Looks Can Be Deceiving: 45 Optical Illusions That Require Close Inspection

By Ridwan S January 8, 2024

This article was originally published on docjournals

While surfing the internet, you must have come across a picture that caught your interest by deceiving your eyes and playing tricks on your mind. To understand these types of images, you might need a second or even a third look. These pictures might make you wonder if they are authentic or if some of the features have doctored touches. Truthfully, many are genuine and only appear confusing because of optical illusions or lighting tricks. After demystifying some of these confusing images, you’ll realize it’s just about the perfect timing of the shot. The photographers might have simply done a great job setting the scene for a thought-provoking image in other cases. Regardless of the reason behind the scene, we collected some amusing and weird pictures that will likely make you confused at first glance. Enjoy reading and viewing these oddballs!

The hovering chairs

As the name suggests, anyone would probably think the chairs are hovering at first sight. Hence, it is very understandable if you look at it all over again. When you look closer, it becomes clear that the chairs aren’t floating, but they are stacked, and the first one is the only one on the ground.

Image courtesy: 800511 / Reddit

The shadows behind the chair create an illusion that makes them look like they are hovering. However, the shadows are for the table, not the chairs. Hint for a second look, zoom into the picture. By now, you should see the stacked chairs on the left side of the picture.

Man-dog

No matter how we look at this, we can’t find both the man’s body and the dog’s head. In fact, safe to say this is one of the weirdest on this list. We want to believe the man and the dog are conjoined, but we know better than to believe that.

Image courtesy: selfcitymonster/Reddit

If it is true, the man-dog would be a known thing to the general public. Even the Guinness Book of World Records would have a page for it. We believe this is just a picture, and anyone will be able to explain the confusion after a close study.

The missing wheel

We also thought only tricycles should function on three wheels, but this picture wants us all to believe otherwise. If the car was in a mechanic’s garage in the picture, we might have thought it needed a wheel replacement. Well, it’s not, and it looks like there’s a missing wheel.

Image courtesy: KatDad2366 / Reddit

Here is a little surprise for you; this car has four wheels. We have a hint for you to find the missing wheel – check the shadow under the left side of the bumper. You will see it’s curved a bit and suggests it is the ‘invisible’ tire.

This perfectly-blended plate

At first glance, we thought this might be a black ring on the kitchen tabletop that creates a perfect balance. But, when we zoomed in, it appeared as a dirty plate on the kitchen tabletop with a similar background, which makes it confusing.

Image courtesy: Tiddleyjuggs / Reddit

The dirty plate blends perfectly with the kitchen tabletop. You might have guessed that our hint would be the shadow. Well, we are pleased to tell you that your guess is wrong. Our clue is to zoom in on the picture and check closely.

The non-existent chair leg

The picture is quite fun and may take a while for you to figure out without help. So, look at the picture and find out if the chair truly has a non-existing leg or if the leg is just a little shy and is hiding from strangers.

Image courtesy: SCH1Z01D / Reddit

We won’t leave you clueless, so here is our tip for you. The leg of the chair isn’t vertical as we presumed. It is horizontal! It also has a darker shade of grey than the nearest leg you see. Now go back and fish it out.

This wild perspective

In our opinion, this is one of the most confusing pictures. Take a closer look at the cat’s expression. We think it already gives us the “you are in for a brain teaser” look.  The first look left us clueless, as you have already guessed.

Image courtesy: Raptors_McFlaptors / Reddit

We had to twist our heads a few times to figure the picture out. Flip your phone horizontally, and you will see that there are multiple staircases, and the cat is on the second case. What we are seeing is the second set of stairs.

This piggyback ride

We love piggyback rides, but we guess not as much as this pigeon does. It appears this pigeon is having a luxury piggyback ride on the back of a peacock while crossing the road – this must be an enviable position for other pigeons.

Image courtesy: marvellectric / Reddit

A pigeon having a peacock piggyback ride is enviable. But that is not the case here. The photographer only took the picture at a perfect time and angle. He made it look like the pigeon was riding on the peacock’s back.

The sky ocean

This picture is equally beautiful and confusing. But as confusing as it is, we think it will make an attractive wallpaper until someone gets confused looking at it and asks you to explain. Now that would be an issue if you are confused as well.

