Top 12 Ridiculous Massage Therapy Stock Photos

This post was originally published back on January 27, 2014, by Benjamin McDonald with Massamio, but I love it so much, it’s worth a re-publish. Plus, we need something fun every once in awhile. Enjoy!

I have a confession to make. I’ve used terrible, ridiculous massage therapy stock photos in the past.

Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest. It’s really been bugging me! And now that I know better, I notice these images ALL of the time. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

Thank goodness our astute readers and customers let us know early on that stock photos of massage models in awkward, contorted positions are just not acceptable. It also got me thinking that it would be fun to illustrate just how unrealistic and downright wrong these photos can be.

I asked several massage therapist friends to help me come up with a list of some of the most absurd, cliche and inaccurate images of massage therapy that are used by spas, salons, and marketers everywhere.


Let’s stop the insanity and start using realistic photos of real people getting real massage. Massage Nerd Ryan Hoyme was gracious enough to allow us to use his vast collection of professional massage therapy stock photos as a reality check for what actual massage therapy looks like. The images are available to purchase on his site and we recommend you check them out.

So let’s begin the fun! This is what massage therapists are really thinking when they see these stock photos…


We all know that flowers are great hair accessories, but you may not know that they’re also perfect for covering up body parts that might accidentally show up in your massage photos.


Allissa Haines: “Who wants to massage through an obstacle course of flora? The best massage canvas is a body on a clean, plain massage table. Flowers belong in a vase. Not on your table, and certainly not on a body.”

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Lu Mueller-Kaul:  “Don’t get me started on the flower petals. What’s that supposed to mean? Unless you’re offering RosePetalsagge®, get rid of them. I don’t like to imagine lying on foliage, either. I know it makes a nice contrast on the picture. But really? Leaves on the massage table? Call me cynical… but I think of bugs, allergies and lawsuits.”

Ryan Hoyme: “Should I massage with the roses, or should I take them off first?”

On a Beach

100% real massage shot on location in the Caribbean and totally not a photoshopped fake background.

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Ryan Hoyme: “OK, where is my therapist?”

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Cherie Sohnen-Moe: “Wow! In this position my neck and legs are as rigid as the stones on my back. Please, let me get into the ocean.”

This is What a Real Massage Looks Like

Let’s take a break and have an example of a real massage, from a real massage therapist using warm stones, yes? Great example from Ryan Hoyme’s collection here:


Wait, the therapist actually uses the stones to massage the body, not just lay them on the back and walk away? I would’ve never guessed.

More Stones!

Hot Stone Massage is just so hot right now.

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Allissa Haines: “If you’ve always wanted to be draped with a decorative tribal necklace during your massage, this is the technique for you! While there are certainly stone techniques that use static placement, it’s a great way to burn a client if you’re not properly trained.”

Neck on a Rolled Towel

This classic genre of massage therapy stock image has to be the one that draws the most complaints and irritation from MTs. It’s like high fashion, it’s supposed to look pretty but you know it can’t be comfortable!

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Flower in hair…check!
Vial of something…check!
ROLLED TOWEL on top of a little table for extra neck crankage ….check!

Cherie Sohnen-Moe: “How many times are we going to see “clients” on a massage table with their heads propped up on a towel. That is always the last resort. Come on folks – face cradles please!”

Again, let’s inventory all the cliches: candle, pokey flowers, static stones along the spine, no face cradle, smiling model, and our best friend the ROLLED TOWEL.

Laura Allen: “Are there really that many people giving massage without a face cradle? I don’t think so. These photos just want to show some beautiful model smiling about the massage, which is not realistic. Put that face in a cradle!”

Ryan Hoyme: “Quick, take a picture!”

Irene Diamond: If I was in this awkward position my neck would be worse than before my session, not to mention the problem with inhaling the wax fumes! (Let’s hope they’re at least soy candles!)

Busy People Working Through Their Massage

I’m emailing you from the comfort of my 15-minute corporate chair massage break.

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Cherie Sohnen-Moe: “I know these photos are trying to be ironic (getting relaxed while working). Even so, there’s no face cradle cover. Eeewwww! Plus his tie could easily get caught and cause injury.”

Ryan Hoyme: “Bringing multi-tasking to a whole new level.”

Irene Diamond: “Maybe the therapist will be able to reduce some trigger points and adhesions, but certainly does nothing for his stress management if he can’t even have 5 minutes alone without his assistant, phone and laptop!”

This is What Real Chair Massage Looks Like

Much better!


Random Props

Candles, flowers, spice bowls, waterfalls, oil vials, cucumber masks, bamboo–it wouldn’t be a massage stock photo without random props!

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Cherie Sohnen-Moe: “Having oil splatter on your back is not very relaxing at all and makes the practitioner look unprofessional. Drip, drip, drip… Is that oil or are you sweating on me?”

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Ryan Hoyme: “What would you like to eat during your massage?”

Lu Mueller-Kaul: “Bowls with spices that are shoved right into the model’s face. The idea alone makes me sneeze. In general, better focus on the therapist’s hands, not the model’s face. Potential clients should get the idea that they can get GOOD bodywork… not that they’re supposed to be young and pretty.”

