Bronwyn Green

The Corner of Quirky & Kinky

Dear Stock Art Sites and Photographers who Sell Their Work There,

What are you even thinking?

No, really. I mean that in all seriousness.

What the actual merciless fuck is the matter with you?

Have you seen some of the weird shit that ends up on royalty-free photo sites?

Look, I get it. Not everyone who uses your site is trying to find appropriate looking models or images for cover art and promo for books. I realize that a lot of pop psychology articles and/or think pieces feature a good many of your photos. As do myriad advice columns, and blog posts (including yours truly) but dudes, I’m mostly there for photos that my brilliant cover artist can turn into cover art for my books. Honestly, a lot of people are there for that reason. So, we need to talk. There are some things you guys need to cut the fuck back on.

Unless you’re new here, you won’t be surprised to learn that I have a list of things that annoy me we’d all like to see a lot less of. So, let’s begin, shall we?

Why are there so many photos of people taking selfies and/or using phones in inexplicably weird ways? Yes, I’m aware that many think pieces have been written about people’s selfie fixation. Then, there are the memes and bitchy, self-righteous facebook posts. The people making memes are usually using actual selfies, not stock art. And while I have no problem with people taking selfies, (Do it up! I wish I had that skill.) as far as the stock art goes, literally no one needs hundreds of pages of photos of people taking selfies. No. One.

Cheerful bearded young man showing thumbs up and taking selfie

So, this douche…

While we’re on the topic of phones, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the plethora of photos of people talking on their cell phone at weird and unlikely times.

Smiling woman talking on mobile phone in yoga studio

Yoga: You’re doing it wrong. 

If you really want to show people using their cellphones in their natural habitat, there would be page after page of people sitting on the toilet chatting or playing Words with Friends while waiting in a school parking lot for their kids.

While we’re on the topic of people doing inexplicably weird things whilst on the phone, we need to talk about the preponderance of Santa hat photos. No really. There are so many. Like…a terrifying amount. I mean, I like the holidays as much as the next person, but the sheer volume of models in Santa hats makes literally no sense. You guys, there are thousands.

Friends in santa's hats with phones

Are you showing him his gift? Do you have porn on your phone? Is porn his gift? What is even happening here? I NEED ANSWERS! 

sexy man Santa Claus

Dude. This NOT what your mother meant when she said “Put a hat on.”

Another common stock art standard is the thumbs up pose. I picked this one because Santa hat. (See? They’re everywhere.) Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to use the thumbs up pose sarcastically. Like when my husband asks me how the story’s coming.

But all the people on the stock art sites seems so damn earnest in their thumbs up giving. Why? Why are you people so earnest about it? Is the photographer blackmailing you? Is that what’s going on here? Are you signaling for help? (Oh, and the selfie douche? Scroll back up – he’s also giving the thumbs up. What the hell, man?)

Cheerful young woman in santa claus hat showing thumbs up


In keeping with the technology theme, I’d like to address headphones. You find a model that you’d really like on a book cover (not this guy) and bam! giant headphones  lousing up your cover art vibe.

Man in living room watching television and wearing headphones

Everything in my house is white because I make poor life choices. 

Look, I like being outside. I even like working outside. However, you can’t sit in direct sunlight and expect to be able to see anything on your screen. Also, what the fuck is with this guy. Have you even computered before, dude?

Man working with notebook in the park.

Now, how do I get to the Facebook, again?

There are also an alarming amount of pictures of women posing “seductively” with their blowdryers. I am…not sure what’s happening here. Or why. But I do know that I’m profoundly uncomfortable.

Pretty woman blowing on hairdryer

Anthropomorphizing has gone too far.

Also, please stop with the stupid hats that ruin otherwise cute-ish photos that could work for cover and promo art. Just lose the damn hats. They’re ruining everything.

See? This kid knows the pain of a bad hat.

Happy Girl Having Great Fun And Wearing A Multicolored Hat

I feel you, kid. I feel you. 

We need to talk about all the hearts. They’re everywhere on stock art sites. Paper hearts. Puffy hearts. Dough hearts. Rock hearts. Balloon hearts. They’re like a flea infestation in a dairy barn. Weirdly, the majority of the hearts are hiding people’s faces. What does that mean? And why are so many people hiding behind hearts? I need someone to explain the psychology of this to me.

Please just stop already with the hearts.

Apropos of nothing, what is with nearly every couple having a Jack and Rose pose on stock art sites?! That shit needs to stop.

young couple  on beach have fun

There’s only room for one of you on that hunk of wood. 

While we’re talking “romantic” images, what the hell is it with one partner looking really into it, but the other one looks…

Sexy passionate couple

…regretful of her life choices and possibly nauseated.


…like he thinks he’s entirely too cool for this trendy European street scene.

Beautiful sexy couple portrait. Model man with girlfriend posing

…about to fly into a murderous rage, but not before ascending to the throne in Hell.


…bored, now.