Image courtesy: realblurryface / Reddit

If you are looking for a clue, we have the best one for you. Any explanation you give for this picture is perfect, be it a falling Niagara or an ocean in the sky. It all depends on your perspectives. 

The invisible car

You might be thinking we spoiled the surprise the moment we said “invisible.” But, we will like to tell you that the invisible car isn’t the fun part. The fun part is finding out the exact spot this car is in the picture. It’s time to put your detective senses to use.

Image courtesy: AlecWaycaster / Reddit

There are clear clues that made finding the car easy for us. We are willing to share them with you. One is the front tire, then the line in the door. Another clue is the massive ripple in the splash on the concrete in the reflection. 

The foot recipe

Recipes that come with pictures are always easy to follow and are preferable to cooking ingredients without pictures. The confusing thing about this recipe is that it appears as if it shows us how to cook the food rather than the chicken pasta it promised.

Image courtesy: slapbracelet1 / Reddit

We think the arrangement of the picture is confusing. In our minds, the image showing the sauce getting poured on the chicken should come before the one that has the sauce on the chicken. If you check the image on the second slide, you will see the chicken.

The stolen tyre

Think about this; what would be your reaction if you get home and open the car trunk to find out that your spare tire is missing? Now that you have an answer, that might have been the reaction of this car owner before he took this picture.

Image courtesy: d0bdish18 / Reddit

We find this both confusing and funny. The owner must have thought, “Oh, my spare tire is gone!” before he realized he had bought a mirror. Zoom into the picture to see a reflection of his phone’s flashlight that gave us an idea.

The two-in-one-picture

This picture is beautiful with a lovely mountain view.  We wouldn’t mind using this as our wallpaper. But, if you thought this was two pictures made into a picture collage, then you are mistaken. However, we thought the same thing at first glance, too.

Image courtesy: takoegg / Reddit

The picture is not a collage. The shadow is what made it appear as two pictures. Photographers might have a better explanation for this concept using professional terms. But we think it was just different lighting perspectives that helped create the beautiful contrast.

This cow head

When you finally clear your confusion about whether this cow head has a body or not, you will appreciate the contributions of shadows to how we visualize images. You might then agree that shadows are the basis of many of these optical illusions.

Image courtesy: sozazac / Reddit

As you have guessed, the shadow of its body to the left was our clue. We also had help from the head itself. If you check on a zoomed-in view, you will see that the head is not touching the grass, then you will notice the front right hoof.

This rocking cat

This cat went to a concert, and it was probably enjoying itself. Oh no, that’s not it. The picture is not that of a cat enjoying the performance. But it is okay if you thought it was. We also thought that was the case at first glance.

Image courtesy: jocoiscool / Reddit

The image is the hand of a hairy concert attendee. If you are still confused, just follow us as we guide you to see it from a clearer perspective. Now zoom into the left part of the picture. You should see the pointer finger and the pinky.

This huge load

This picture is one of those taken at a perfect time. The positioning of the truck made it appear as if the building was a load. When you look at it casually, you might find it difficult to tell that it is not a load but a building.

Image courtesy: BOC16 / Reddit

The architectural design of the building makes it appear as big boxes from the front view. The photographer took the picture when the truck was close enough to the building to create a confusing perspective that needs a second look to understand.

This hole-y cat

It took a while before we could figure this out, and it is okay if you are also having some doubts. So, if you are spending a lot of time trying to understand what the heck is going on, you are not alone. We have several guesses as to what is happening in the picture.

Image courtesy: Francis__99 / Reddit

We will go with the best explanation possible for our guess. It is most likely that the cat is furry, and her arm goes around the cat under the cat’s right arm allowing the cat to lean on her hand to create this confusing picture.

This pirate clock

We consider this picture amusing and confusing as we see an eagle in the first slide and a pirate face in the second slide. But, we have no clue as to how this is possible. Our best guess is that the lighting created this illusion.

Image courtesy: ClarkCountyYoohoo / Reddit

Here is the best hint we have for you, include Boston on your tourism list. Devote a whole day to watch the south station, take pictures at the exact times like you see in the picture, and create a collage to compare. We hope you will find the answers as we did.

