40 Times Winners Of The Greatest Photoshop Battles Made The Internet A Funnier Place (New Pics)

With 17.8 million members, ‘Photoshop Battles’ is one of the biggest subreddits out there. And for good reason. This place offers not only to test your image manipulation skills but also invites everyone to vote for their favorites.

Which is not as easy as it sounds. Every competition produces dozens of top-shelf entries that are so funny and creative, they probably end up as desktop backgrounds on countless devices around the globe.

Eventually, however, there can be only one victor. So to congratulate the best of the best, we at Bored Panda once again compiled a list of pictures that won these fierce contests.

Continue scrolling to check them out, and fire up our older publications here and here for more.

Photo editing is almost as old as the craft itself. Take Abraham Lincoln, for example.

During his 1860 campaign as a Republican candidate for the American presidency, right after the birth of photography but before its widespread dissemination in the media, Lincoln had a problem. A lot of US citizens didn’t know what he looked like.

This gave rise to rumors of his ugliness. While the North Carolina newspaper The Newbern Weekly Progress focused more on his character, writing that Lincoln was “coarse, vulgar and uneducated,” the Houston Telegraph, on the other hand, told its readers that he was “the leanest, lankiest, most ungainly mass of legs, arms and hatchet face ever strung upon a single frame. He has most unwarrantably abused the privilege which all politicians have of being ugly.”

Even though the rumors of Lincoln’s bad looks stayed mostly within Democratic circles, he didn’t want them to spread and turned to a well-known photographer Mathew Brady.

In many ways, Brady seemed like the perfect candidate: yes, he did not take many of his own photos, but he “conceptualized images, arranged the sitters, and oversaw the production of pictures.” Plus, according to the New York Times, Brady was “not averse to certain forms of retouching.”

In February 1860, right before Lincoln gave the Cooper Union Address that would help secure him the Republican presidential nomination, Brady had Lincoln pose for what would soon become one of the first widely disseminated photographs of the soon-to-be president.

Lincoln places his hand on two books, his eyes staring into the camera; behind him is a column and a neutrally colored wall.

But to quash once and for all the rumors of Lincoln’s ugliness, Brady added some special effects. He focused excessive amounts of light on Lincoln’s face in order to distract the viewers from his frame. He had the future president curl up his fingers so that they wouldn’t appear that long. And, finally, Brady even “artificially enlarged” Lincoln’s collar so that his neck would look more proportional.

But now, it’s expected that those who manipulate an image maintain the integrity of its content and context. People shouldn’t rework a picture in a way that would, for instance, mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.

Photo manipulation is for artistic and aesthetic expression. Not deception.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few tips from visual artists Eduardo Valdes-Hevia, Edwin Antonio, and Ronald Ong on how to put whales in the sky, airplanes in the ocean, and, just maybe, win a Photoshop battle.

First, know your goals and plan ahead. Before combining any images or manipulating photos, understand what you’re trying to accomplish. “You need to have a very clear idea of what you want,” Edwin Antonio, an artist who combines modern fashion with historical fine art, said. “That way, you don’t get distracted. Just focus on your goal.”

In some commercial work, you often want to get rid of elements in the frame that distract from the subject. “Photo manipulation has always been used,” Antonio reassured. “Maybe there’s a trash can in the background or a line on the floor. My clients want the focus to be on their product, rather than on a random thing lying around.” By removing unimportant visual elements, subtle photo manipulation can pull a viewer’s attention to where it belongs.

If you’re creating digital art, on the other hand, think about what you’re mixing and what themes you’ll be using in your work. Think of what you’re going to do before you start working. The clearer the idea, the simpler its execution.

“It’s good to write down ideas when you have them,” photographer Ronald Ong said. “When ideas come up, I sketch them.”

If you’re going for realism, you might want to combine complementary photos. The images you’re working with should have something to do with each other when it comes to color, light, and/or other factors.

“You can be amazing and know what you’re doing,” photographer Eduardo Valdes-Hevia said. “But if you are using two pictures that are radically different, that have very different perspectives or lighting, you’re going to have to heavily edit it.” Basically, the more you have to edit your photos, the harder your job is. So try to make things easy for yourself.

Also, think of perspective. It is the first thing you’ll want to line up when combining photos. While it’s possible to alter lighting and colors in Photoshop, changing the perspective is much more difficult.

Next, match lighting, going from the darkest to lightest elements in your composition. “When you’re trying to match lighting, you want to match the darkest color of your subject to match the darkest color of your background,” Valdes-Hevia explained. “Same with the highlights.”

Getting the right colors is generally your next step to bringing images together. Matching shadows and their range of colors is important. An ordinary viewer might not be able to articulate why something looks off, but they will notice it. “I always adjust the hue and saturation settings,” Ong said. “Make sure shadows blend into the background. Brightness, contrast, shadows, highlights — try to make it blend.”

Finding stock images or other existing photos with complementary elements is possible, but every now and then, you just have to take matters into your own hands and produce the pics yourself.

“It often looks better if you take your own pictures because you can plan ahead and match all the lighting and perspective beforehand,” Valdes-Hevia said. Getting shadows and perspectives to line up and work together is much easier if you’re the one who created those shadows and perspectives, to begin with.

As you edit, try to preserve the ability to go back and change things or restart your workflow at any point. “One of the first things I had to learn was how to edit non-destructively,” Valdes-Hevia added. “Make sure you can go back later and change things you’ve done in the beginning. Masks are your friends.”

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