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GIS Syndrome
"I retire to my heavily processed photograph of Andrew Carnegie's study, painstakingly retrieved from a Google image search."

A common shortcut that Webcomic creators use is to collect pictures from Google Image Search and use them as the background of a frame (or a portion thereof). These images are usually run through a filter (almost always some type of blur) on Photoshop, either to lessen focus or to make the image more congruent with the comic's art style. This is often utilized for complex designs (book and video game covers are common examples), but can be seen as a sign of laziness if the artist comes to depend on it.

In some cases, the author is lazy enough that he picks the first fitting image from the first results page, thus allowing bored readers to guess his search terms and find the original images easily. Laziness and ignorance can also get authors in much more serious trouble — for some reason, people tend to think that anything found via GIS is fair game, when of course it's still all covered by copyright law. No relation to Geographic Information Systems, which aren't used by comic artists nearly as much.

Not to be confused with a Photo Comic, which uses photographs as the art instead of an embellishment. See also Photographic Background.


Webcomic Examples:

Non-Webcomic Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Rurouni Kenshin (the anime, not the manga) often had video of real locations blended into the background. The animators were extremely good at it; it's not until the filler arc that got the show canceled that it became noticeable. In fact, if you see water in this series, it's almost sure to be the real thing, not animated. And you might never notice it.
  • The original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Visual Novels do this, although they are taken by a staff member.
  • Many backgrounds in the manga Hot Gimmick were photographs, with the contrast heightened to make them fit in better with the line art.
  • Mahou Tsukai Ni Taisetsu Na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ has backgrounds which suspiciously look like photos that have been traced and colored to let them blend in with the animation. Many locations from Biei, Tokyo and Kamakura are clearly recognizable.
  • CLAMP has been known to use this in their backgrounds, such as the cityscapes in Tokyo Babylon and famous Kyoto locations in Gate7.
  • Musashi Gundoh is rather blatant with this, to the point that when Chip And Ironicus riffed on the first episode, shouting out "JPEG!" became a Running Gag.
  • Studio Shaft is a repeat offender of this this trope. Prominent examples include Bakemonogatari, Hidamari Sketch, and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.
  • The Tatami Galaxy will often utilize manipulated photographs as backgrounds, and often as a means of artistic expression.
  • Oyasumi Punpun will do this on occasion, usually when it comes to skies, or in some instances, water. Which isn't to say that it's particularly noticeable in this series.

Art
  • Some art critics have pointed out that George W. Bush's series of amateur portraits of world leaders, on display at his presidential library, bear a striking resemblance to pictures that appear on the first page of Google Images results for their names.

Comic Books
  • The Free Comic Book Day issue of Scott Pilgrim contains a lampshaded example of this.
    "Okay, this background looks really hard to draw and I don't think I'm getting paid for this comic, so enjoy this stock photo."
  • Some earlier Nodwick strips did this.

Literature
  • The cover of many Vanity Published books. The cover often has nothing whatsoever to do with the book contents!

Newspaper Comics
  • Political cartoonist Gordon Campbell uses this CONSTANTLY.
  • Working Daze has been starting to use photo backgrounds to depict areas outside the office along with other art experimentation. The writer and artist team encourage readers to guess where the photo came from.
  • The Montreal Gazette's cartoonist, Aislin, has done this.
  • Between The Lines has been a horrible offender in the 2014 strips.

Video Games
  • The "creators" of Limbo of the Lost have apparently used Google Image Search themselves to take various images for use as inventory items.
  • One video game had faux advertisements in it; unfortunately, the 'faux' adverts were really GIS results with some text changed or taken out. Fortunately for the game, this was noticed during testing and changed.
  • The original release of Re Alistair had real photographs for backgrounds; subsequent releases had them replaced by drawn images.
    • Many low-budget or freeware Visual Novels use stock backgrounds, actually, probably because actually drawing one would take time and resources the artists don't have.
  • Crazy Bus features stock photos of buses for its backgrounds. They also look rather ugly, as they had to be compressed to be put on the Sega Genesis.
  • The iPad adventure game Lechuza was made almost entirely with art assets found on Google Image Search, as noted in this playthrough video from our friends slowbeef and Diabetus of Retsupurae. In the respective Something Awful thread, the goons managed to track down almost every single stolen art asset using Google Image Search.
  • In contrast to the usual Visual Novel use of GIS for backgrounds, Hatoful Boyfriend uses stock photos for all the bird characters, and for loading screens between chapters. Stock photo resources are cited and thanked in the credits.
  • In Mass Effect 3, there were two cases of taking images and modifying them, one being the post-ending epilogue image, and the other being the photograph of Tali's face.
  • Apparently, the art of Civilization V had been redesigned shortly before release, forcing the developers to rely on this technique for their button graphics, which drew some ridicule from the community.
  • Happens during an event in Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver where you have to take Arceus to a certain room and he proceeds to recreate the universe from scratch to give you an egg containing one of the cover legendaries for the other Gen 4 games. This process is illustrated starting with stock images of space and stars and how the Earth may have looked, up to single-celled organisms and finally civilizations by showing overhead satellite shots or skylines of big cities. As one Youtube commenter put it: "Arceus used Google Image Search!"
  • Androx Demon of Fire, a hilariously terrible (and now cancelled) RPG mocked by Retsupurae in this Kickstarter video series, used a hilariously out of place volcano background from Google Images in part of the lava area. It doesn't work with the top down graphics style in the slightest.

Web Animation
  • Happens just as often as in case of webcomics, whether directly in Clip Art Animation or traced in Flash. Any time a pistol appears, it's this picture of a CZ-75. More egregious, if a shotgun is supposed to appear, it's usually this airsoft shotgun. A bomb? Likely this one. And so on.
  • Zero Punctuation consists of exactly four visual elements: A stubborn refusal to ever change the yellow background, white figures with Raymanian Limbs, imps, and pictures he took off Google images. One in particular that keeps cropping up is the Thomas Ruff portrait that, according to Word of God, he found by searching for "expressionless man".
  • Other than effects and characters, Taiwanese illustrator VOFAN's animated film 1/60 is composed entire of photographs. Because the film is all about photography, it's an interesting deconstruction of this trope.

Web Original
  • In a Let's Play of Donkey Kong 64, Dazzling Addar changes day to night for the first time in the Fungi Forest level. When they look at the moon:
    Vicas: Oh, wow, they, they, like... If Google had, like, had an image search back then, they would've just Google image searched the moon and stuck it right there.
  • Lampshaded on Third Rate Gamer, where an image of a castle is labeled "Castle of Google Images".

Western Animation
Footnote FeverIndex SyndromeGold Fever
Direct DemographicWebcomic TropesIdentical Panel Gag
Furries Are Easier to DrawLazy ArtistHands in Pockets

alternative title(s): Stock Photo Background
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