Photoplasty

The creation of humour by the manipulation of digital images.

One of the earliest fake photographs, before the development of Photoshop.

Photoplasty can also be used to touch up minor faults in images...

...but are often done for a quick joke.

Just The Facts

  1. Photoplasty is the digital manipulation of images, including such simple things as cropping and colour correction.
  2. Advanced photoplasty can include the addition or removal of elements - such as blemishes, scratches in the original photograph... or even entire people.
  3. Common tools for photoplasty include Photoshop and Gimp, though some level of photoplasty is possible with even minor picture editing software.

So what is it?

Photoplasty is the manipulation of an image to add, remove or augment some or all of the image. It can range from simple things like cropping the edges of your holiday snaps and removing scratches and marks from old photographs to more advanced techniques such as airbrushing, clone stamping and layering. Today's software is capable of amazing things and even an amateur can produce impressive results - experts can produce images almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Unless, of course, it's patently absurd. Some pictures surely have to be fakes... right?

How do I do it?

First, get yourself some photo editing software. You can do a few minor bits with MS Paint, but for true photoplasty prowess you'll need something a bit more advanced. The most well known tool is probably Photoshop, but it's pricey. If you're on a budget or just looking to have a little fun, the one I've found particularly useful is Gimp, which is free.

Next, you'll need to do a lot of reading and a lot of practice. There isn't a button that automatically puts your face on Brad Pitt's body (assuming you WANT to have Brad Pitt's body), though one day Adobe will listen to my email campaign and implement one. You'll need to learn about the various tools, and how to use them correctly.

The most well known of these is probably the airbrush, commonly used to remove blemishes from models, because it would bring about the apocalypse if it were known that models are actually real human beings. This typically involves selecting a similar colour piece of skin and then spraying over the area you want to erase from existence.

If you want to edit someone out of the picture altogether, or perform that head transplant (the bradpittectomy), you'll need the clone stamp. This takes a sample of the picture from one place and lets you copy it onto another place - good for walling over that person you don't want to see and much quicker and easier than doing the masonry itself. Besides, sniffer dogs can never detect bodies buried in pixels.

What is it good for?

Photoplasty has three main uses.

1. Restoration.

Art fades over time. Colours grow faint, sometimes the materials aren't optimum and sometimes someone will partially destroy it to put a door in. Digital restoration has brought about a whole new set of tools, both to restore the work itself and also to rediscover how original artworks were meant to look.

But it's modern culture that really benefits the most. Film in particular is prone to degrade, and digital restoration has allowed the transfer of many old classics to digital format. Clean and crisp, they look better than ever.

2. Lying to us.

Whether it's removing the blemishes from that model, the CGI effects in the latest blockbuster or even a government trying to eliminate unwanted people from photographs, the most obvious use for photoplasty is to deceive. The frightening thought is that, as technology improves, it will become ever harder to detect. One day we may learn that Brad Pitt's body isn't even his.

3. Fun!

The best of all reasons, and one that the internet in general and Cracked in particular revel in. From humble lolcat images, with the addition of captions the most basic form of photoplasty, to the fusing of two or more images into one glorious whole, the single best use we've found for photoplasty is to make cheap jokes. Long may they continue!