex, right?

1 2 3I like to imagine the guys in the last picture are just finalizing the details of their forthcoming tryst: “Okay, so it is agreed that Carl will be the bottom. Thanks Carl!”

I would share more but I have to go find some pictures related to a “happy marriage”. I’m sure those will be amazing. And totally realistic. Just like this one:

1“Look at it Marge! I put the vegetables in the pan. Have you ever been so tickled in all your life?”

“Oh Roger, you are just a hoot. A HOOT.”

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Stock Photography

  1. M.A. says:

    Could it be that these images are supposed to represent people in another country? Like maybe this is how the folks who design and make Ikea furniture all live. Except, of course, for Halloween candy guy and heavy woman at the gym/slash/hamburger stand. Cause they don’t have people like that in Scandinavia, do they?

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