August 29, 2013 | Emily Winsauer

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.

Weird Stock Photos: Cat and Cat UmbrellaCat 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?


Weird Stock Photos: Intense GrandmaIntense 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.”




Weird Stock Photos: Snail HandSnail Hand

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




Weird Stock Photo: Misspelled EggsMisspelled Message

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.



Weird Stock Photo: Unknown Balloon AnimalUnknown 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.




Weird Stock Photos: Too MuchToo 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.



Weird Stock Photos: Scary BabyScary 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.



Weird Stock Photos: Sky DancerSky 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.




Weird Stock Photos: Crazy PearCrazy 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.



Weird Stock Photos: Sexy HackerSexy 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

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer was responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients for over 5 years. She recently moved to Seattle where she's still creating compelling content in her new role.

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