Photoshop and other photo editing programs have truly changed the way media displays images and how the world views them. Aside from the wondrous, artistic effects that come from edited photos, nothing ruins credibility or skews the truth more than an altered photograph that is presented as real. Professional photographers will still crop, cut, copy and paste their way to the perfect picture, but the industry’s keen eye for such deceitful practices will help keep these photos out of our sight. Here are 10 photoshopped photos that passed off as real:

  • O.J. Simpson in a Different Light
    After O.J. Simpson was arrested for allegedly murdering his ex-wife Nicole Smith and her friend in 1994, his mugshot was plastered in hundreds of magazines and newspapers across the country. Time magazine took it upon themselves to make the former football player look darker and more evil by manipulating the color, burning the corners and shrinking the prisoner ID number on his mugshot.
  • National Geographic Squeezed for Space
    National Geographic magazine got caught moving pyramids for a 1982 cover story featuring the Great Pyramids of Giza, which were squeezed together to fit the vertical layout of the magazine. Although it was the ’80s, the magazine’s former director of photography, Tom Kennedy, stated that the publication no longer uses technology to alter elements to make a more convincing photo.
  • Up in Smoke
    The plot thickened and so did the smoke that loomed over downtown Beirut in a controversial 2006 Reuters photograph. In the midst of the Israel-Lebanon conflict, Lebanese freelance photographer Adnan Hajj was caught doctoring two published war photographs. When compared to the original image, Hajj’s photo showed a thicker, darker plume of smoke that rose from an Israeli bombing raid. In the second photo, Hajj made some changes to his photo by increasing the number of flares dropped from an Israeli F-16 and misidentified them as “missiles.” Reuters withdrew the doctored image, suspended their contract with Hajj and implemented a “tighter editing procedure” for war images.
  • A Badgered Brochure
    The University of Wisconsin 2001-2002 undergraduate student brochure ended up looking like a “Where’s Waldo?” photo not just because of the red and white everywhere, but because of a student that didn’t fit with the rest of the group. In an attempt to show their diverse student population, the University created a composite using a photo of all white students at a 1993 Badger football game, and inserted a black student, Diallo Shabazz’s face into the crowd. The school received serious backlash for doctoring the image and passing it off as real, in addition to faking a diverse population that just isn’t so.
  • Harper’s Magazine Against AWOL
    Harper’s photo for their cover story, “AWOL in America: When Desertion Is the Only Option,” did not sit well with some of the Marines featured when they found out what the story was really about. The photo featured seven Marines standing against a wall, with one soldier fading away in thin air. Harper’s was criticized for using real, active soldiers in a story about going AWOL, which has an incredibly negative connotation. Harper’s fought back saying they were “decorating pages” by using soldiers and not implying that they were AWOL.
  • Piecing Together Julia Roberts
    Redbook magazine, has received some flak for doctoring photos and not being transparent about its practices over the years. One of the publication’s most notorious manipulations was a 2003 cover shot of Julia Roberts that had been altered from the head down. The magazine took Roberts’ head from a paparazzi shot at the People’s Choice awards, and combined it her body from the Notting Hill movie premiere four years ago. The goal was to make the cover pop, but even with an apology by the publisher, Hearst, this magazine issue continues to be an example of what not to do.
  • Two Becomes One
    Even in war, photographs aren’t always as they seem. Point in case, the Los Angeles Times photographer Brian Walski’s emotional image of a British soldier and a group of Iraqi civilians in Basra, which graced the newspaper’s front page and was printed in other publications. To much disappointment, Walski’s photo turned out to be a composite of two images that he combined to “improve” the composition. Once confronted about the altered image, Walski admitted to his photo doctoring and was later fired for unethical practices and altering the truth.
  • Fusing Famous Females
    Today, no organization in their right-mind would use Oprah Winfrey’s face on their cover without her permission. TV Guide learned their lesson after a 1989 cover displayed the talk-show host’s face on another woman’s body. The body belonged to actress Ann-Margret from a 1979 Rockette special. The glitzy dress that Oprah was wearing caught the eye of Ann-Margret’s fashion designer, who recognized the dress from the photo shoot. Neither woman gave their consent to creating the composite.
  • Getting Crafty with Martha Stewart
    After her release from prison, Martha Stewart appeared on Newsweek magazine’s cover looking exactly as they described her, “thinner, wealthier and ready for prime time.” This smiley shot of Stewart pulling back the stage curtains was actually a composite of her face on a model’s body. In an attempt to cover their behinds, Newsweek came forward on Page 3, calling the cover a photo illustration and giving credit to the artists behind the separate head and body shot. Despite coming clean about the altered cover, Newsweek received a great deal of flak for misleading the public through unethical practices.
  • FUN Family
    In an effort to meet diversity requirements for Toronto’s summer edition of FUN Guide, the publication superimposed the face of a black man into a clustered family photo. In order to show a more diverse, eclectic side of the city, the FUN Guide nixed the photo of a tan-skinned father to display the new dad’s picture, which was poorly edited. The publication claims to have been doing its duty to “depict the diversity of Toronto and its residents,” but ended up looking way too forced.

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Filed under: Photography

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