We spend a lot of time here at ViralNova telling you that not everything is Photoshop, and that sometimes really amazing photos are actually records of really amazing things. However, there are plenty of hoaxes out there, and plenty of instances of a Photoshop job slipping through the cracks.
Other times, photos themselves haven't been manipulated, but the stories behind them have been changed to make them seem more shocking, scary, or hilarious.
1. Helicopter Shark
Everyone knows that things get a whole lot cooler when there's a shark involved, and so this image was created. It first appeared in 2001, and was claimed to have won a Photo of the Year award fromNational Geographic. Naturally, the magazine refuted this. In reality, this is a composite of two images: the helicopter in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken by Lance Cheung for the U.S. Air Force, and a shark in False Bay, South Africa, taken by Charles Maxwell.
2. The Japanese Moon Melon
Japan famously engineered some square watermelons (which are real), so someone thought blue melons wouldn't be much of a stretch. Whoever made this up even gave the "moon melon" the Latin name asidus, which doesn't mean anything. It was also claimed to have some magical property that would alter the eater's sense of taste for a period of time, all for the low introductory price of $200. We don't need to tell you this is a regular old slice of watermelon with a color shift, do we?
3. Lit-up India
This photo of India is actually a composite of satellite images taken over a decade. It shows the changes in lit areas across the country from 1992 to 2003. However, a misguided Twitter caption told millions that it was a shot of India on Diwali — the Hindu festival of lights — which is actually a lot lessinteresting than the growth of lighted cities.
4. The Bike in a Tree
The story here is that a boy on Vashon Island in Washington chained his bike to this tree in 1914 and went off to fight in WWI, never to return. The tree really has grown around the bike, so this is another case of a wrongly assigned legend. The bike actually dates from the 1950s. Better still? The kid who abandoned it, Don Puz, remembers ditching it by this very tree in 1954. It's still a local oddity, and a pretty cool one at that.
5. Hurricane Over New York, Version 1
Weather patterns are a favorite of Photoshoppers because they can be applied to a variety of landscapes. Some people even make art using composite images like this. This one was purported to be 2012's Hurricane Sandy, but a) that's not at all what hurricanes look like and b) let's talk about the size of those trees behind Lady Liberty. I don't think so.
6. Hurricane Over New York, Version 2
This image didn't even have to be 'shopped. It's a still from the blockbuster film The Day After Tomorrow, which deals with large-scale environmental disasters. Stick a grainy filter and a news logo on it, and people will fall for it without hesitation.
7. Hurricane Over New York, Version 3
Finally, we have another real picture with a fake caption. This image was pulled from a Wall Street Journal article from 2011, and recirculated on social media as a shot of Hurricane Sandy, which happened more than a year later.
8. The Hands of God
This picture claimed that a supernatural cloud formation appeared in the sky after a bad storm. The original image was actually pretty interesting, showing a round opening in the clouds, but the hands were added in later as a joke. It references an early gross-out Internet meme that shall not be named.
9. The Irish Castle
This looks cool, but it's not real. And nothing about it is Irish. It's a German castle 'shopped onto a rock formation in Thailand. The image was allegedly created for a contest, and then it somehow got loose on the Internet.
10. The Political Statement
Photoshop can also be used for political reasons, like this photo, which made its rounds during the 2012 elections. In reality, Romney's kids were indeed lined up correctly.
11. The Lost Temple of Lysistrata
First of all, Lysistrata wouldn't even have a temple. She was a character in a Greek comedy in which women withhold sex from their husbands because they're sick of the ongoing Peloponnesian War. Second of all, this photo is a mash-up of the Pantheon in Rome and Algar Seco in Portugal.
12. The Baby Foot of Terror
Ladies, if you see this, you need to go get an exorcism because that's not natural. While some fetal motion can be detected, there's too much tissue between the baby and the outside for anything like this to happen. And come on...it's gross.
13. The Northern Lights
Okay, as awesome as this is, you know this isn't what the northern lights look like. The image on the left is a composite of the Orion Nebula placed behind an image of mountains.
14. The Purple Forest
The image on the left claims to be a magical forest in Scotland where the trees are purple. It's actually a recolor. Oh, and it's not even in Scotland. The original image comes from New Zealand, and you can see in the background some of the areas where the trees were left green.
15. The Bhutan Monastery
Here's another place that looks too amazing to be real...because it is. The rock formation is real, and is located in the Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve in China. The sculpture was added later.
If you're wondering how these hoaxes are called out, there are a number of ways. Sometimes, people own up to them. Sometimes other people come forward with the original images and blow the hoaxes apart. Other times, software can actually detect alterations made to images to see if they've been tampered with.
And sometimes? They're just so ridiculous, you can't believe anyone fell for them at all.