The Problem With Beauty Stock Images

Photo: Getty Images.
It wouldn't be horribly off-base to say that stock photography is the laughing stock of the photo world. (Sorry, we had to.) To wit: These are often the perfectly cliché shots used to create the internet's funniest memes. It's bound to happen, as these staged, unrealistic scenarios just beg for funny captions. Women laughing alone with salad, anyone?

For those who don't know, stock imagery is the often cheesy, over-the-top photography captured in the hopes of being sold to publications and companies to illustrate stories, websites, brochures — anything, really — when said companies don't have the time or budget to shoot something themselves.

Of course, in some cases, stock can be beautiful and provide a useful service — a hard-to-come-by shot of an object, a scenic landscape in a remote destination — but when it comes to actual people, the results can be exactly the opposite. That is, the photos can walk the line between odd, hilarious, and sometimes just plain offensive.

We've made the point before that these shots can be sexist, but when it comes to beauty, it goes a step further. Enter: bad beauty stock. Between perpetuating stereotypes about curly hair and feeding into the idea that beauty is a burden, this practice begs for a thoughtful revamp.

We did a quick scan of a few photo agencies, and let us just say it was not hard to find perfect examples. Ahead, shots of strange beauty-themed stock imagery that will make you wonder what, exactly, was happening in the studio that day.
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Photo: Getty Images.
No wonder she looks so perturbed — any dermatologist will confirm that this brush is not, in fact, well-suited for the face.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Oh, no! My hair is curly and it is causing me so. many. problems. Don't even get us started on the scores of images just like this one starring women of color in states of total distress, all thanks to their textured locks. Consider this an open letter to photographers worldwide: You can do better — or, at least, we hope so.
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Photo: Getty Images.
The silly things that (never) happen in the salon.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Is this what happens when you fall asleep mid lip-gloss application? Because, you know, people do that. All the time.
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Photo: Getty Images.
That feeling when you come home and take off your makeup... Because makeup is totally a mask that you wear to hide your true self. Ask any woman. Go ahead, ask one.
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Photo: Getty Images.
What is this girl doing? thought the hairstylist looking on. But really, though, in what world would a photo of a woman dipping her cut-off locks into a cup of coffee be something anyone needs to buy? (Oh wait, we just did...)
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Photo: Getty Images.
Beauty is such a burden — how does anyone do it with just two hands? Also, do you think her manicures cost twice as much?
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Photo: Getty Images.
This is it! This is the shot that is going to make us famous! thought no one on set during this shoot.
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Photo: Getty Images.
This model is in distress, perhaps because she just realized the mud mask she's smearing on her face is, in fact, wet cement. That's the only plausible explanation we can think of for this particular image.
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Photo: Getty Images.
We feel really bad for this model — not only is she supposed to be depicting an exhausted, opposite-of-#wokeuplikethis woman, she's also got what looks like two cans of Elnett in her hair. We hope girlfriend has a lot of deep conditioner in her shower.
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Photo: Getty Images.
Your nails won't benefit from a clay mask — and you should definitely remove your makeup before starting any skin treatment. But other than that...
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Photo: Getty Images.
What to discuss first? The culturally appropriated dreadlocks or the ill-advised DIY haircut? [Ed. note: There is a correct way to cut your hair at home, but it's obviously not this. So consult this guide we put together, not this photo.]
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Photo: Getty Images.
Who's up for a (not-so-difficult) challenge? Caption this image in the comments below — we're dying to hear what you think of this truly, err, unique shot.
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