This sad graduate

If you have never seen a sad graduate, here is one. He was probably thinking about how to secure a well-paying job. We will all agree that this thought can be depressing. Nonetheless, he should celebrate his success before thinking about a job.

Image courtesy: shallaaslam / Reddit

We will like to inform you that there is no graduate in the picture. The shadow of the bricks created an optical illusion of a graduate that we saw at first glance. Now, you can probably guess why shadows are our best clue.

This plastic feline

This picture is subjective to your perspective. It might not seem like a feline even at first glance. You could see it as a plastic bag, but if you pay closer attention, it might start to look like a cat.

Image courtesy: YashistheNightfury / Reddit

We have clues for you to see this plastic bag like a cat. We promise it is no shadow. Zoom in the picture, and you will see how the handles of the plastic bag resemble the cat’s ears, and the squeezed part looks like the head.

These long legs

This picture looks like a man with long legs walking, but the white background on the upper part tells us it is not. It is a roadside sign with some construction materials in front of it. We all want to believe it is a version made for tall people, though.

Image courtesy: Big-daddy-jo / Reddit

The sign does not have longer legs. Those are just poles that disguise perfectly as the long legs of the roadside sign. The angle from which the photographer took the shot made it look like the sign’s legs are longer.

This floating plank

We wouldn’t know how possible this is because we are slacking in the gym. We haven’t attended any of our sessions this year, all thanks to corona and our gym instructor. He hasn’t even bothered to put a call through – talk about poor customer service.

Image courtesy: danielnogo/Reddit

What we can say about this is that the chair is providing some support. Also, the second arm is not in view, so we guess that is also a source of support. Nonetheless, anyone that can do a floating plank like this should be a national treasure.

The guy walking on water

If we were also the one tagging along in a boat with a loving couple, we would have also walked on water to make room for them. The picture is confusing. But, we will like to believe that it is an optical illusion created by shadows and lighting.

Image courtesy: eeememaa / Reddit

It took a while to get on board with this, even though we see his knee in the boat. The optical illusion created by the shadow from his hand and the curved section on the boat’s bow made it easy to believe he was actually in the water. 

This ripped boy

This dog follows its owner to the gym or goes to doggy gym classes itself. This dog is good encouragement for those of us who have been ignoring our own gym instructor’s calls.  It is time to pump some iron, lift weights, and get buff.

Image courtesy: porteboshkutta69/Reddit

The dog is not buff like you might be thinking. What you are looking at is his big butt. Look closely to the middle, and you will see the tail. Also, notice the less furry part, which is the butt, and the legs should be visible now.

This tiny shower

We would like to know what the main aim of the architects and builders was for them to have made the shower this tiny. We jotted down a few questions to ask them. Then, we remembered to take a closer look. This seems to be the answer to all of our questions.

Image courtesy: philthyphanatic / Reddit

The second look provided the answer to our question. The shower isn’t tiny. The tiny shower is a reflection of the main shower in the cabinet’s mirror. If you haven’t figured it out yet, zoom in on the picture into the lower part of the tiny shower.

Mirror for sale

This picture can be highly confusing, depending on your perspective at first glance. You will either see it as the mirror with the feet boots or as a distorted reflection of the owner’s leg from the beveled mirror edge.

Image courtesy: just_leave_it / Reddit

This is possible because the main surface of the mirror is concave instead of convex. It is sunken in comparison to the frame. You will also notice this if you look to the right of the legs. The luggage does the same thing in the beveled edge.

The ceiling fan painting

We would do anything to revive good memories from the first days in our new house. And, it could be the simple things like our first ceiling fan as a couple. Jesse is asking because he hasn’t realized that the little things bring joyous memories.

Image courtesy: ntergalactickomic / Reddit

As lovely as the idea of framing the painting of your ceiling fan sounds, this is not the case in this picture. The mirror is only placed so high in such a way that it reflects the ceiling fan and creates an illusion that makes it look like a painting. 

