Stock Food Photos That Have Us Scratching Our Heads

bizarre stock food photos
bizarre stock food photos - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

We comb through a lot of food-related stock photos here at Tasting Table, which means we've seen it all, from meme-worthy women laughing alone with salad to women laughing together with salad — the entire gamut! And believe us, those aren't even close to the weirdest photo trends in the stock-o-sphere. It's a great, big, visual library of every concept that a photographer or creative director can think up, all of it aimed at cornering every possible image query. Half of our research for this article was simply generating weird word combos to see if we could be more original than reality with stock-photo search terms like "robot cauliflower fight." Reader, we lost that battle.

While the photos below might not be memes (yet), they represent some of the biggest head-scratchers in the food stock photo subscription library ... at least until AI starts generating stock photos of women with 12 hot dogs for fingers laughing at a salad while clocks melt all around. Enjoy these last gasps of plain, old-fashioned analog stock-photo weirdness before robots make weirdness less funny and even less comprehensible.

Read more: Common Mistakes Everyone Makes With Hot Dogs

Fish Reprogramming

woman and fish watching movie
woman and fish watching movie - Julpo/Getty Images

Boy, do we have questions. Are these two synchronized swim partners? Why is she subjecting the fish to gruesome images of its relative being mutilated? Is this a still from some kind of underwater "Clockwork Orange" reboot? Or is it a painful reminder that we, the American people, have ceased to appreciate the flaky flesh of our friend the carp?

All we know for sure is that this moviegoing carp is not having a good day, and now we're craving malt-vinegar fries.

AI, But Handmade

mannequin hand holding donut
mannequin hand holding donut - s8/Shutterstock

Some weird images are artifacts of another era — literally, in the eyes of this semi-robotic donut beholder. This picture represents a time before we perfected apps that crop images for you on your phone, when cropping a donut was a challenge that required an hour with a pen tool, and you still had aliasing all around your breakfast pastry. And then, just for, like ... reasons, y'know? ... the designer added an artist's mannequin reaching for it. What does this say about us as a society — that we don't allow human models to eat junk food? Deep.


bread on woman's face
bread on woman's face - patronestaff/Shutterstock

Some people eat carbs and the nutrient goes straight to their faces. Other people skip the first step. All in all, this photo is a fairly innocuous image, until you start thinking about who, or why, anyone would need a model looking bemused from beneath a veil of baked starches. Not even the most anti-carb or pro-keto article can stake out this terrain.

That expression says she knows there will never be demand for this photo. It was an exercise in futility, but nobody's too upset because the photo shoot came with plenty of free bread to eat and optionally wear as a face mask.

Make Pizzacone Happen

pizza on ice cream cone
pizza on ice cream cone - Eugenia Porechenskaya/Shutterstock

We're not scratching our heads because somebody silhouetted a pizza and pasted it atop an ice cream cone, or even that they did it at the weirdest angle to eat such a creation. No, we're scratching our heads because the genius of this concept is only dawning on us now — this is an excellent way to let the grease run off your pizza for collection in a delicious sugar-cone shot glass. That sounds delicious! Maybe pizza-fat shooters are the food trend 2024 needs. Turns out this one's a head-scratcher because nobody thought to do it earlier.

Lettuce Wed

man proposing with lettuce
man proposing with lettuce - July Prokopiv/Shutterstock

When you think about it, all vegetable life is full of organic carbon-based compounds, and its carbon atoms may someday end up being subjected to immense pressures deep in the earth, so in a certain sense, giving your partner a head of lettuce says, "One day, billions of years from now, this will be a diamond, and my love for you will endure even unto then."

Or maybe it just says you're cheap. Or even ethical! There are a lot of good reasons for not buying a mined diamond, including that these people both know this wedding is a mistake that will be annulled before the greens have even wilted.

