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?

  • 2
    Altered is a good term that doesn't imply negative intent.
    – user10126
    Jun 27 '12 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. Jan 22 '13 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. Jan 23 '13 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. Jan 23 '13 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.
    Jun 28 '13 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.' Jun 26 '12 at 22:17
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    The term "shop" has morphed even further into shoop.
    – MT_Head
    Jun 26 '12 at 22:43
  • @MT_Head shoop de woop! Jun 26 '12 at 22:50
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    "shopped" is too casual a word. I would simply go with "illegitimate."
    – ak84
    Jun 27 '12 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
    Jun 27 '12 at 5:49

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

  • Forgery requires intent to deceive Jun 28 '12 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 (I was so-so at the challenge.)

  • 1
    This doesn't seem to be an answer to the question asked, and may therefore be better as a comment.
    – Christi
    Jun 26 '12 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
    Jun 27 '12 at 1:33
  • The link to the site is down. Could you provide a new one?
    – Epitorial
    Feb 3 '13 at 16:25
  • 1
    @Epitorial, I have done so.
    – JLG
    Feb 4 '13 at 17:28
  • I've heard of the characters that were CGI for computer generated imagery/computer generated images.
    – Stan
    Jun 15 '16 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
    Jun 27 '12 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
    Jun 28 '12 at 15:34

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.

More about the term here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoax


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".


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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