The World’s Most Famous Photoshop Fakes

Does anyone still believe that the camera never lies? With Photoshop, you can now make a picture speak any thousand words you want, and it will take a cynical attitude and a skilled eye to tell whether any of them is true.

While that might be a creative opportunity for artistic photographers and designers, for news editors, it can all be a bit of a nightmare — and for readers too when the photos skip the newspapers and land straight in your mailbox.

Here are seven of the most famous photoshop fakes.

Tourist Guy


Photography: Péter Guzli

Perhaps the creepiest Photoshop fake was this shot of Hungarian tourist, Péter Guzli, apparently standing on top of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as one of the hijacked planes approaches.

This image did the rounds after the attacks with the claim that it was found in a camera pulled out of the rubble. In fact, Guzli had taken the picture in 1997 and made the edit for friends. Other people then made further edits placing him at every disaster from the sinking of the Titanic to the destruction of the White House by aliens on Independence Day.

The Smoke of War


Photography: Reuters/Adnan Hajj

Péter Guzli’s collage didn’t fool many people, nor was it intended to. Lebanese photographer Adnan Hajj’s shot of smoke billowing above Beirut following Israeli bombing in the summer of 2006 fooled the news desk at Reuters… but no one who had heard of Photoshop.

The repeat patterns in the smoke made lots of people smell a rat and it turned out that Hajj had even copied some of the buildings. LittleGreenFootballs made a neat analysis of the work done on the image and was one of the first to sound a warning. The result was a scramble among photo agencies to clarify their photo editing policies.

Here’s the less smoky original:


Iraqi Civilians


Photography: Brian Walski/Los Angeles Times

Adnan Hajj was a local stringer trying to make a political point. Brian Walski was a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times who just wanted to make a better picture — a much more likely trap for both photographers and editors. After shooting a series of shots of American troops and Iraqi civilians in 2003, Walski found that the best composition came by merging two images together. He was fired.


John Kerry And Jane Fonda


Photography: Owen Franken/ Ken Light

Usually, it’s the photographer who does the editing, either because he thinks he’ll get a better picture or because he believes it will deliver a stronger message. This fake cutting that circulated during the 2004 Presidential primaries was the work of neither of the two photographers whose images it featured. The shot of John Kerry was taken by Ken Light at the Register for Peace Rally in June 1971. Jane Fonda was photographed by Owen Franken as at a political rally in Miami Beach, Florida, in August 1972.

The collage was a dirty trick designed to derail John Kerry’s campaign.

Shirtless Sarkozy


Source: L’Express

So what’s the opposite of a dirty trick? French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave American photographers a scolding for intruding on his American vacation in the summer of 2007 but he wouldn’t have minded what the editors at Paris Match (owned by his friend, Arnaud Lagardere) did to his love handles. Rivals L’Express pointed out that the President had been given some Photoshop liposuction.

Oprah the Model


And Oprah Winfrey might not have complained about this August 1989 cover of TV Guide either. It’s Oprah’s head all right but according to the body belongs to actress Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret’s fashion designer recognized the dress and spotted the fakery.

The Reichstag Flag


Not strictly speaking a Photoshop fake as the program wasn’t around during the Second World War, but just a reminder that playing with fake smoke and mirrors isn’t new to the modern era.

Ukrainian photographer, Yevgeny Khaldei, didn’t just stage this photo of Soviet troops raising the flag over the Reichstag in 1945 (the first flag had gone up after dusk). He also heightened the smoke and removed the two watches from the wrists of the soldier on the lower left. Good Soviet soldiers don’t loot.

Here’s the original:


Photography: Yevgeny Khaldei

Tell us what Photoshop fakes you’ve spotted. (You can even learn to make your own fake photos here.)note: Thanks to Dan Zimmerman and others for pointing out that the soldier in Brian Walski’s photo is British, not American. We’re better at identifying cameras than guns.

91 comments for this post.

  1. macgruder Said:

    Uncle J's DoG;
    Rumsfeld served, with distinction.
    from wikipedia:
    Military service

    Rumsfeld served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1957 as a naval aviator and flight instructor. His initial training was in the North American SNJ Texan basic trainer after which he transitioned to flying the Grumman F9F Panther fighter. In 1957, he transferred to the Naval Reserve and continued his naval service in flying and administrative assignments as a drilling reservist until 1975. He transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve when he became Secretary of Defense in 1975 and retired with the rank of Captain in 1989."[10]

  2. Mark P Said:

    Wasn't there a Photoshopped photo of a Canadian soldier recently used to illustrate some Democratic campaign literature about how the Bushites didn't care about U.S. soldiers?

    And years ago, there was a fake photo of a giant wave about to swamp a German battleship in the Denmark Strait which was taken as authentic for decades.

