Examples of a Deceptive Photography Trick: Forced Perspective

Barbara Merkley

Have you seen pictures of tourists in Italy pretending they are holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? If so, did you know this optical illusion has a name and can deceive even the sharpest eye?

A photography technique known as forced perspective can make things appear bigger or smaller than they actually are, depending on their distance from the camera and other objects. Snopes has verified numerous pictures of people, objects, and animals that use forced perspective to deceive social media users.

Take a look at some examples below. By studying them, perhaps, you can become immune to this old camera trick.

(The entries are ranked in no particular order, and contain excerpts from Snopes’ archives.)

A photograph of U.S. President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, former president Jimmy Carter, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter is genuine.

In 2021, a photograph of U.S. President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, former President Jimmy Carter, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter circulated on social media. Some people focused on the fact that the Bidens looked significantly bigger than the Carters. The picture was authentic, but, due to an optical illusion, the Bidens appeared much larger than they actually were. (You can read the full fact check here.)

In May 2017, the South Texas Hunting Association shared on Facebook a picture of a man holding what appeared to be an unusually large bullfrog. The bullfrog supposedly weighed 13 pounds, according to the post. But facts didn’t support that assertion (not even the largest frog in the world, the Goliath Frog, is that big.) The hunter was probably holding the frog closer to the camera with a gig pole, making the bullfrog look bigger than it was. (You can read the full fact check here.)

In October 2018, a photograph was shared on Facebook claiming to show a 110-pound squirrel hunted in Texas. In fact, it was just another example of forced perspective that makes objects appear larger or smaller than they really are. In this case, the hunter was actually kneeling several feet behind the log, creating an optical illusion. (You can read the full fact check here.)

An old photograph showing a relatively large crocodile is frequently shared on social media with the caption: “The only known photograph of the 28-foot crocodile that was killed in Queensland, Australia in 1957.” The picture is genuine, but the crocodile was not actually 28 feet in length, nor was it killed in 1957. While the crocodile’s exact size was unknown, it appeared larger than reality in the image due to the way it was photographed. (You can read the full fact check here.)

The Snow White Grotto in Disneyland features Snow White, the seven dwarfs, and some animals. During the exhibit’s construction, the statues all arrived at the theme park at roughly the same height, which meant that Snow White was about as tall as her companions. The designers utilized forced perspective to create the illusion that the Snow White statue was taller than the seven dwarves. (You can read the full fact check here.)

In May 2018, a picture of a man supposedly holding a massive rat caught in London was shared on Facebook. This was a genuine photograph, but the size of the rat appeared exaggerated due to forced perspective. (You can read the full fact check here.)

 

This photo was first shared on Facebook with a caption claiming that the cottonmouth snake was 44 inches long. Although we cannot verify the animal’s exact length, the picture utilized forced perspective to make the snake appear bigger than it actually was. (You can read the full fact check here.)

A black-and-white picture of a man supposedly holding a 42-pound bullfrog caught in Arkansas started spreading on the internet in November 2015. We tracked down the source of the image: a colorized photo that showed the frog was caught with a spear. As a result, the position of the man with the spear, the frog, and the camera made the animal appear bigger than reality. Although we couldn’t tell the frog’s exact size, it was definitely not 42 pounds. (You can read the full fact check here.)

 

A photo showing an American soldier holding what appeared to be a huge centipede has been widely circulated on social media. Although the picture is authentic, the animal wasn’t actually as big as it appears, thanks to forced perspective. (You can read the full fact check here.)

A photo of a man holding a 14-pound possum began circulating on social media in December 2021. While that was truly the weight of the animal, it appeared even larger in the photo due to forced perspective. (You can read the full fact check here.)

The rat in this photo, which was widely shared in 2017, looks unusually large because of forced perspective. The animal was most likely held with a pole, making it appear much bigger than it actually was. In fact, the rat was probably just an average-sized one. (You can read the full fact check here.)

giant rabbit

These photos of a large rabbit went viral on social media in April 2022. A Facebook post claimed the animal was a rare Sumatran striped rabbit — an endangered species of rabbit found in Indonesia — but that was not true. In reality, it was just a very large rabbit. The photos were real, but the size of the rabbit was possibly impacted by some forced perspective. (You can read the full fact check here.)

In early September 2016, an image was shared depicting what appeared to be a huge, half-eaten shark on a Florida beach. The actual length of the carcass was around 30 inches. (You can read the full fact check here.)

In January 2016, as a winter storm approached the U.S. Northeast, a photo circulated on social media claiming to show a JetBlue airplane buried in snow. The photograph indeed depicted a JetBlue airliner, but the aircraft only appeared covered in snow due to a deceptive camera angle. The photographer probably captured the photo from behind a pile of snow, and the aircraft was likely parked behind that pile. (You can read the full fact check here.) 

In July 2018, this picture of a strange-looking bat was shared on social media, gaining much attention. The hammerhead bat is, in fact, a real animal that’s common in the tropical forests of central Africa. However, in the picture, it may have seemed bigger than it was in real life due to forced perspective. (You can read the full fact check here.)

Back in August 2018, a video was shared online featuring a leatherback turtle of what appeared to be an unusual size. While the turtle’s exact size was unknown, the video’s perspective made it seem much bigger than it actually was. This distortion was likely due to the use of a long camera lens and filming from a distance, compressing the scene’s depth and making the turtle appear closer to the people in the background. (You can read the full fact check here.)

In August 2022, an image was shared on Twitter claiming to show an enormous blue whale estimated to be nearly 100 feet long. While the image captured by drone footage was real, there was a chance the whale in the foreground looked larger than reality due to forced perspective influencing the appearance of the more-distant boat. (You can read the full fact check here.)

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