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The Most Popular Stock Photo Meme and Their Stories

Liza Brown
Liza Brown Originally published Aug 25, 22, updated Mar 27, 24

A stock photo meme is an image or video you use to communicate a specific idea. For example, you can use a screaming goat to emphasize your shock at an event. Typically, memes feature a stock image or video with a caption relating to the message. In addition, they are most effective on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. However, some stock image memes breakthrough into mainstream media and feature on billboards or television commercials.

So, what are the most popular stock photo memes, and how did they reach this status? Keep reading to find out more.

In this article
  1. Part1: Hide the Pain Harold
  2. Part2: Distracted Boyfriend
  3. Part3: I Bet He's Thinking About Other Women
  4. Part4: Bonjour Bear
  5. Part5: FAQs

Part1: Hide the Pain Harold

hide the pain harold

Since 2011, Hide the Pain Harold continues to rank as one of the world's most popular stock photo memes. Here are some numbers to show you how popular the meme is.

  • It also features on stock image sites such as Imgur, where user “someshitbag” has a gallery post titled Hide-the-pain-Harold. In addition, the page received over 880 thousand views during the first three weeks. Furthermore, it won Imgur's meme of the decade title in 2020 by receiving 10,954 votes (about 20%) of the 54,768 votes cast by Imgurians.
  • The meme appears on social media platforms such as Facebook, 4Chan, and Reddit. For example, a Facebook page titled Maurice has had over 10,000 likes since its creation in January 2014.
meme appears on social media
  • A text-to-speech YouTube video on the meme has over 492,000 views since going live in September 2015.
  • The stock photo meme guy conducted a TEDx talk in his native Ukraine in September 2018. During the talk, Mr. Andras Arato, a 73-year-old retired electrical engineer, speaks on his fame as a meme-personality and his profession. Currently, the video has nearly 7.87 million views on TEDx's official YouTube channel.
  • Finally, you can view all Hide the Pain Harold memes from its dedicated website.

According to Andras, Hide the Pain Harold results from his vacation in Turkey. A professional photographer contacted him to do stock image modeling. During the shoot, the photographer kept telling him to smile, resulting in some photos of Andras appearing to force a smile. This expression led to netizens using his image to express situations where the forced smile is masking your true feelings.

do stock image modeling

Currently, Hide the Pain Harold has over 300,000 followers across all platforms. In addition, Hide the pain Harold has an official Facebook and Know Your Meme page that features the most popular versions of the stock image meme.

Part2: Distracted Boyfriend

Another popular stock image meme is Distracted Boyfriend. It features the stock photo meme guy looking at another woman's backside while walking with his girlfriend. In addition, the models' facial expressions add to the photo's impact. For example, the girlfriend shows her disapproval by staring at the man with her mouth open.

distracted boyfriend

The original photo is the work of Antonio Guillem, who uploaded it on iStock in November 2015. Initially, the photo was labeled as a lisloyal man with his girlfriend looking at another girl and required purchasing the proper license to use it.

original photo

According to Meme Documentation, the first version of the Distracted boyfriend theme dates back to January 2017. Prog Snob, a Turkish progressive rock group on Facebook, posted the meme on their page to reference Phil Collin's distraction from progressive rock by pop music. However, it was the August 2017 Twitter version referencing the youth's feelings towards capitalism and socialism that went viral.

Since then, the meme continues to enjoy mass popularity, including:

  • It won the Best Meme of 2017 at the 10th Annual Shorty Awards. Similarly, it featured in other top memes of 2017 lists by NDTV, PC Magazine, and Reddit. In addition, The Washington Post lists it in their 2017 Meme Hall of Fame under the title, 'the ultimate stock photo meme with endless permutations.
  • The August 2017 Twitter version has over 100,000 likes and 35,000 retweets.
  • The meme is popular in mainstream advertising, with companies like The New York Times using it to promote their story on the Fiat Chrysler 50/50 merger proposal to Renault and Nissan's involvement.
  • Unfins, a Swiss Webtoon contributor, created a comic series using the meme. Since posting the comic on Instagram, Unfins has had over 226,00 followers, and the post has over 1 million likes.

