The old saying goes that seeing is believing, and for the most part, that axiom still holds water: you’re far more likely to be convinced of something’s reality if you see it with your own eyes. Stats lie, but your eyes don’t.

That saying, though, doesn’t quite account for 21st century photo editing. These days, especially if it’s something on social media, seeing something doesn’t always mean it’s real. With the ability to exploit angles and utilize Photoshop, any image you see online—or anywhere for that matter—carries the potential to be deceiving.

Take these 20 photos, for instance: on first inspection, they seem to capture a splendid, artful snapshot of reality. But take a closer look…

1. Car on the beach: Car fanatics everywhere might be dropping their jaws at a picture of a slick sports car speeding through a beach with crashing waves, blue skies, and picturesque clouds as a backdrop. How’d photographers capture such a perfect image of this vehicle?

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The reality: The car is actually a model, and the landscape? Yep, it’s just some sand on a cheap table. To get the swirling dust clouds is as simple as having someone with powerful lungs huff and puff over the miniature set.

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2. A beauty in a field: What we have here is a photo fit for any picture frame. It appears this woman is one with nature, at peace in a meadow or the edge of a lush forest, and her red dress pops nicely amidst the green plant life. How could this possibly be fake?

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The reality: The plants are real. The smile is real. But the setting might be just a touch exaggerated! There’s no meadow here… just a long and dreary road with some shrubs the photographer made work. But, hey, kudos to this team for working with what they had!

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3. This daredevil bro with killer core strength: Two things stand out in this photograph: the guy’s impeccable core and toe strength and his seemingly careless flirtation with death. It’s enough to make anyone swoon. That is, until you find out the truth!

Vivi / Flickr

The reality: Okay, so maybe the photo isn’t as death-defying as it at first seems. None of these folks are flirting with the icy grip of death. The good news? There’s nothing faked about the guy in the previous photo’s ab strength.

Vivi / Flickr

4. Woman in the window: It’s a classic pose. A woman, all done up in her makeup, stares longingly out a rainy window. Despite the dreary tone of the photo, there’s something oddly romantic about it. The reality though? Not so much.

hungddaknull / Facebook


The reality: In the end, the woman isn’t perched so perfectly in the windowsill. In fact, she’s actually crouching awkwardly—a literal pain in the butt. Who knows if the rain is real? Chances are, that’s faked too.

hungddaknull / Facebook

5. The perfect wedding: This couple captured a beautiful, seemingly candid scene of the groom protecting his newly betrothed from a sudden rain shower. Just look at that affectionate gaze! Those raindrops glittering in the gold sunlight! This may not be as natural as you’d suppose, though…

Rơm Celano / Flickr

The reality: For the bride and groom to capture this moment forever, they needed to endure a serious exercise in tolerance. In other words, they had to dodge the spittle of this “special effects” wizard.

Rơm Celano / Flickr

6. Steaming shrimp: Nothing says delicious like a morsel of food so piping hot that steam rises from it. This closeup undoubtedly makes this savory shrimp look like a culinary masterpiece, but there’s something else at play here…

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The reality: How would you feel if you found out that it was all just a bit of photo magic? A steamer generates the heat for that piping-hot look, and the photo stagers used an extra-long fork to make sure that the image came out just right.

7. The horned witch: Maybe there aren’t any horned witches out there, but with the way this photo looks, you might have a hard time believing it. With hair blowing in the wind and a lush forest backdrop, this looks like something you’d find hidden deep in the woods.

Winters Blossom / Facebook

The reality: While the woman and the costume are the real deal, the photographer took a few liberties with the hair and setting. There’s no gust of wind blowing this witch’s curls every which way—just some strong hair products.

8. Appetite deception: Here’s another photograph where good-looking food might have you doubting your own cooking prowess for years to come. Thanks to some mood lighting and intricate textures, the photograph is sure to leave your mouth watering.

Corinna Gissemann Photography / Facebook

The reality: Don’t be ashamed of your cooking capabilities after viewing professionally photographed food. In reality, that tasty-looking dish can almost always be attributed to tricks with the lighting!

9. A tough guy: What we have here is a modern day tough guy donning a thick chain that would make any cartoon gangster jealous. Helped by his finely coifed hair, you’d have a hard time believing something is amiss in this photo—but look closer!

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The reality: The truth, though, might not be as cool as the model would like you to believe. That isn’t a gold chain hanging from his neck, but the strap of fashionable purse! Can you imagine rocking this as jewelry all day?

10. A romantic spin: A hand-holding spin with a loved one or friend in the park might be a passion for closet romantics. Twirling, spinning, laughing, falling—it’s all in a day’s work when it comes to love-capturing photographs… but how did the photographer capture this while still snapping the photo?

