Stock Photography

Stock Photography

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Updated Oct 18, 2021 at 02:39AM EDT by Autumn Able.

Added Apr 24, 2015 at 04:25PM EDT by Max.

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Stock photo of a space aged woman wearing some kind of metal band over her eyes and holding a stalk of corn on the cob, the the Dreamstime logo over the image


Stock Photos are photographs created specifically for the purpose of commercial licensing. Because of the need to create photos that will suit a wide variety of situations, photographers and agencies creating stock photos often include images that play off of cultural stereotypes and cliches. Stock Photos are known for their crude illustrations of everyday life and numerous instances where they illustrate very unusual situations.


Stock photography dates back to the mid-1880s, when the half-tone printing press was invented for use by newspapers to reproduce photographs. When an event could not be photographed or the photographs could not be transmitted fast enough for the newspaper, the stock photos were made to recreate the event.

In 1920 a company called RobertStock was founded, which was the first major stock photography vendor. The popularity of stock photography grew in the 1980s when stock photographs were first made available via widely distributed photobooks, such as "Sell & Resell Your Photos." The first Internet stock photography vendor was iStock, founded in 2000. Notable stock photography sellers include Getty Images,[1] Shutterstock[2] and iStock.[3]

black and white photo of gentleman from Robert Stock Photography from the 1920's

Online Presence

Stock photos are often mocked online for their surreal or unrealistic portrayals of everyday life. Stock Photos are commonly captioned, edited or used as reaction images on sites like 4chan, Reddit or Tumblr.

Stock Photos grew in online popularity when the Awkward Stock Photos single topic blog was created on Tumblr, featuring various odd or out-of-context stock photos. The blog's content was quickly taken down by a cease-and-desist order from iStockphoto (shown below), although the blog continued later on. The blog and the DMCA takedown was covered by various news media websites like TechDirt or Buzzfeed, increasing the blog's popularity. The concept of the blog inspired other single topic blogs on Tumblr, such as WTF Stock Photos[7] and Overly Specific Stock Photos.[8] [9]

Awkward stock photos on tumblr in January 2010

On January 31st 2012, the r/stockphotos subreddit was created, but was replaced by r/wtfstockphotos a day later.[4][5] Both subreddits were made to share stock photos that users found funny, awkward or bizarre. As of April 2015, the subreddit has over 19,000 readers. On October 31st 2013, the r/youdontsurf was created, where users took stock photos and captioned them. [6] As of April 2015, the subreddit has over 165,000 readers.

Captioned Stock Photos

Captioned Stock Photos are a series of stock photos with captions depicting vulgar dialogue between the models in the photograph, often using the Comic Sans font. These types of images are often shared on the r/youdontsurf subreddit and Tumblr.

dad and daughter playing video games and he thinks it is an FPS but she is playing Club Penguin

Stock Photo Clichés

Stock Photo Clichés are a variety of themes commonly used in stock photography, such as people looking at their food while laughing or old people using computers.

GIF slideshow of Cliché stock photos of woman laughing at their salad

PornHub Comments On Stock Photos

PornHub Comments On Stock Photos (NSFW) is a series of stock photos of people using laptops captioned with various comments found on the adult video website PornHub, originating from the single topic blog of the same name.

middle aged man weirdly planking and asking no-homo questions online like what are good names for black guys online

Hide The Pain Harold

Hide The Pain Harold is the nickname given to the Hungarian senior stock photography model András Arató, whose facial expression appears to show discomfort. Photographs including the model are commonly used as reaction images and are often edited on the r/youdontsurf subreddit.

András Arató drinking coffee at his computer as Hide The Hurt Harold

Identifying Wood

Identifying Wood is a book written by R. Bruce Hoadley. The book's cover shows a middle-aged man examining the texture of a slab of wood with a microscope. This image has spawned many edits which manipulate either the book's title, the slab of wood or the man studying it. The first edits were uploaded to the website FARK upon request on a thread titled "Photoshop this guy and his wood".

Yep Its Wood - identifying wood book cover


Stocking is a photo fad where people take pictures of themselves imitating various stock photos, and post them with the photo they were imitating for comparison.

example of stocking, old woman with her bicycle bounty and a kid mimicing her in a funny way


STOCKTALES is a viral YouTube video created by Sr Pelo using stock photography. It has spawned several fan parodies and remixes.

I Bet The Jews Did This

I Bet The Jews Did This is an ironic catchphrase used to mock anti-semitic conspiracy theorists and trolls who blame the people of Jewish descent for their own personal woes and misfortunes. The original image macro (pictured below) is based on a stock photograph of an angry looking man holding tangled Christmas lights.

ironic meme of someone with tangled christmas lights and captioned that the Jews probably did it

Getty Images Baboons

Getty Images Baboons refers to a set of stock videos (in GIF format) created by GK and Vikki Heart for usage and sale via the stock photograph vendor Getty Images. In the videos, a baboon is shown interacting with various forms of technology and other inventions, such as cell phones and stacks of dollar bills. The videos are popularly used as reaction images on Twitter and Tumblr.

GIF of the iconic Getty Images Baboon holding a newspaper

Ariane the Overexposed Stock Photo Model

Ariane the Overexposed Stock Photo Model refers to the stock photography model Rebecca Ariane Givens who has gained notoriety due to overly frequent use of her photographs in advertisements.

Rebecca Ariane Givens next to a jam packed blender full of veggies

Advice Animals Adapted from Stock Photos

There are also a lot of advice animals based off stock photos, most notably Net Noob, Successful Black Man, Lazy College Senior and Unhelpful High School Teacher.

Notable Examples

stock photo of man looking goofy and wearing a collander on his head stock photo of woman getting a ice cream headache from eating a popsicle and making a face of pain angry businessman eating a whole fish around sunset in Dreamstime photo awkward stock photo of man putting on felt hat awkward stock photo of man gaming with controller like a dork stock photo of two men strangling each other

Search Interest

External References

[1] GettyImages.UK – Main Page

[2] ShutterStock – Main Page

[3] IStockPhoto – Main Page

[4] Reddit – /r/stockphotos

[5] Reddit – /r/wtfstockphotos

[6] Reddit – /r/youdontsurf

[7] Tumblr – WTF Stock Photos

[8] Tumblr – Overly Specific Stock Photos

[9] Tumblr – Tagged as stock photos

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