The underwater hallway

If you saw a hallway half-filled with water at first glance, then welcome to the front row of the train. If you thought it was a picture of a busted pipe, please take your seat right beside the window – we welcome you all to our train.

Image courtesy: Congrajulations / Reddit

This picture is not a picture of a hallway half-filled with water or a busted pipe. It is a picture of a well-polished and clean hallway. It only appears flooded because of the reflection from the lights on the blue floor.

This cat’s shadow

Shadows are our favorite clue to understanding a confusing picture, but not in this case. The shadow in this picture looks like the super confusing element rather than a clue. Who would have thought our favorite clue could be the confusion element?

Image courtesy: 9999monkeys / Reddit

Now, let’s zoom into the picture and find out why the shadow is confusing. There are two cats in this picture: a white cat sitting and a black cat lying down, which we perceived as the long shadow. Shadows remain our best clue, but not in this case.

The accidental movie scene

This picture would perfectly pass as a scene from a Hollywood movie, but it is not.  It is the picture of a hole in the door. We have some questions for the photographer, and we would also appreciate a second set of eyes to see this.

Image courtesy: bakedae / Reddit

The different colors and textures of the areas of the hole create an optical illusion that confuses us easily. We would love to confirm if the red vertical thing in the middle of the hole is truly a man who climbed up the mountain or if this is just our perspective.

The confusing cat

This cat is lying down enjoying the weather, but its positioning is confusing even to the owner. The cat appears to be lying down with its belly from its head to the mid-body. But, it is lying on its back mid-body to the legs.

Image courtesy: fergieandtruro / Reddit

The cat’s position is super confusing because no matter how we look at the picture, there seems to be no answers to our confusion. The cat is lying on its belly halfway to the tummy but with the back towards the leg. We guess cats are super flexible.

The cat-dog

With a lot of promo flying around nowadays, it won’t be surprising if the owner of this cat-dog tells us that they got two for the price of one. The good thing about this offer is that you don’t get to clean any pet’s mess.

Image courtesy: evey2425 / Reddit

Even in a zoomed view, we still couldn’t figure out where the cat’s legs were. There is no shadow to bail us out. Although we would like to believe that this is a two-in-one pet, it is still quite difficult to believe.

These small horses

The horses in this picture appear like they are walking on the fence. They might even look like ornaments at first glance, but they are not. They might also appear far away if you look closely. The picture creates a truly confusing perspective.

Image courtesy: lilronhubbard / Reddit

These horses are not ornaments; they are real. We think the photographer took the picture at a far distance from the horse and, this coupled with the effect of lighting, creates the illusion that the horse is tiny- this is our thought. 

This disappearing hoodie

This picture might be hard to figure out. It seems like the hoodie is traveling without its owner when you look at it casually. It gets more confusing because we can’t see both the feet or hands of the wearer. 

Image courtesy: zaferemre / Reddit

However, it gets better with a second and closer look. The guy is lying to the side with his head, not the collar as we thought at first. It took a while before we figured that out, but once we did, everything changed.

The lively blanket

The bear on the blanket is out to take in some fresh air. This was our thought while looking at the picture without paying close attention, but that isn’t the case, and we only found this out when we gave it a second glance.

Image courtesy: BMichael919 / Reddit

The dog is only lying on the bear’s picture accurately. This makes it confusing if you don’t look closely. The confusion is possible because the dog has a matching color with the bear’s image. We would like to believe this dog is quite the dramatic type.

These slippery stairs

The stairs are difficult to climb, and it is expensive to install elevators in homes. However, the stair slide is an effective innovation, easy to use, and doesn’t require electricity to function. All you need is your determination to get down the stairs faster. Our advice is don’t try this at home.

Image courtesy: aggieismybestfriend / Reddit

This picture was super confusing, and it took us a long time before we could figure out that the thin lines were wires underneath the handrail. Once you understand that, you will realize that the stairs are not slippery.

This cat’s reflection

The reign of the world now belongs to the clouds. To monitor affairs, they made a cat the mighty ruler. The ruling cat is ready for this reign, and you can tell from its expression. It won’t take nonsense from anyone, not even its beloved family.