Pizza Killer

serial killer pizza delivery man
serial killer pizza delivery man - AJR_photo/Shutterstock

You ever think about how every time we order food delivery rather than cook, we give strangers our home address and implicitly let them know the kitchen knives are firmly holstered? This photographer did. However, points lost for using a standard chef's knife instead of the much more sadistic pizza cutter (or brownie cutter, if you're savvy). Imagine the gruesome death that would await victims of a rounded roller blade? Chilling. Despite the bloody end that awaits you here, a murder delivery from your local pizzeria still feels like a better call than ordering Domino's.


pizza on woman's face
pizza on woman's face - S_chum/Getty Images

Is it a trend now, women wearing breadstuffs like skin care treatments? This looks like a deleted scene from "Euphoria" but with pizza in lieu of drugs. Or maybe the pizza is laced with drugs? Regardless, we don't believe that wearing greasy bread on your face ever did positive things for your pores. "Pizzaface" is a demeaning insult for a reason.

Also, why is everything teal? Is that a side effect of the, um, extra oregano on that slice? This makes the bread-on-face trend look ridiculous.

Cool Lettuce

lettuce wearing sunglasses
lettuce wearing sunglasses - Loulouvonglup/Getty Images

For an extended stretch of the '90s, adults thought they could make anything cool for kids by sticking sunglasses on it, and maybe adding a skateboard if things looked dire. This culminated on "The Simpsons" in the infamous Poochie debacle. Anyway, lettuce: everyone's doing it — to the x-treme! Now here's a four-minute rap about vitamin K and folate to convince you kids watching at home.

Death By Hazelnut

woman's face drowning in hazelnuts
woman's face drowning in hazelnuts - Jacobmoisan/Getty Images

You can die from eating too much of even the healthiest food. If you fail to eat an extremely large volume of it fast enough, you'll succumb to the sheer weight of it cascading upon you, as appears to be happening here. That, or she might just be getting covered and smothered in hazelnuts so quickly that she's asphyxiating long before the weight of the nut avalanche crushes her. What's another horrible way that hazelnuts invite us to perish in a nut-lover's monkey's paw wish gone wrong? That's right, choking! You're good at this. Anyway, this picture is bizarre.

Broccoli Mic

man singing into broccoli microphone
man singing into broccoli microphone - Knape/Getty Images

Sure, broccoli looks a little bit like a microphone, but not enough to justify this photo shoot. Why don't you download this for some article about a new generation of chefs singing the praises of roasted brassicaceae? And carrots are like drumsticks! And long-necked gourds look a little like guitars! Are we going to get this healthy-eating ska band off the ground or not? Oh, wait — the studio is already reserved for a cool lettuce rap.

But to be honest, we've all done this with our broccoli at least once while unpacking groceries.

Pineapple Express Delivery

doctor delivers pineapple
doctor delivers pineapple - Orbon Alija/Getty Images

Congratulations, it's an agony! A pineapple is definitely a top-five horror among produce one could give birth to. (The others, if you're wondering, are jackfruit, durian, watermelon, and any pepper with a six-figure Scoville rating.)

All that said, we'll die wondering what the story was meant to be here. Maybe it's suggesting that you could plant a pineapple and give birth to a child at around the same time, and then see which one ends up being more fruitful. Sorry to disappoint you, dad. We're just not like our perfect older brother, Dole.

Pumpkin Ride

motorcyle rider wears pumpkin helmet
motorcyle rider wears pumpkin helmet - Jhorrocks/Getty Images

Look, any helmet is better than no helmet, but no helmet can be worse than a late-autumn pumpkin ... except for maybe a late-autumn pumpkin that doesn't have one side carved out so you can see where you're going. Thankfully, this dirt bike looks like its top speed is 10 mph, well within federal guidelines for gourd-based head protection. Still, perhaps this rider should have repurposed an old jack o' lantern instead to add some face protection.

