You’ve seen them: Those wacky photos in magazines, websites, and advertisements. Mass media (us included) often need artwork to help illustrate text, and because commissioning a photographer is not always feasible, they rely on stock photo agencies. But without ever knowing what clients will have in mind ahead of time, these agencies try to offer a large selection of photos that are as broad as possible. And because they try to hit every topic imaginable, oftentimes the photos available are not only borderline bizarre, they are sometimes unexplainable.
To help us get an idea of how these photos come about to begin with, and what goes through the photographers’ minds during the process, we reached out to our friends at Bigstock, an online stock photo and illustration site that’s part of the Shutterstock family.
Here, Brian Masefield, Bigstock’s community manager, talks to us about some of the weird photos available on their site:
“A recent Google search for awkward stock photography yielded over 10 million results. Indeed, there is no shortage of stock photos that exhibit that certain je ne sais quoi – those particular images that tickle our funny bone, give us a giggle, or make us scratch our heads in bewilderment, in a good way.
For all the laughs and confusion, it is important to remember that there is an art to this genre of stock imagery. Awkward stock photos don’t just happen. Or, do they? Three of our favorite Bigstock photographers dished on the story behind these photos.
Sometimes awkward stock photos come from bursts of inspiration. Not just from the photographers, but from the models. Ariane Wasabi shared that this image was the result of taking a break from the shoot, versus anything that was to happen during it.
“The idea was to try and get a candidness into some otherwise very posed images,” she said. “There was a lot of goofing around and freestyling in front of the camera that wasn’t planned. It was a lot of fun and it shows in the image.”
Often, the humor comes from the extremes of the concept the photographer or artist is trying to convey. This image above usually brings about a light smile, or a flat-out guffaw, but the concept is oh-so real. Helder Almeida says that this photo shoot was inspired by an idea that anyone in an office environment can relate to.
“The conceptual message came to mind thinking of a business person who is blind to strategic business,” he explained. “The lack of vision from someone who is afraid to take chances.”
Almeida also shared that the bucket, the very thing that really makes this image a standout, was actually an afterthought.
“The original plan was to have the model wear a bandage to cover his eyes,” he said. “But with the bucket, it made for a fun shoot, and I was very pleased with the result.”
A common theme in the creation of most intriguingly funny stock photos is spontaneity. Some photographers choose to leave in the funny, offbeat, behind-the-scenes bits on the cutting room floor, and some choose to submit them to stock agencies with the rest of their entries. It can make for some great, unexpected, and humorous content. Jozef Polc took a challenge presented by his model, and turned it into a stellar example of an engaging, supremely quirky stock photo. The result is a light-hearted, and, yes, funny photo that could find a home in any dental campaign.
“My model told me that she didn‘t like to smile showing her teeth,” he said. “So for this picture she had to ‘borrow’ a smile from another model, put it on the tablet, and mess around with it in front of her face on a tablet.”
For photographers, what’s the moral to all this? Don’t toss out the candid clips of those photo shoots. They could become solid stock photo gold.
(Images courtesy of Bigstock)