Lu brings up a rather good point. Many of these images focus on a young, stereotypically beautiful, smiling woman and it’s almost impossible to find a stock photo of any person of color, male or female. There is also a focus on basically everything but the act of massage itself. You can imagine the steam coming out of a professional massage therapist’s ears when she sees images like this.

This is What a Real Massage Looks Like

Hey look, real people. Refreshing isn’t it?


A face cradle with a proper cover and focus on the massage therapist’s hands. That looks incredibly relaxing.


Wait, massage therapists apply pressure with their ELBOWS? What? Sign me up for that.

One Final “Bad” Stock Photo We Love

Almost perfect! Points off for jewelry and no face cradle cover. But compared to the rest, it’s pretty awesome.

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Allissa Haines:
 Okay. I actually (almost) like this picture. The therapist is dressed well, the client has cool tattoos, and it’s clearly silly and fun. This would be a great stock photo for a blog post titled, “No. Massage does NOT need to hurt.” Sadly the therapist is wearing a bracelet and there’s no cover on the face cradle.

Cherie Sohnen-Moe:This one actually made me chuckle. Although a therapist wouldn’t wear a bracelet or a necklace.”

Note: All ridiculous massage stock images legally downloaded and paid for on Shutterstock. And of course, our “good’ examples of massage photography generously provided by Ryan Hoyme aka Massage Nerd and available for purchase on

–Benjamin McDonald

What are your pet-peeves about the way massage is marketed, portrayed, and generally misrepresented in image form? Share away in the comments!


Comments from original Massamio post:

great point — Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 11:02 AM by bren

You forgot the all important one….a therapist with NAILS!!! — Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 1:04 PM by Dale Nimmo

I love that last picture! It knows what it is, and it’s honest about it. Had the lady doffed the bracelet, though, it would be perfect.  I’ve also, of late, been seeing a bunch of pictures sporting “therapists” with claws and plunging necklines. I shudder to think what these images tell the public about us. — Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 6:03 PM by Jessica

Didn’t see any here, but the ones where the MT has long fingernails are bad. But I hate the ones with the bad body mechanics; i.e., reaching across the body or standing weird. — Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 9:57 PM by Maria

My peeve is the hot stone massage pictures. When I looked for one, only found static stones on the back. If you did that, the model would not have a smile on her face! — Posted @ Tuesday, January 28, 2014 8:27 AM by Jennifer Keth

LOL! Love ’em guys! Have to sadly admit myself…I have used many similar such pictures. Now if we need them, I have my daughter model and we do our own pictures! Thanks a million for bringing it to our attention! — Posted @ Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:25 PM by Cindy Frahm

Thanks for all your comments! This was fun putting together–we’re glad it gave you a chuckle and hopefully will help shift toward more authenticity. — Posted @ Tuesday, January 28, 2014 10:00 PM by Benjamin McDonald

Loved those pics,the last one was more real. LOL  I do tire of all the massage pics where everyone is young, pretty and perfect , and yes the long nails and plunging necklines.They even have those on youtube,,and these people thing someone will take them seriously? — Posted @ Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:15 AM by Jeanette

Very funny! I’m constantly laughing at all the absurd massage photos I come across! — Posted @ Tuesday, February 04, 2014 2:16 AM by Jamin Rak

Awesome job!!!! — Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 12:12 PM by Matthew Olds

thanks for this, I’ve been struggling with the stock photo my web designer found for and I have been using on my home page for my website. I never liked it, like it less now but he has let me know it is a lot of work to remove it. Ev — Posted @ Tuesday, February 25, 2014 3:48 PM by Evelyn M. Olivas

Love this! We use almost entirely our own photos but these stock photos are so misleading! I can’t believe how many couples massage clients are upset when they see how far apart out tables are compared to what they see online on stock photography! We need room to move! lol, some would rather hold hands than get a real massage I guess. 😉 — Posted @ Wednesday, March 05, 2014 6:35 AM by Cassie Sampson

This post it´s Very funny! and… very trully… because… I am asking to myself sometimes: and… this photo? impossible postures, and always giving false image around the real massage.  O h… thank you.. I am smiling. — Posted @ Wednesday, March 12, 2014 8:46 AM by Masajes Orientales Xiao Ying

Someone (non-massage therapist) just spotted a massage publication I had lying around. Showed this person all of these ridiculous pics just for a laugh. Love it! — Posted @ Tuesday, March 18, 2014 10:20 PM by Cynthia Given, LMT

I think there could be better balance with marketing the concept of a massage with reality, but remember most clients don’t think like a therapist and a massage is a luxery item for many people, not a therapy. Once you lure them in, then You can teach them the benefits of regular services. It is always amazing to me how many people have never had a massage or “don’t like to be touched.” Get them over the first hurdle, in the door and on the table, the work your agin for repeat visits. — Posted @ Friday, May 30, 2014 3:59 PM by Erin

I can’t believe no one else noticed that man’s NIPPLE showing in the last photo (in addition to the jewelry and cradle cover issues). — Posted @ Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:56 AM by Aria

You blog post is just completely entertaining about the locations and the photo shoot. Many new facts and information which I have not heard about before. Keep sharing more blog posts. — Posted @ Monday, June 30, 2014 9:18 AM by Available Photo Booths in Louisiana