  3. Phillip J Said:

    This one i pretty creepy too!

  4. PabloNH Said:

    Uncle Jef's Dog Said:

    Rumsfeld, served in the military? nope.

    Rumsfeld was a naval aviator from 1954-1957, flying a Grumman F9F Panther fighter. He remained in the Naval Reserve until 1975, when he be came Secretary of Defense and transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve, from which he retired a Captain in 1989.

  5. Justus Said:

    Soviet photoshopping, Stalin wanted to show that he was the only prodigy of Lenin, however, trotski was actually his follower. Here you see some nice vintage photoshopping:

  6. Nikko Said:

    I think this photot of a russian police officer may have been mirrored.

    Also, patriotism is to me a discusting word. In sweden, politicians get called on everything they do. At least 3 of the ministers have been fired och stepped down since the last election because the media and the people bring their bullshit to light (using tax money for candy or being the minister of culture and not paying for TV like everyone else is required to by law). I don't care if you're democrats or republicans because all those parties really are are election machines spewing out propaganda and both parties are far more right than even the most conservative swedish party. Also your democracy being the first in the world only means it's horribly outdated and obviously doesn't work. But that's just my two cents. Enjoy your liberty and justice for all.

    PS. I'm not a swede, just used Sweden as an example.

  7. ravenshrike Said:

    Actually, the founding fathers were liberals. However, no one who supports todays leftist politics can be considered a liberal. They may be considered socially liberal(for a given value of liberal) but they are not, in fact, liberals. They are progressives. There is a large difference. Of course the idea of being the party of progress is absurd once you look past the face of it, but thinking critically is not a leftist strongpoint.

  8. KBK Said:

    Political orientation isn't so simple:

    1. Conservative / progressive axis

    2. Socialist / capitalist axis

    3. Libertarian / authoritarian axis

    It's at least a three dimensional space. Trying to capture it in 1D ('liberal' v. conservative) or maybe a triangle ('liberal', libertarian, conservative) is impossible, I think.

    Me? 1: 50% 2: 90% capitalist 3: 50%

  9. RickD Said:

    The Photoshop Diet

  10. MoonbatBubba Said:

    Dunno if this has been mentioned above (scanned through the comments and couldn't find it so far) so i figured I'll put this one up.

    EuReferendum has a (lengthy!) piece where they dissect the "coverage" of the "Quana incident" during the recent war of Israel and Hizbollah.

    Although, lengthy, it's worth the read - if you've believed in the mainstream media's "right wing focus" up to now, this might change your mind. It did for me. The gist of the article is on the second page. Link:

  11. tyree Said:

    Thanks Jim C.
    I remember when that photo surfaced and some people tried to pass it off as a Photoshop. I never knew it had been proven to be authentic. I do remember that I used the zoom tool to look for cut and paste errors and couldn't find any.

  12. ANONYMOUS Said:
    Benjamin Franklin
    Thomas Jefferson
    James Madison
    Thomas Paine

  13. tim Said:

    What about the one with Leon Trotsky and Kamenev removed? It's only one of THE most famous "photoshops" in history.

  14. colin Said:

    I remember a picture in the Sun newspaper during the prelude to the Falklands War
    British Paratroopers exercising, running on the decks of the QE2 .
    The picture was squashed to make the trooper look more muscular, completely obvious.
    The Sun was always regarded as a comic, but it stooped to new lows then if it thought
    That picture would impress anyone with any intelligence or sense.

  15. Jyle Said:

    Another great fake is the V-Day photo in Times Square, NY.
    Just compare these two:

  16. Charlie Said:

    Huh? Those are two separate photos. Look at the top of the girl's heads - completely different angles.

  17. Mandi Said:

    These were some good examples. I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to research these and give the back story, not just slap a bunch of images up and let them go.

  18. Ruairi Said:

    Here's a classic from the day Iraq fell and they pulled down Saddam statue.

  19. bobbalinks Said:

    Lest we never forget poor CBS News who felt that Katie Couric would be more believable if she were more slim, check out the following:

  20. Bronson Said:

    I have seen a lot of these ones, but there are several in there I definitely had to share. I wonder how many people we gamed with these images?

  21. jay Said:

    @ Frank Dux Said:
    December 13th, 2007 at 3:17 pm
    This photo I found is great, this guy claims George Bush appeared in his Thanksgiving Turkey. Photoshop or Thanksgiving miracle? you be the judge...


    Reminds me on Dubya's visit to Iraq, serving the troops a plastic turkey:

    Not photoshoped, but fake nonetheless...