Cake Distraction

woman crushes red velvet cake
woman crushes red velvet cake - Anton Vierietin/Shutterstock

But is it art, we ask, as a woman in a blazer three times her size crushes red velvet cake while wearing silver gloves. What does this performance want us to know about the human condition? Does it dare us to view her as a clown in stealth mode, delivering targeted unsettling humor in the guise of art? Or is this just another example of a photographer working their personal tastes into a PG-rated photo series? Perhaps we all simply impose meaning on this Dadaist piece. The world will never know.


man's head in pizza box
man's head in pizza box - Kparis/Getty Images

Okay, sure, we see the thinking: a mob murder, send a message, marinara sauce for blood, and so on ... but here's the thing: a pizza box cannot close around a large, spherical object. This is just poor hitman planning. If you want to terrorize your foes, you need a box that conceals its contents, instantly turning the promise of delicious food into pure horror. Surely a cake box would be the sensible "Seven"-inspired murder prop here. Imagine having no body and your wardrobe still doesn't fit you? We'd be as furious as Johnny Boxdome is, too.

Surrealism At The End Of The World

woman eating toxic fish
woman eating toxic fish - Janekwd/Getty Images

Gosh, where to begin? Obviously the point of this image — from its radioactive spice canisters to the octopus entrails oozing out of the antlered salmon — was meant to unsettle.

But it's the unintended angle that's always the most engaging, and here, it's the fact that this model exists at the exact nexus of Tinkerbell, tradwife, and rockabilly without occupying any of those spaces. How do you superposition yourself amid so many disparate looks and then hover above them? That's the real unsettling question here.

But Why So Irish?

man eats whole fish raw
man eats whole fish raw - Ryanjlane/Getty Images

Okay, fine, a guy is eating an entire fish raw, head-first (its head, not his, but that too), and probably even unscaled. Our head-scratching detail is ... why is he done up like an Irish dockworker? The Aran sweater, the flat tweed cap, the inexorable gloom of dining in a shadowy pub with one painted-over window. What was it about this wacky fish-eating shoot that specifically demanded Mr. Filet O'Fish here to display a surfeit of Irish atmosphere?

Move Over, Pineapple

kiwi slices on pizza
kiwi slices on pizza - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

We can debate pineapple on pizza all day, even though it's delicious and anyone who hates it has plainly never actually tried it, and they should be banished to the Island of Wrong Misfit Idiots. But surely even in these divided times, we can all agree that kiwizza is an abomination, and oust whichever foodie thought this was a good idea, right? Right? Hang on, let's see who ... no ... kiwi on pizza? Really, Tasting Table? We were the monsters at the end of this book all along? This entry was always doomed to existential horror!

The Ennui Of Salad

woman bewildered by salad
woman bewildered by salad - Jihan Nafiaa Zahri/Shutterstock

Out: women laughing at salad. In: women bewildered about why they made this choice.

The 2010s were a more innocent time, perhaps best summed up as: Leaf, Laugh, Love. We ate big, healthy salads, we got excited about it, and we took photos to let social media know how it was.

But now it's the Screaming '20s. Why are we trying to extend our lives, this photo asks, by dining on greens? Who wants to live long enough to witness 60 years of future horror? This salad contributes to the 2055 Water Wars. Is that avocado? What kind of resource-hoarding meal is this?

Watermelon Dome

man wearing watermelon helmet
man wearing watermelon helmet - Nomadsoul1/Getty Images

So which Minion is this? Making the pumpkin helmet look downright safe and sensible, this watermelon ensemble suggests a superhero that never was: a head-first juggernaut to team up with, and summarily burden, Bananaman. The obtuse fruit-themed crimefighter replaces the tragically deceased Pumpkin Rider, who smashed his head during the final battle against California Raisin for the Horn of Infinite Plenty. Don't mourn him. He'll be brought back to life in time to battle the Antioxidant Monitor in a big summer crossover. Or a fruit salad.

