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Inexplicable iStock

For my job, I have to find a lot of visual images to pretty up the reports that I write and make them interesting to read. We typically turn to iStock.com, a vast repository of stock images and video clips that you can pay to use in your materials. However, in its quest to be a comprehensive resource, iStock seems to be anticipating situations that have never been asked for, just in case they arise. And thus, simply by trying to do my job, I am confronted with a man on the toilet reading the news:

And while the pineapple is a traditional symbol of wealth and hospitality, I’m hard-pressed to imagine needing to illustrate the concept of giving birth to one:

Both of those images were found by my coworker Elisa who was doing perfectly innocent image searches (I believe it was for “bills” and for “doctor,” respectively).

Sometimes, iStock has multiple relevant and perfectly innocent images to support a particular concept, but it’s kind of surreal to see so many of them together at once. For example, suppose you were writing about women making healthy food choices and feeling good about themselves – this is not a far-fetched concept for our clients. Perhaps you could illustrate that with an image like, oh, this:

But there’s also this:

And let’s not leave out this:

That’s … a lot of women laughing while eating salad. I came across these images not in iStock but in the appropriately-named site entitled Women Laughing Alone With Salad. I just *know* that someone typed a phrase like that into a site like iStock and was taken aback at the startling abundance of carefree, salad-eating women. Salad is honestly not that fun, at least not the salads I’m making.

It makes me happy to know that other people are similarly amused at the range of subject matter covered by these types of stock image sites, as though iStock was just waiting for someone to come along with a desperate need for the visual image of, say, a loaf of catbread:

Or the infinite horizons that can be found in one’s jeans:

I think in the next client check-in I’m going to suggest the need to ask research questions about their female consumers laughing and eating salad, or giving birth to pineapples, if only so that iStock’s valiant efforts to cover all the possible visual bases aren’t in vain.

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