Stock Photo Clichés

Stock Photo Clichés

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Updated Feb 06, 2014 at 11:03PM EST by Brad.

Added Jan 11, 2011 at 03:34PM EST by Don.

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Stock Photo Clichés are a variety of eccentric and seemingly arbitrary themes often found in stock photography, such as “women laughing alone with salad” or “people kissing computers alone.”


Common depositories of stock photographs weren’t easily accessible to public until the arrival of large corporate agencies like Getty Images and Corbis in the 1990s. The market for stock photography has continued to expand in the 2000s with the emergence of microstock photography services[1] like iStockPhoto, ShutterStock and Fotolia, where citizen or amateur photographers can submit their own work for distribution.

The first curation of awkward stock images began with the launch of the single topic blog Awkward Stock Photos in January 2010. Created by Chicago-based graphic designer Mark Hauge[5], the site ran a wide variety of sample stock images handpicked from stock photography websites.


Throughout January 2012, Hauge’s Tumblr blog was written about by several art and tech-related blogs and news sites including GeekSugar, BoingBoing and Paste Magazine among others. The blog was met by another round of concentrated news coverage in February 2010, when the microstock photography service iStockPhoto submitted a Digital Millenium Copyright Act takedown notice to Tumblr regarding Hauge’s site.

The blog continued its publication despite its early hiccup over copyright infringement, but the ironic appreciation for stock photo cliches didn’t become widespread until January 3rd, 2011, when The Hairpin published a compilation of stock photos of women laughing alone with salad bowls. The Hairpin article “women laughing alone with salad” quickly turned into a viral development, generating more than 130 comments and boosting the site’s traffic from several thousands of daily visits to 265,900 daily visits on the day of publication, according to Quantcast.

Quantcast Traffic Stats for

The article received extensive coverage from BuzzFeed[3], Mental Floss[4], Gawker[5], and Metafilter[6] in the following week, as well as getting mentioned by the meta-single topic blog Single Topic Blog of Single Topic Blogs.[15] Soon, additional compilation threads highlighting other strange recurring themes in stock photography began to emerge on Reddit[7] and 4chan[17], as well as feature articles on internet news sites like BuzzFeed[18] and the Huffington Post.

Gender-Specific Themes

Reflecting the viral impact of “Women Laughing Alone with Salad,” several other variations on the theme surfaced in the following months, most notably “Men Laughing Alone with Fruit Salad,” “Women Proud Of Their Two Apples,” “Women Resisting Delicious Cakes and Pies” and “Women Struggling to Drink Water.” The trend of men or women doing awkward things in stock photography was covered by various online communities and publications, such as 4chan[17], Reddit[10], The Huffington Post[9], UpRoxx[8], The Daily What[11] and The Hairpin.[12]

This Week in Ridiculous Stock Photos

Throughout 2011, The Huffington Post ran a weekly series titled “This Week in Ridiculous Stock Photos,”[16] which curated notable collections of sample stock photos on a regular basis. Some of the more notable examples include:

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