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The reality: The photographer here needed an extra weight on his shoulders to pull off this romantic picture. If you want a park-twirling photograph of your own, you’d better be prepared to carry a friend on your back to hold your camera for you!

11. Girl underwater: The moody hues of this photograph might catch your eye, but the second thing viewers might notice is that the girl seems submerged deep under water—perfect hair still intact. So, how was it done?

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The reality: The magic of this photo lies entirely in photo-editing software. The girl isn’t suspended in water so much as she’s propped atop some furniture. The water and wisps of hair? That’s all done by the computer’s touch.

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12. Cars on the street: Something about this scene gives off that picturesque movie feeling: a few old cars sit on a tree-filled suburban street. Clearly, someone is moving in, too, as a moving trailer sits open with a washing machine on the dolly. So what’s wrong with this scene?

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The reality: Hey, at least the neighborhood is real! Those cars, though? Not so much. Once again, the photographer utilized models, a fake road, and a folding table that wouldn’t be out of place in a college frat house. With models, it’s a lot easier for the photographer to move the cars and get a better angle, too.

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13. A couple framed on the beach: This is a photograph that just about any couple wouldn’t mind having taken of themselves. It’s the mantle topper to end all mantle toppers, and it perfectly captures romance, nature, and beauty, all in one picture.

AdrianIntac Photography / Facebook

The reality: Alright, the beach may not be as spotless as the original picture indicated, the water may not be as blue, and the sky may not be as clear and spectacular. But even Photoshop can’t fake this couple’s love, right?

AdrianIntac Photography / Facebook

14. A woman in shadows: While the woman in this picture may be photograph-worthy herself, the real focus of the image is the intricate pattern of the shadow that’s falling across her face. So, what’s the deal with it?

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The reality: The shadow is the focus, eh? Well, then, all you need for a great photograph is something that casts a neat shadow, and in this case of this picture, it appears they used a colander or pasta strainer—neither of which screams “au natural.”

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15. The sandy woman: This photograph offers an original take on a classic photo. Instead of whipping beads of water from her hair, the model whips dirt and sand, creating an interesting textural element to the photo. Of course, you’re catching on—this photo wasn’t taken after a day at the beach…

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The reality: No, this model wasn’t removing some sand after a day of digging on the beach. The sand was artificially dumped on her with something as not-so-glamorous as a dustpan. Let’s hope she kept her eyes closed tight!

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16. Lady of the Woods: The woman in this photo sits pensive in the forest, her white dress popping as she’s surrounded by a fog-like mist. There’s a sense of ancient mystery here. But what’s the real source of that mystery?

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The reality: That smoky mist that added such a surreal touch to the photograph? Oh, that’s just from the fog guy—he exhales it right out of his mouth. There’s no need for a fog machine when you have a fog guy!

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17. A woman by the water: There’s a lot going on in this photo to appreciate, like the bright colors, the framing of the woman, and the contrast of the stark white dress against the the flowers, to name a few. But maybe this image isn’t as glamorous as it appears…

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The reality: There’s good news. So much of this photo is reality. The woman’s dress, the colors—they’re all there in the real world. Her posing place may not be as natural as it seems, though. In order to capture the picture, the photographer definitely needed to work his way into a dicey spot.

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18. A rugged man in the snow: Like something out of a fashion catalogue, this model poses with snowflakes gently falling all around him. Somehow, on a dark winter’s night, photographers managed to capture him perfectly in the moonlight. Except, in reality…

Rey Mangouta / Facebook

The reality: The man wasn’t braving the cold of a city street to take this photograph. The moon was nothing more than a bright, bright light, and the snow was nothing more than set dressing. At least it wasn’t from someone spitting water this time!

Rey Mangouta / Facebook

19. Moon makers: All right, so it doesn’t take a keen eye and insider knowledge to figure out that this picture may have had a little help from the photographer. But how was a photo so complex created?

erik.joh / Instagram


The reality: The photographer and his or her team worked with the actual outdoors to capture the picture. However, they clearly weren’t working with a picture-perfect full moon in the sky. Nope, those were just dressed-up lights with a few overlaid special effects.

erik.joh / Instagram

20. A woman in Paris: What a gorgeous photo! Our tattooed protagonist looks like she’s overlooking the French capital and the iconic Eiffel Tower with a mournful, contemplative look on her face.

Nick Fancher Photography / Facebook

The reality: While she may look like she was photographed in Paris, this model was actually nowhere near the City of Lights. The beautiful background to his photograph was nothing more than a few printed sheets of paper!

Nick Fancher Photography / Facebook

Seeing may be believing, but when it comes to the world of photography, you can believe there might be some tricks in play!

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