Weird Stock Photos: A Web Design Industry Secret


You may not know this if you’re not a web designer, but a lot of the pictures you see on the Internet come from stock image services. These services collect photos, graphics, and CGI illustrations from artists and photographers all over the world and license them for commercial and editorial use. Boring, right?

Everyone in our industry works with stock photos to some degree, and it’s a bit of an industry secret (or more accurately, an industry inside joke) that some of these images can be downright hilarious, shocking, and disturbing. And that’s with the adult filter on!

Weird stock photos seem to fall into two general categories: bad CGI, and “what were they thinking” with a pretty significant subset of “crazy eyes.” At some point, an artist or photographer decided that they had a reasonable chance of making money off of these images – keep that in mind as you ponder these oddities.

Cat and Cat Umbrella

Weird Stock Photos: Cat and Cat Umbrella

You could hang this photo in certain student art shows with a title like “Cat Encounters Self” and it would be an interesting commentary on the nature of being and society. The larger question is what’s in the background? An Olympic swimming pool? A solar panel? Possibly a cash register?



Intense Grandma

Weird Stock Photos: Intense Grandma

It makes sense that many businesses would need photos of mature people interacting with technology. The problem with this photo is that no one said to the model, “That’s great, but try to tone down the crazy eyes.”






Snail Hand

Weird Stock Photos: Snail Hand

Honestly, I have no idea. If anyone knows what this is, please let me know in the comments.





Misspelled Message

Weird Stock Photo: Misspelled Eggs

This photo of eggs in a nest was described as “start or go concept with eggs on green grass or straw.” Is there a joke I’m missing here? Maybe “scrambled eggs”? Also, that is definitely not green grass.




Unknown Balloon Animal

Weird Stock Photo: Unknown Balloon Animal

It’s clinging on to that carrot for dear life, so I presume this freaky balloon animal is meant to be a rabbit, but it’s clearly terrified and its ears look like they’re trying to pick up a signal, so my guess is that it’s actually an alien life form poorly disguised as a rabbit.






Too Much

Weird Stock Photos: Too Much

His head is shaped like a potato, he’s surprised but also sticking out his tongue while not expressing any humor – what could anyone possibly do with this photo? Wait, I’ve got it – the most terrifying baby shower invitations of all time. 




Scary Baby

Weird Stock Photos: Scary Baby

Speaking of frightening infants, how about this guy? It was labeled “wacky shocked baby,” but that doesn’t begin to cover it.  This disproportionate hairless wonder clearly has the jaw of a python and projectile eyeballs, and I’m pretty sure he eats people.





Sky Dancer

Weird Stock Photos: Sky Dancer

Someone clearly took a lot of care making this image of a dancing sky lady, and I’d hate to criticize anyone’s artistic expression. So I won’t. But it’s on this list for a reason.







Crazy Pear

Weird Stock Photos: Crazy Pear

This winner incorporates both bad CGI and crazy eyes. And where are those arms coming from? Maybe this is actually a picture of two things – a tiny long-armed monster and the crazed pear he’s trying to capture.



Sexy Hacker

Weird Stock Photos: Sexy Hacker

I found this image with the search term “hacker,” but I’m pretty sure that’s not what hackers actually look like. The image title was “Businessman in pants with keyboard,”  which more likely describes this toned gentleman’s profession,  because I don’t think that most hackers wear ties to work.





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Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

Content Marketing Manager at VIEO Design
As Content Marketing Manager, Emily is responsible for creating and consulting on a wide range of compelling content designed to help our clients better connect with their customers.
Emily Winsauer


Content marketer @vieodesign by day, cook by late afternoon, reader by night, brunch eater by Saturday morning. Also hiker, dog lover, friend, and beer drinker.
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Emily Winsauer
Emily Winsauer

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