Stock Photography Models Describe The Most Unexpected Place They've Seen Their Photos Used

As someone who creates online content daily, and has worked in social media for the last decade or so, I've seen a LOT of stock photography.

I work with it every day - and honestly I've wondered more than once how the model would react to knowing how their picture was being used.

One Reddit user asked:

Stock Photography Models: What is the Strangest/Most Unexpected Place You've Seen Your Photos Used?

Stock photography models kind of know their images are out there for whatever, but sometimes that "whatever" gets really interesting.

R.I.P. to the college brochure guy's social life. It's going to take him decades to live it down.

But Can I Get Hired?

I ended up finding myself on one of those "Now Hiring" posts on Facebook... for a company I was trying to get hired at.

- Pandrome

You should tell them that means they have to hire you, or it's false advertising.

- StewartTheHuman

"Have you previously worked as an employee for [company]?"

"Well, it's complicated..."

- TheRealMandelbrotSet

Also Used

One of my friends did a shoot for a university showing him sitting with an advisor looking confused/concerned.

It was to be used for the financial/debt advice brochure - and it was used there. But it was also used in the sexual health brochure!

It's a good one to roll out on special occasions!

- djaw1

Similar thing happened to a guy I worked with.

He was an older, very put together attorney. One day I was watching TV and saw him sitting with his head in his hands looking terribly distraught.

It was a commercial for ED medication.

I asked him about it the next morning and he said he had done some stock video shots for commercials years back and often pops up in all kinds of ads.

- thepeanutbutterman

I'm A Painting


When I was 17 a friend of mine asked me if I could help him model in some pictures he was working on for a project for college. We used our other friend's attic and he took a couple of pictures of me in a suit in front of a typewriter.

He really liked one of the pictures and he ended up asking me if I would be okay with him having it be part of a small gallery show he was doing at the local coffee shop.

They often had a small show and then put up the work to decorate the place and if people were interested they could buy them. I told him that I didn't mind and it was cool seeing my picture up at a place we went to so often.

Well, my picture ended up actually being bought ... which we did not expect at all.

So, there is someone out there that has a framed picture of me possibly decorating their wall or mantle, which is strange for me to think about.

- -eDgAr-

In Every Wal-Mart

Not me but my best friend: He did a photo shoot in some construction-worker garb and a hard hat.

We live in North Carolina USA. I'm on a business trip in Chicago, and I stop by a Walmart for some supplies.

I'm in the men's work clothes isle and there's my buddy prominently on the wrapping of 50ish packages of work shirts.

It was a weird "wait, where am I?" moment. I knew he did some modeling, but not specifics.

I sent him a pic, he had no idea it had been used. The guy is in every Walmart in the country and had no idea.

- stubbssammarium

Homeless Youth

Not me, but a friend of mine.

Her boyfriend was a photographer, and he took several pictures of her standing against a wall wearing a blue windbreaker. I should mention, this woman was in her late 20s/early 30s, but she could easily pass as a teenager.

One of her boyfriend's pictures of her ended up on a billboard in Russia somewhere advertising a charity for homeless youth.

- SimonCallahan

Keep The Contract

This question reminds me of the guy who sat for a picture, and then forgot about it.

Years later, he recognized his picture on a jar of freeze dried coffee, which was not in the terms of use for the picture.

He ended up suing after the company tried to lowball him and winning a crazy amount of money.

- bombaderogato

Holy sh*t! I looked it up! That's a lot of money. And f*ck nestle for trying to lowball him!

"A legal dispute with Nestle USA ensued, during which Christoff, 58, declined the company's $100,000 settlement offer, and Nestle USA turned down his offer to settle for $8.5 million. "I never gave my consent," he said to Chen. "We had a contract that spelled out the terms of the agreement, but there was just no follow-up on it. "I filed it away, and the contract sat there for 18, 19 years and -- I save things, which I guess is obvious. And no. They never had the permission." Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury ordered Nestle USA to pay Christoff $15.6 million for using his likeness without his permission and profiting from it. The award includes 5 percent of the Glendale-based company's profit from Taster's Choice sales from 1997 to 2003."