The latest version of Distracted boyfriend is a compilation of photos featuring the three models, with the last one showing the women hanging out.

latest version

In addition, Antonio Guillem also has a stock image meme where the roles are reversed. The meme was later posted on Reddit underneath the original and received over 25,600 points in 24 hours.

Part3: I Bet He's Thinking About Other Women

meme features

The meme features a couple in bed with the stock photo meme guy in contemplation and the woman facing him with a concerned look. At first glance, the image shows a couple experiencing relationship problems, with the original caption showing the woman worrying that the man is thinking about other women.

However, subsequent memes feature satirical themes. Here are some of the most popular versions and their popularity.

the most popular versions

A July 2017 Instagram post by Cathrottle gained over 13,400 likes in a month. In this version, the man wonders why there are so many Fast and the Furious movies.

  • Redditor GallowBoob received 34,700 points and 350 comments within 24 hours of posting it.
points and comments

The post references the Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear, with the man contemplating why Buzz is in denial of being a toy.

  • The meme also appears in a 2017 tweet by @NFLRT, an NFL fan account, where the man questions when Colin Kaepernick will be signed.

According to sources, the stock photo meme was first featured on Twitter in December 2016.

stock photo meme

Twitter user @chocos posts the image with Spanish captions, with the woman sure the man is thinking of another. However, the man wonders why there are sounds in Star Wars when the sound does not travel in space. Since then, the tweet has received over 1,700 retweets and 2,200 likes.

Part4: Bonjour Bear

bonjour bear

Unlike the previous stock image memes, Bonjour Bear was not an instant hit among netizens. The stock image was posted online in 2016 by Uryadnikov Sergey and featured a polar bear peeking through its winter den. However, it began causing a buzz in early 2019, following a Reddit post that included hilarious captions.

Since then, internet users have continued to use the Bonjour Bear meme to reference their reactions to different scenarios. Typically, you will find the stock photo meme representing some surprise attacks. Below are some of the most popular versions of the meme:

  • In this version, Bonjour Bear reacts to the discovery of a wound after using hand sanitizer. The post became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when using hand sanitizer was at its peak.
using hand sanitizer

In addition, the post received over 91,700 points, with 95% of upvotes, within a day on Reddit.

  • Others use the meme as a reaction to when your relatives visit. The captions indicate your parent informing you that your uncle and aunt are visiting and they have brought presents.
  • A Reddit post by Poonswoggle from April 2020 received 36,500 points within three months. In this version, the user references his struggle with sleeping because of repressed memories.

The photo is available on most stock photo websites, such as Adobe and Tumblr. Furthermore, you will find other hilarious versions of Bonjour Bear under the subreddits r/dankmemes and r/memes on Reddit.

Part5: FAQs

1. Can you use stock photos for memes?

Yes, you can use stock photos for memes. However, you need to obtain them from royalty-free stock photo providers such as Shutterstock and Pexels. In addition, ensure you understand the license requirements before using the photo.

This is because not all stock photo providers offer their images with a creative commons license. For example, the Unsplash license allows you to use their stock images for personal or commercial use after making adjustments to the original.

2. Does copyright law protect memes?

Yes, all memes are under copyright law, which means you have the authority to govern their use. Although identifying the meme owner can be challenging, posting or sharing a meme through your social media accounts without consent violates copyright law. Therefore, only use stock image memes from verified stock content providers like Shutterstock, where the license provisions are clear.

3. Can you use watermarked stock photos to create memes?

No. Before using watermarked images to create memes, you must get verifiable permission from the rights holder. This is because it violates copyright law and can result in heavy fines or even prison time in extreme circumstances.

Therefore, always perform stock image reverse searches to verify the image permissions. Alternatively, you can refer to stock photo libraries such as Adobe Stock and Unsplash for your meme creation.

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Liza Brown
Liza Brown Mar 27, 24
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