How To Tell If A Picture Is Photoshopped & Save Your Self-Esteem

Photo: Getty Images
woman taking a selfie

We’ve all been guilty of applying a filter or two to our Instagram pictures, but some are taking the editing to the extreme. Overediting creates a false reality that has been proven to crush onlookers’ self-esteem over time.

When you feel like you'll never be as slim thick, toned, snatched, and beautiful as the other girls on social media, there are little tricks for how to tell if a picture is Photoshopped so you can snap yourself back into reality.

Have you ever been scrolling Instagram and thought, "Wow, I’ve never seen someone that perfect, I wish I looked like her"? Well, there’s a reason you’ve never seen someone that perfect — they don’t exist.

Their photo has been edited and contorted until they look like an unrealistic version of themselves. In return, those viewing the photo are convinced that there are actually people in the world that look like that. They then look at themselves and wonder what they can do to achieve such a look of perfection, which contributes to the nasty cycle of over-editing — not to mention unhealthy extremes like plastic surgery and excessive dieting.

For teens especially, this false reality can be even more detrimental to their mental health. Growing up having only ever known a world with social media can be a dark place and make it harder to decipher between what’s editing and what’s real life.

We may feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of confidence destruction via social media but there are a few ways around this.

First, lead by example and start normalizing photos that haven’t been Facetuned or Photoshopped. An adjustment of brightness or lighting isn’t a crime, but if you suddenly don’t have pores in your photo, reconsider your post.

Second, unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Your mental health is more important than following the Kardashians on Instagram.

Lastly, look for giveaways that a photo has been altered to keep yourself aware of reality.

How to tell if a picture is Photoshopped

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Here are some tips and tricks to spot these sneaky alterations.

Abnormally long legs

A giveaway that someone has manipulated a photo to look longer and leaner is the length of their legs. If you notice that their legs look somewhat disproportional to the rest of their body, you could be on to something. I don’t know about you, but I have never encountered anyone with seven feet long legs in real life.

This is done using apps that stretch the photos to elongate and slim the person in the photo, focusing mostly on their legs.

If you still aren’t sure, look at their feet and surrounding background. The background is usually altered in an unnatural way during the process of stretching out the person in the picture.

Their feet are typically abnormally large as well, another fail from the stretching effect. Not only does this create a false reality for viewers but … how embarrassing!

Blurred background

There is a huge difference between using portrait mode to blur your background and having only one part of the background being blurred.

Portrait mode fuzzes out your surroundings to make you the main focus of the photo, there’s nothing wrong with that. Body editing apps, however, only blur the part of the background surrounding the person's body.

For example, let’s say I edit my photo to make my waist look smaller. If I don’t do this carefully there will likely be some change in the background around my new waist.

If you’ve ever seen a photo of someone where the background around them looked warped, they probably used a body editing app.

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No pores

Speaking of blurry, if you notice that someone has over the top flawless skin, it’s probably not natural. Yes, some people are just blessed with clear skin, but they still have pores. If you zoom in on someone’s face and it looks airbrushed, they probably used an app to blur their skin.

Oddly placed belly buttons and missing ribs

It’s normal to have a natural hourglass figure, but people are editing photos to fake this desired look. If someone has an impossibly small waist and it almost looks like they have a smaller rib cage than normal, they probably edited their photo.

This is easiest to see if the person is wearing a bikini because you will also notice that their belly button is much higher than a normal person’s. Your belly button is typically below your rib cage, not in the middle of it. Take note, influencers!


Outside of editing Instagram users have some more innocent tricks up their sleeves. Posing in a certain way can certainly give the illusion of a bigger butt or a smaller waist, and that’s fine. Positioning clothes in a certain way, such as wearing bathing suit bottoms higher up on your hips, can also create a more flattering silhouette.


These small tricks are nothing to be ashamed of as long as you aren’t pretending to look like that all the time. When you’re viewing photos like this remember that people are showing you what they want you to see. It doesn’t mean they don’t have tummy fat or stretch marks just like everyone else.

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Lindsey Matthews is a writer who covers love and relationships, news, and pop-culture topics.