Jamie Kiffel

These are tricky pics because of photo manipulation, which combines and alters images using a computer.

Tricky Tools
Many of the images in this article were created by separately photographing each animal’s body parts as well as the props in the picture. Then artists used a computer program called Photoshop to “cut-and-paste” the images together. The Photoshop program has a lot of tools. The “blur” tool makes things appear to be in motion, while “distort” functions stretch or squash images like a fun house mirror. Want to make pics bigger or smaller? One solution is to use the “scale” tool. To bring out details, hit “sharpen.” And when one orangutan isn’t enough, use the “clone” tool—no scientists necessary!

Serious Changes
Computer artists use photo manipulation for many reasons. Some may fiddle with color to make flowers on a greeting card look extra-bright. Others are just having fun. Sometimes, though, people will use photo manipulation to fool you. For instance, last year a magazine published a picture of a TV celebrity. The problem was the photo made the celebrity look thinner than she really was. Someone had taken the original photo and put the celeb on a controversial Photoshop diet! As for these silly shots? There’s no question that they’re just for fun. But they look almost real enough to believe. Here are some secrets to what makes these pics so tricky.

Dessert’s on You
These pieces of cake were never airborne—or on the dog’s face. “I photographed the cake bits lying on a sheet of paper,” says photographer John Lund. To get the cat to lean in toward the cake, Lund tempted him with a treat. The cake, candles, and smoke were distorted to make the scene look like a birthday blowout.

Mouse Slide
How do you photograph a speedy mouse? “We constantly put him in the shoe until he sat still for a split second,” says photographer Chris Collins. “As I took the picture, he tried to push himself out, which is why his front paw is on the shoe.” The other paw and the blur were added later.

Dog Bowl
The shoes were photographed at the bowling alley—without the dogs in them. “I shot the shoes dogless,” Lund says. To get the belly pics, one dog lay on his back, while the other was held up under his front legs. Humans originally held the bowling balls—but the people were replaced by the dogs.

Tweety’s Revenge
This bird didn’t have to worry: The cat was never near him. “The cat was added to the cage on the computer in parts,” says Lund, who photographed the bird on an empty cage. To make the fur seem as if it were poking out of the cage, Lund leaned an oven rack against the cat’s side.

Fooled Ya!
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a photo has been manipulated, but these clues will help you spot a fake.

Part of the Picture Stands Out
“If the photographer used the sharpening tool too much, the subject will look almost like a sticker that’s been slapped onto a background,” says photographer Jill Enfield of TakeGreatPictures.com.

Everything is Too Detailed
“Whatever the photographer focused on—a building, for instance—should be the most detailed part of the picture, and the background should be a little out of focus,” Enfield says. “If they’re both in sharp focus, that could be a giveaway that multiple photos were combined.”

The Light is Wrong
“Look at the shadows,” says photo editor Steve Larese of New Mexico magazine. “Are they all going in the same direction?” If they’re not, you can bet something was cut-and-pasted. It’s out of proportion. Ever seen an orangutan-size skate? Neither have we. Chances are, if the size doesn’t make sense, it was changed on the computer.

It Couldn't Happen in Real Life
Even if it wanted to, a dog couldn’t hold a bowling ball. “If it looks impossible, it probably is,” Larese says.

Text by Jamie Kiffel