Move Over Balloon Boy, Remember Monster Pig Hoax? : Forced Perspective Photo Tricks on Flickr

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IMEDIAETHICS EXCLUSIVE: This new image is based on a scientific analysis done for iMediaEthics by retired New York University physicist Dr. Richard Brandt. Brandt's analysis of the perspective geometry in the photo shows that the boy only appears to be directly behind the pig. He was actually about 5.5 feet further away, cuing the optical illusion that the boy is smaller than he is and the pig is huge in the foreground. This image illustrates how the forced perspective technique was used to create the infamous Monster Pig photo. (Credit: Robert Slawinski, iMediaEthics)

Before the Colorado “Balloon Boy” hoax, there was the “Monster Pig” publicity stunt, which much like “Balloon Boy” involved the exploitation of a young boy and generated press attention around the world.

The 2007 photo distributed by the Associated Press (AP) featured an 11-year-old Alabama boy hunter holding a large handgun from behind–what only appeared to be–a wild 1051-pound beast. The image turned out to be fake, created with a simple photography trick called forced perspective. With this trick, the hunters aimed to drum up interest in their hunting preserve. Read this, this and this for more information.

Almost 18 months after they published the hoax photograph, the Kansas City Star’s reader’s representative, Derek Donovan, finally confirmed iMediaEthics’ research on the Monster Pig was correct. Donovan reported that forced perspective trickery was used to create the image. See “‘Monster pig’ not really monstrous.” (Here is enlarged image Donovan posted for readers to see his reasoning adopted from iMediaEthics report.)


Meanwhile, the hoax image of “Monster pig”, distributed by the AP, has continued to be published by major media outlets since the New York Post, put it on their front page and presented the hoax as an authentic photo of a slayed beast. The New York Daily News just published the Monster Pig photo on their website Sept 23, 2009 without any mention that it’s fake!


Look at the two versions of the Monster Pig image distributed to the media by the hoaxers shown above. Note that the boy’s head seems much larger in the photo on the right, than the one on the left. Why? The answer is simple. He is closer, more directly behind the hog in the right image– which makes his head appear larger and the pig smaller. In the image on the left, the boy is about 5.5 feet back from the hog. Oh, and the photo on the right was Photoshopped.

iMediaEthics’ first coverage of the Monster Pig controversy highlights how this false perspective can be used to deceive.  Now through the generosity of creative commons licensing, we’ve put together a flickr photo gallery comparing some other great examples of false perspective images.

While most of these images are more playful than deceptive, they illustrate well the range of tools photographers have to manipulate an image without the use of Photoshop or even a computer.

Forced perspective” is a time-honored photographers’ trick, which creates the illusion that a photographed object is much larger than it appears in real life.  By placing a subject far in the background with another close to the camera, photographers can trick the mind into thinking the front object is much larger than it really is: a hand grasping the sun; a child towering over a skyscraper; a woman standing on a tomato. has some great forced perspective tips:


  1. Use small apertures (larger f/numbers like f/11, f/16, or f/22).
    1. DSLR users should be in Av or A mode.
    2. Point and Shoot users can look for a landscape scene option (often represented by a mountain)… this usually does the same thing.
    3. Caution: Small apertures on a DSLR may show you how much dust have on your sensor which will drive you mad =).
  2. Choose a sunny day, you may still need to increase your ISO setting or use a flash to compensate for the small aperture.
  3. Put on your widest angle lens or on a Point & Shoot stay zoomed out.
    1. The wide angles exaggerates perspective.
  4. Position your subject with the approximate pose you want.
  5. Instruct your subject to keep the parts of their body that are to interact with background turned away from you (e.g. the palms of their hands)
  6. Move your body/camera location around until you get the surfaces that you want to collide (e.g. hand on building).
    1. Shooting from a low angle exaggerates the height of a subject near to you.
  7. Fire away… Lots of shoots increase the likeliness of a winner.



CORRECTION - January 23, 2016 5:52 PM EST

The Star’s Derek Donovan’s last name was incorrectly spelled as Donovon. We regret the error.

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Move Over Balloon Boy, Remember Monster Pig Hoax? : Forced Perspective Photo Tricks on Flickr

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