Salmon Stalker

woman amazed by salmon dinner
woman amazed by salmon dinner - Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Nobody's judging this model for liking salmon. Salmon is delicious. It's not the desire, but the approach that has us weirded out. For starters, her focus is on the steamed veggies, and it's the blandest medley of carrots and cauliflower without herbs or oil, when everybody knows you need to roast cauliflower. So at the end of it, this is a grown woman slinking up to a plate of watery disappointment like it's the night before Christmas, and Healthy Santa is here to give out juicers and coupons for the holistic gym. Lame!

Mommy's Pasghetti

naked man sloppily eating spaghetti
naked man sloppily eating spaghetti - Ronald Sumners/Shutterstock

For a photo intended to just be "gluttonous man devours universally beloved meal," this photo sure is selling "adult baby makes mess until scolded," isn't it? When we started this article, we knew things would get weird, but we weren't prepared for it to repeatedly end with, "And that was somebody's personal private tastes." Good luck ever seeing this photo — or most stock imagery — the same ever again, and sorry about the loss of your innocence.

Raw Meat Lunch

women biting raw steak
women biting raw steak - puhhha/Shutterstock

Voraciously — dare we say, lustily — tearing apart a cut of steak with perfect incisors flashing in the studio lights, it's the new 2024 Stock Woman Model Y! She's brassy, she's bold, she's bloody in her desire to tear into raw flesh! Probably more than you do, since she can't even wait for it to cook.

We're fans of raw meat specialties ourselves, whether it's snapper crudo, carpaccio, steak tartare, or beef kitfo ... but tearing into it like a wolf? Disrespectful. Everyone knows that once you're rending chops with gnawing teeth and bare hands, it should be cooked, minimum, to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This feels like what happens to the Bewildered Salad Woman as she explores her new wants and needs beyond leafy greens.

Mountain Man, Mythical Meal

wild man eating mystery meat
wild man eating mystery meat - Tatyana Mi/Shutterstock

Oh look, Francisco Goya did some stock photography before his passing. The madness of contemplating what — or whom — this primal cut used to be has taken over our subject. But isn't the meat itself anatomically insensible? Is this 3D-printed meat designed by AI? Because the alternative is that we're about to eat the last unicorn. If a mountain man ever emerges out of the brush to offer you barely flensed mystery meat, please ask him how the shank of this varmint managed to become connected to the ribs.

Pizzahead Again But With Friends

man's head in pizza box
man's head in pizza box - Kparis/Getty Images

Pizzahead is back! Looking for a way to simultaneously shock and confuse pizza fans? A novelty severed head with marinara-squirting action will startle all two of your friends ... although Johnny Boxdome seems just as befuddled as they are by the entire affair. Surely they saw the head in the open box from afar? Maybe everyone's just upset because all they have to eat is a head, but they can't stop thinking about pizza now that their hopes are up. They should probably order a real pie as a backup — delivered by a knife-wielding clown?

Why Sad With Cupcake?

dismayed woman with confection
dismayed woman with confection - Voyagerix/Shutterstock

There are so many stock photos of women who appear sad to be eating cupcakes, it beggars accounting. Look, lady: have the cupcake, don't have the cupcake ... just commit to your decision. One cupcake won't ruin your life, but regretting the cupcake will ruin the enjoyment of eating it. In essence, if you can't eat your cake and have it too, be resolute about the eating part.

Half a loaf is better than none, but all of both cake attitudes are zero of neither. Does that make sense? No? Good, now you're scratching your head, too. The important thing is that we're aligned on the fact that nobody should be sad to have a cupcake in hand.

Spaghetti Fight

women engaging in food fight
women engaging in food fight - Judahart/Getty Images

The leering angles ... the amateurish photography and lighting ... this isn't just a stock photo, is it? This is someone's thing. This is an attempt to surreptitiously insert a highly specific and unwholesome brand of excitement into the PG-rated world of stock photos. Look at the framing on that centerpiece of handheld spaghetti. Nobody scoops up a clawful like that unless they want it to be your focus. A normal person balls their bridal-party-brawl spaghetti in a clenched fist.

It's all just so unseemly.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.