I think there is a good chance that a new word or phrase has been coined to mean fake photograph.

Is there a single word to express it?

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    Altered is a good term that doesn't imply negative intent.
    – user10126
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 14:03
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    I think there's a good chance Thale already knew the verb to photoshop, and simply wondered if there was a corresponding derived single-word term for a photoshopped image. Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 23:51
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    @FumbleFingers Is photoshop relevant to all photo image manipulation? There are other digital applications capable of digital image manipulation besides photoshop. What about image manipulation on non digital imagery? Photoshop is an overused and often incorrectly used term. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 0:09
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    @FumbleFingers Well that's my point, according to OED, it would not be a photoshopped image if produced by another digital editing program: Photoshop, v. To edit, manipulate, or alter (a photographic image) digitally using Photoshop image-editing software. You probably think I'm being pedantic, but this site is supposedly about correct English word usage, so I'm being no more pedantic than anyone else here. Either a word is correctly used or it is not. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 12:12
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    I agree with FumbleFingers: Photoshop in this context is being used as genericized trademark, much like Band-Aid (for an adhesive bandage) or Coke (for a carbonated cola drink).
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 19:40

10 Answers 10


You can say that the photograph has been doctored if it was changed to deceive people.


Normally if a photograph has been faked it is said to have been Photoshopped, or called a Photoshop, after the popular image editing software.

Sometimes this is shortened to shopped or shop, as in:

That photo's a shop [or been shopped], I can see the pixels!!1

More general terms include forgery, counterfeit and of course fake.

Man pointing at computer screen, saying "This looks shopped. I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time."

  • I've heard people use the same phrase used for plastic surgery, i.e, 'It's had a little work done.' Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 22:17
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    The term "shop" has morphed even further into shoop.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 22:43
  • @MT_Head shoop de woop! Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 22:50
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    "shopped" is too casual a word. I would simply go with "illegitimate."
    – ak84
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 4:23
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    I think "photoshopped" and its derivatives are slang technical terms. I think they should be avoided unless its clear that the listener understands them.
    – Nick
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 5:49

It would be perfectly legitimate to say such a photo was a forgery.

  • Forgery requires intent to deceive Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 6:45

CG is a term that could be used for a created (or faked) photo. It is short for a computer-generated image. "CG" is not exactly equivalent to "fake," but CGs are often contrasted with "real photos."

This is an interesting site that lets you guess if a series of photos are real or CG: http://area.autodesk.com/fakeorfoto/challenge (I was so-so at the challenge.)

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    This doesn't seem to be an answer to the question asked, and may therefore be better as a comment.
    – Christi
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 23:31
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    @Christi, CG is a term for a created (or fake) photo. I will edit my answer to say that, I guess.
    – JLG
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 1:33
  • The link to the site is down. Could you provide a new one?
    – Epitorial
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 16:25
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    @Epitorial, I have done so.
    – JLG
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 17:28
  • I've heard of the characters that were CGI for computer generated imagery/computer generated images.
    – Stan
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 16:41

It can be a

  1. Staged photograph (To imply the things going on in the photographs have been planned)
  2. Manipulated Image
  3. Digital Manipulation
  4. Edited in Post
  5. Photoshoped
  • 1
    I've personally never came across a fake photograph, unless somebody was a really excellent painter, drawer, etc...
    – Mallow
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 2:35

A snarky coined term that I have seen is "fauxtograph" (pronounced the same way as "photograph"). Similar terms are "fauxtography" and "fauxtoshopped". This is a jeu de mot with the French word "faux", meaning "false".

  • These are nice terms, but unfortunately I would think they only work when written; when spoken they would sound too similar to the originals.
    – Adam V
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 15:34

Instagram/Instagramming is another - "aura" enhancing - form of photo manipulation.

In old days, it was airbrushing. "Just airbrush the b------ out" a famous movie actress once told a fashion photographer who didn't know what to do with a photo that included her and her husband (a Pepsi executive) who had recently died. But even in the 19c clouds were "burned into" otherwise eggshell white skies. Red, blue or green filters were used to soften or roughen the appearance of skin.

"Digitally manipulated" as above, "post-processed" or "photomontaged".


It's strange, that no one has mentioned hoax yet. It's a bit broader term, because it is not used to describe photographs only.


The technical term is retouched.

From Oxford English Dictionary:

retouch, v

To improve or repair the appearance of (a painting, composition, photographic negative or print, etc.) by small alterations or fresh touches; to touch up.

In use:

1979 N. Farah Sweet Sour Milk v. 78 There was the photograph of the All-Powerful retouched to make him look much younger and handsomer.

In general usage (particularly within the print industry) the original meaning has been expanded to include photographic prints or negatives that have been significantly altered or changed from the original to constitute a fake photograph. A fake is clearly defined as having been manipulated to represent something that is not real.



This term is used in the UK Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended in 1994, and defined as "an image, whether made by computer-graphics or otherwise howsoever, which appears to be a photograph"

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