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.

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series