- BrownEggs93

A Smoky Eye

fashion makeup GIFGiphy

I had a girlfriend who modelled part time.

Most of her work was for specific things and I only seen it because she showed me. But she did have a few model release generic headshots so when I was travelling Asia I saw a few makeup ads with her face on it.

It was just a picture of her with smokey eyes and I seen it before so I had a pretty big wtf moment seeing an at least 6 year old photo of my girlfriend on makeup ads on the other side of the world

- CharlieTuna_

Had They Contacted Me In The First Place

Not a stock photo (as I didn't upload it to my account, only on my website) but years ago a shot I took of my nails ended up being lifted off my site and used in a manicure brochure from China. I'm still wondering why... it was professionally shot and edited, but the nail art was hardly that!

Another time, a model I shot for a girly site (think suicide girls but more on the burlesque side) found our photo on a designer t-shirt, sold in stores internationally... we both sued separately, myself for the image rights and herself for personal damage due to what was written on the shirt. Don't know about her but I ended up getting a decent amount -definitely more than I would have asked if they had contacted me in the first place.

- analucylle


A coworker of mine was a firefighter in his earlier life (I worked with him after he was retired).

At one point the station he worked at did a photoshoot for something (he doesn't remember what, I've always hoped it was a calendar but can't find proof). Years later a friend of his was in a toy store and found his photo on the packaging of a firefighter toy.

He posed for a photo shoot, and years later ended up being an action figure!

- dbdew

Slack Party!

Not the same, but as a remote teacher (long before quarantines), all of our teaching material includes stock photos.

One teacher pointed out that the same girl appears in many of the stock photos. Here she's a scientist. Here she's at the beach. Here she's riding a bike in a park.

It became a game to find her in our materials and we'd have a little celebration on Slack every time she was discovered.

- anon00000anon


There was also this guy in Germany or somewhere in Europe, who ended up on packs of cigarettes. Like they have the smoking kills and rotten lungs etc. on the packs. So this guy was lying in a hospital bed, passed out with tubes in his mouth and I think he posted this pic of himself on facebook or something. Some designer stole that photo and put it on the packs. The guy himself said he had never smoked in his life and it was some unrelated medical operation. I think he sued and got paid.



My dad was a professional photographer back in the '80s & '90s and would do a small amount of commercial work. He would sometimes get me and my sister to 'model' in some of these pics. He did a job for a new small video game store called GAME that just opened in SE England back in the early '90s. He used me and my sister in a bunch of pics for their original advertising which at the time was just for this small shop. Obviously, the company hit it big time and opened up all over the country. A few years later while at Uni, me and my mates are in shopping in our local store. Low and behold there was a picture of a younger me playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the in-store display. I'd completely forgot about the pics and was slightly in shock, while my friends thought it was the greatest photo ever.


Hairy situation

My nephew did some stock modelling when he was younger and ended up in an ad for a drug that delays early-onset puberty. That was certainly a surprise when I came across his face in a magazine.


Muddy morals

A plumbing company used a picture of my muddy boots on their website. It was a picture I posted on Facebook years ago. The company is half a country away and never contacted me. They just found my picture online and used it. Huh.



I once was offered free popcorn and movies for a year if I did a shoot for a movie theatre in Maryland. I was 16, so I thought "heck yeah!". The theatre closed down three months after that, so I never did get to use my year of popcorn and movies.

BUT I did move to Florida for college and a few years in went to the local movie theatre..... and there I was. Passionately munching on some popcorn, pretending to laugh at a movie. I guess one movie theatre company bought the other theatre out, which included image rights.


Thifty gifty

Early last year (pre-serious COVID) I was at my local thrift store and found a picture frame with a picture of my sister and brother in law. Apparently, they had donated it without removing the picture.

Naturally, I bought it and gave it back to them as a gift.


I'll ketchup later

not me, but my dad is a photographer who spent quite a bit of time in stock photography. I remember one day we were taking a walk around the village together when he just stopped and whipped out his camera. There was a big splodge of ketchup on the floor, and apparently, that required photographing. He told me a few years later that that photo had sold quite often, become one of his most popular. Of course, being an indescribable splodge of ketchup, we've not managed to actually identify it in use anywhere yet.


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