  22. Jan Said:

    The Iwo Jima Flag Raising by Joe Rosenthal vs the The Reichstag Flag Raising by Yevgeny Khaldei.
    Interestingly no one made a comment about The Reichstag Flag. Indeed it was staged by the photographer. I had the privilege to meet Mr. Rosenthal and hear the story from him. I like to correct one thing. It was not Mr. Rosenthal who removed the watches from the soldier's wrist but the censors back in Moscow. The negatives sometimes developed sometimes not would be shipped to the agency (possibly it was TASS or it's predecessor) Mr. Rosenthal was a de-facto employee of a Soviet war apparatus and had no control over the photographs after they were out of his hands.

    As to The Iwo Jima Flag Raising by Joe Rosenthal could someone point me to an authoritative source of information in regards to the facts and circumstances of that famous photograph. What in particular I would like to see are all the frames on the roll of film that the photograph was on. Until I see the film strip with all the frames I would assume that just like the Reichstag Flag the Iwo Jima Flag was staged by the photographer.

  23. Howling Wolf Said:

    The soviet flag photo you posted as original is a fake too, in fact this is the first manipulation; it can't be seen no smoke in the original one, there was no fighting when the shoot was taken...

  24. Karen Said:

    Tabloids also manipulate photos all the time. I remember seeing 2 different tabloids running an article on Michael Jackson and his wife Debbie. They used the same photo on their covers, but the photos were slightly different (I think an arm had been removed). The edit gave an entirely different slant to the photo on the second cover. One photo had a positive spin, the other a negative spin.

  25. Thomas Semesky Said:

    Fake photographs as well as fake or bias news reports. No wonder the public is rejecting all forms of journalism at an alarming rate!

  26. anton Said:

    Hang on, isn't it a Del Sol? The Miata has a different shape rear window I think.

  27. Denver Engagement Photographer Said:

    I just stumbled upon this post, pretty interesting stuff. I like the ww2 shot, and how it was old school photoshopped.

  28. Miranda Williams Said:

    some of the reasons behind having the canges done on these photos are just silly. like opra, why not just do a real picture of her. and Shirtless Sarkozy every one has some thing about their body that is not perfect.

  29. Dave Said:

    Of course the soldier is British the Yanks would have bigger guns and be shooting the people.

  30. Alan Haynes Said:

    Here's a famous one of a great white shark supposedly leaping out of the water and attacking a helicopter.

  31. Jenna Said:

    To Erfu and InRussetShadows.
    The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima was not staged. The photographer Joe Rosenthal simply captured the second flag raising of the day, there was a misunderstanding between Rosenthal and another that started these accusations.
    Also to stage a photo, even to portray a true event is not okay. It is unethical in the world of photojournalism and should be frowned upon in any situation.

  32. Andy Templeton Said:

    I was working at The Orange County Register on 9/11 and the photo from the top of the World Trade Center almost published on A1. I think it was on line for a while. What a crazy day.

  33. Portrait Photographers Said:

    Some of these I have seen before. Some great shots. What about the shark about to eat the helicopter?

  34. Devon Photographer Said:

    Great edits yeah it really looks like the original one, I'ved seen many articles like this one and I'm really amazed by editors who did all those editing.

  35. Photography Art Cafe Said:

    Manipulated photos from the Soviet Union are definitely the most sinister. Fake smiles on victims of forced labour etc. The edit here of dead people's watches being removed is really pretty grim.

    The John Kerry one is the funniest - something about his earnest expression!

  36. katahdin Said:

    One of the most ubiquitous photoshops of recect years is the photo of President Obama smoking. The photo was rotated to face in a different direction, as can be seen by the president's shirt button being on the wrong side. And the cigarette, despite being obviously lit, has no smoke coming out of it.

  37. David Wegwart Said:

    Love the 1945 one about removing the watches because "good soviet soldiers don't loot".

    I have removed several things, but the idea of taking away from an image, things that the subject has stolen never crossed my mind.

    Most removals in PS these days are of braces/retainers.

    Things sure change.

  38. Ben Gebo Said:

    Hey, don't forget the photo of Lee Harvey Oswalt in his backyard!

  39. David Wegwart Said:

    Ben, that one is still up in the air IMO. Doesn't it seem a bit suspect that we have not seen an negs.

    Anyhow, when I first became enthralled with photography, a mentor who shot industrial machinery and catering equipment showed me how to blow a negative to ungodly proportions, airbrush it, then scale it back for magazine ads. I could never tell they were "touched up", but all the offending reflections were gone. Amazing.

  40. Flob Said:

    Regarding the smoke in the last photo, dodging and burning as well altering contrast are pretty standard photographic techniques aren't they?

  41. Libby Said:

    You just have to love the clone marks on the Smoke of War. The odd thing is that to me, the original image actually speaks more. I gues this is what happens when amateurs try and enhance reality. Paid photographer or not, an amateur mistake.

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