Speaking of couples, are these two about to get it on in their kid’s preschool classroom?! What the actual merciless fuck are we supposed to get from this photo besides a deep sense of discomfort and shame?

Flirtatious couple enjoying breakfast

Look, I don’t want to kink shame, but…

Speaking of kink…

I guess…

I would very much like someone to explain the absolutely baffling fuckery of this photograph.

Tiny apartment sized ironing board? Check.

Itty bitty travel iron? Check.

Portrait of judgmental cat? Check.

Late 80s bridal lingerie? Check.

Dude with sardonically arched eyebrow and butt chin? Check and check.


Young attractive couple and british cat in a dark room

Ironing out the kinks in their relationship…?

Then…there’s this. I have zero words for this super low-budget ren faire photo, and that’s coming from someone who actually enjoys ren faires.

Folk musicians and woman dancer.

The Minstrels of Misrule, slaying their cover of “Mr. Brownstone” while Lady Eowyn performs her interpretive dance piece. 

I could go on for pages about stock art.

And probably days.

No, I could definitely go on for days. There are just so many inexplicable photos there. Which stock art photos baffle you the most?

22 thoughts on “WTF Stock Art Sites?!: An Open Letter to Stock Art Sites (and Photographers Who Sell Their Work There)

  1. Jen says:

    There is so much awesome in this post, I can’t even pick my favorite. Thank you for this Friday laugh!

    1. Bronwyn says:

      You’re welcome, honey!!! 😀

  2. siobhanmuir says:

    Bwahahahaha! It was the “kinky ironing” scene that did it for me, but yeah, the always grinning thumbs up selfies are out of control.

  3. Alex Kourvo says:

    Your captions? Made of win.

    I spent two hours yesterday looking for a stock photo of a private eye that

    a.) didn’t have a gun fetish (It’s not your pee pee, okay?)
    b.) didn’t look like a creepy stalker
    c.) wasn’t a woman wearing nothing but a fedora and underwear

    So I feel your pain. I truly do.

    1. Bronwyn says:

      I can’t even imagine trying to find an image that would would for a PI. o.O

  4. Dean says:

    I’m a cover designer / digital artist… and stock photography has been the perpetual thorn in my side!! Deciding enough is enough, I built my own stock photography company, to address all these issues you’ve humorously outlined here 🙂

    If you’re intrigued, you can check it out at:

    1. Bronwyn says:

      Thanks, Dean! You’ve got some great stuff, here. I’ll definitely be pointing people your way. Actually…I already have. 😀

    2. Kris Norris says:

      I’ve joined! My only question, Dean, is how do you purchase the images? lol

  5. Pax Asteriae says:

    I had great fun looking for a tap (faucet?) for something for my NaNoWriMo region, half of those were surreal. I’m glad I only rarely need to look for actual people. (But gods, searching for “crime scene” was a nightmare.)

    The dude in the European city looks like he’s being held to ransom by the woman. Like if he doesn’t pull off the heist she’s demanding, his family will be brutally murdered.

    1. Bronwyn says:

      If nothing else, stock art sites are great for plot bunnies–like heists and brutal murder! 🙂

  6. Louisa Bacio says:

    Are you like in my car with me while I play Words with Friends while waiting for my kids? Really?

    You are the most awesome!

    1. Bronwyn says:

      LOL! Moms in carpool lanes, unite!

  7. JCMorrows says:

    Trendy European dude looks WAY too much like Zachary Quinto for me to be comfortable using it. I don’t want to be sued, thanks. And yeah… I agree with the comment above. It’s like Spock is signaling “help me” with some backwards Vulcan mind reading thing…

    1. Bronwyn says:

      Agreed! Though, I’ve seen a dude that looks even more like him. I had to do a doubletake and check the model’s name the similarities were so startling.

  8. This is freaking hilarious. The person who conceptualized ironing the woman is probably serving time for crimes against humanity by now. And thank you for pointing out how annoying the fucking hearts are. I’m so sick of the hearts!

    1. Bronwyn says:

      I am SO glad I’m not alone with the heart hate! At this point, it just makes me stabby!

      1. Stabby is the perfect word. I just hope that people in the future don’t study this time and paint us all with the same brush. I want no associations with any of those stock photos!

  9. Catherine says:

    The cat portrait in the “sexy ironing” picture just cracks me up. It’s like the weird cherry on top of the whole wtf sunday.

    Also if I saw a book with this as cover, I would probably read it just to see what kind of story would be properly represented by this thing.

  10. And on a related subject, similar to the “what the hell?” photos, what is with the lovely background/atmospheric photo of a forbidding landscape, intriguing park path, exciting street scene, or a creepy abandoned warehouse, and the photographer focuses on…. wait for it… a camera. Or a camera lens. Or every piece of photographic equipment from their backpack. For all that’s holy, take some PROPS with you!

  11. Sarah Caniano says:

    3 glasses of wine in and I found this post. I’m cry-laughing so hard I have hiccups. <3

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