For as long as there have been photos, there have been clumsy and blatant attempts to manipulate them. In an age when you can't believe what you see, ever, under any circumstances, we offer up 15 of the most poorly manipulated photos, broken down into a handy guide to the warning signs that the picture you're looking at might not be what it appears...
Beware If It Has a Politician In It
Scientists have proven that politicians are magnetically attracted to bullshit. If you ever find yourself looking at a photo of a politician, keep in mind that the subject in the photograph is probably looking for the best way to trick you out of your vote/civil rights/a million dollars.
15. Republicans Suck at Internet Research, Quite Good at Photoshop Though
Do a Google Image Search for Al Franken, with safe search off. The above pic of Al in a diaper with a stuffed bear is, as of the time of this writing, the #2 result. Wow, amazing that he ever won an election with a photo like that out there!
Wow, what an oddly similar facial expression.
Well, the fact that it's Photoshop helps. When it seemed Al Franken was serious about this whole "getting involved in politics" thing in 2006, the Ohio Republican party set out to show people what a crazy, wacky nutjob he was. Republican strategists tried to find an embarrassing photo of Franken and failed, presumably because Ohio doesn't have the Internet and had never seen a late night cut of Stuart Saves His Family on Comedy Central.
This picture already exists.
The party did have a copy of Photoshop though, so they took a photo of a man dressed as a baby and stuck Franken's head on it. The photo was soon exposed as a fake and the Republicans quickly fired their public relations team, evidently because people felt that raping the Snuggles bear was crossing the line. What we can't figure out is why they stopped there. If you're Photoshopping anyway, why not make it a dirty diaper?
14. Mickey Mouse Mayor
OK, so what can possibly be wrong with this picture? It's a lady running for Mayor of New Orleans, with a standard picture of her standing in the French Quarter. Even if it's Photoshopped, so what? Surely she's been there before.
Ask yourself what's the saddest possible way this could go wrong. Well, it's sadder than that. See, in Disneyland they have a little area they've set up to look like the French Quarter (New Orleans Square). When her staff went looking for some generic shot to use as their background, guess what they found?
Yes, not only was it Photoshop, but they accidentally Photoshopped her in front of a Disneyland mockup of the city she was running for Mayor of.
13. Republicans Suck at Internet Research, Quite Good at Photoshop Though (Part 2)
During the 2004 election, Republicans needed to smear John Kerry as a radical, war-protesting Hippy. They decided the most damning piece of evidence would be a picture of him sitting right next to the queen of radical war-protesting hippies, Jane Fonda.
They grabbed the two photos above, one of Jane Fonda at a political rally and one of John Kerry at an anti-war rally, and prayed nobody would notice. People did, of course. But saddest of all? There is an actual real image of Jane Fonda sitting next to John Kerry at a Vietnam protest that was freely available.
What was the point? Hell, since they took the trouble, might as well have stuck a diaper on him.
12. Baby Hitler Made to Look Like Evil Baby
On one hand, this is probably the lowest political Photoshop trick possible. On the other hand, the victim was Hitler. The photo on the far left was printed in newspapers around the world in the 1930s as an image of Hitler as a baby. Look at that scowling asshole! Fuck him!
The photo was actually a retouched image of an American child (middle), because we are way more fat and evil looking than anyone in Europe. The real Hitler, above right, looked like any other (sissy) baby, full of innocence and mild confusion.
Yeah, yeah, it's Hitler, so anything goes. But doesn't it promote the idea that people are born good or evil? Sort of playing into the whole Master Race thing, isn't it?
Speaking of Hitler, another sign that a photo is a bad fake...
Watch Out for Photos Released by a Dictator
Mass murdering dictators are, in many respects, exactly like everyone else. For instance, they hate getting their photo taken, especially if that photograph embarrasses them in some way, or if they had everyone else in the photo was killed the next day.
It should come as no surprise then that they often touch up those photographs to remove any embarrassing spots, blemishes, stress marks and victims of political assassinations.
11. In Soviet Union, Stalin Kills You, and Everyone Else in the Photo
No one was better at this than Stalin. When he had a dude killed, he reached back and erased him from history. The above collection of four photos (from Wikipedia) is actually the same photo, as it evolved through the years and retouching. The four colleagues became three, then two, then just Stalin, as each of the other three did something to piss him off and were sent to the great Politburo in the sky.
This is probably just an optical illusion, but we swear the expression on Stalin's face gets a little lonelier each time. Good thing those kind of shenanigans are in Russia's distant past, right?
10. Vladamir Putin Will Make You Disappear from Television
And by distant past, we mean 2007. That's when Mikhail Delyagin appeared on the Russian chat show The People Want to Know... or maybe he didn't. Delyagin had made comments critical of Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister who decided that the people did not, in fact, want to know anything Delaygin had to say.
He was digitally removed from the footage and in one shot (above) there are only his disembodied legs and arm in a chair to the right of the man with the microphone.
"Comrades, the truth is the set was merely haunted by the ghost of Vladmir Notorso."
If There's a Celebrity In It, It's Probably Fake
We've all figured out by this point that we view celebrities purely through a lens of cellulite-removal photo retouching. We can hardly blame them. We don't want to see all the nasty warts that (in reality) cover half of Rihanna's face.
But sometimes prettying things up just isn't enough, and that's when things start to get weird. And sleazy.
9. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie too far apart for Star Magazine
Brad and Angelina caught together! And he's totally married to somebody else at the time! They've even got the photo to prove it!
Of course, the magazine is stretching the definition of "together" a little, since Angelina is in Virginia and Brad is in the Caribbean. Still, they're on the same planet, so you know they were totally up to something. The magazine included a disclaimer on page 8 saying the cover was a "composite of two different photographs," proving once and for all that it's OK to lie to sell your magazine as long as you tell everyone the truth in tiny print beneath an unrelated article about Jerry O'Connell's beach house.
Again, we bring up the "if you're going to be Photoshopping anyway... " issue from earlier: Why not have them fucking? Tell us that wouldn't sell some magazines right there.
8. 15-Year-Old Character Too Small-Breasted for Hollywood
Warner Bros. knew that people go see Harry Potter movies for one reason: big ol' titties.
Their problem of course was that the leading lady was the 17-year-old Emma Watson, playing a 15-year-old Hermione Granger. Wait, did we say "problem"? Nothing is a problem when you have Photoshop!
A digital boob job and tummy tuck later, and you've got a busty girl wizard who'll put asses in the seats, dammit! Somebody probably got a raise over that shit.
7. Andy Roddick Too Skinny for Men's Fitness
Hey, the ladies aren't the only ones getting Photoshop boob jobs these days! Look at the pecs on that guy!
In 2007, Men's Fitness ran a feature on how to build big arms. To show off how to build a massive, Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque upper body they used... tennis star Andy Roddick?
Look, Cracked.com doesn't have a corporate tennis team for one reason only: massive, pumped up guns aren't ideal for swinging a racket. That's why Mr. Roddick (real body shown on the right) wasn't ideal for this particular cover. No problem! Crop that head and stick it on the body of some dude with the chest and biceps of the Incredible fucking Hulk!