Image courtesy: Puzzleheaded_Dog_180 / Reddit

Our guess is this image is not formed by the clouds. It is a reflection in the window. The cat is inside the building looking through the window. And the clouds outside reflect off the window. This picture was captured at the right moment to create an illusion.

This huge nightmare

We love this picture and think it only intends to confuse its viewers. The praying mantis is not a giant one like the picture displays. The size in this picture is an illusion created because of the camera’s proximity to the windshield.

Image courtesy: pm_me_yourcatnudes / Reddit

The clue to figuring out the actual size of the praying mantis is a second and closer look at the picture. When you look closely, you will notice the walking legs are not touching the road, and the mantis appears to be floating.

These creepy glasses

These sunglasses come with extra eyes, creepy yet cool. For a moment, we wondered what the eyes design was for, but it wasn’t long before we found out that the creepy thing on the sunglasses wasn’t extra eyes like we first thought. 

Image courtesy: youngack / Reddit

Let’s find out what is on the sunglasses if they are not extra eyes. It is a reflection of the lamp on the sunglasses. We can only imagine how startled the owner of the sunglasses was when he saw them. 

The floating bin

There is nothing fun about owning a bin that can’t float. You can do other things with the free space, but only if your bin elevates off the ground. The floating bin best suits a caravan trip – talk about space maximizing.

Image courtesy: intheknow.com

We can’t find an actual shadow in the picture to clarify our doubts; this makes it confusing. Even at a closer look, the only thing that gets clearer is our confusion. In our opinion, a bin cannot float, but this picture says otherwise.

The floor or the table

If we are not wondering whether these yarns are sitting on the floor or the table, we will admit that this is a colorful picture, and we love colors. As beautiful as the image is, the beauty doesn’t engulf its confusing perspective.

Image courtesy: HomespunCouture / Reddit

We figured out the answer to our confusion faster than we thought. The yarn is on the table. We found a hint in the picture; there is a clamp to the right side of the picture. A clamp can only be attached to a table.

These gorgeous legs

If we neglect the expression on the female bartender’s face, we wouldn’t be able to ignore the gorgeous legs of the male bartender. He has spent a lot of time training to wear heels. Another thing that confuses us is that we can’t see the female bartender’s legs.

Image courtesy: Boardindundee / Reddit

Those are not the legs of the bartender; that’s why we can’t see the female bartender’s legs. It is a mirror reflection of the customer’s legs. Now that we know the owner of the legs, we still don’t have an answer to why the female bartender has that expression.

The vertical-looking road

We have never seen vertical-like roads until now. The way they captured the picture created an optical illusion that the broken part of the road is a vertical section and is continuous rather than broken. We find this is more intriguing than confusing.

Image courtesy: macandcheese1771 / Reddit

The intriguing aspect is that no matter how we look at this picture, the broken road appears vertical from all angles. What is confusing is that even though we know the roads are damaged, our mind sees it as a vertical section of the road.

The Muppet woman

This tinder profile picture of this woman has a striking resemblance with a Muppet. Although we can see the man and the woman standing, the woman’s jawline looks like that of a Muppet, and it just leaves us wondering if she noticed this resemblance.

Image courtesy: disirregardless1734 / Reddit

The Muppet woman’s jawline that we see in this picture was formed by the man’s hand. When you take a closer look, you will see that the woman’s head is tilted backward, which allows it to form the Muppet jawline with the hand.

The plate/bedsheet

When we saw this picture, the first question that came to our mind was, “why would someone serve their food directly on the bedsheet?” After looking closely, we thought maybe the floral part is the bedsheet, and the white part is the plate.

Image courtesy: Flashy_Underware / Reddit

Contrary to what we thought at first glance, this is a full plate. The floral part is part of the plate design, so the food isn’t spilling. The flowery part also appeared as a table cover for a few split seconds.

This nude biker

A nude biker on the highway is not something you get to see every day. At first glance, we also believed that the biker was naked. What was more confusing was that we couldn’t figure out how many people were on the bike.

Image courtesy: Unobjectionables / Reddit

At a closer look, we realize that the biker is not naked. He is wearing pants but, he is shirtless. The nude body we are seeing is an optical illusion created by the shirtless body and the leg of the female he was riding with.