Those Viral Photos of a Missouri Family's Portraits Are Real, and They're Spectacular

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At last the dogs escaped with their faces un-edited... - VIA FACEBOOK.
  • Via Facebook.
  • At last the dogs escaped with their faces un-edited...

If, like us, you're tethered to Twitter and Facebook, you've surely seen the now-viral family portraits produced by "IMagery by Lesa Hall." On Friday, Dave and Pam Zaring of Hillsboro, Missouri, shared a set of seven photos that show their faces flattened into cartoon smudges.

"Ok. This is NOT a joke," the post began. Then the Zarings explained that they had paid a professional photographer $200 to $250 for a family photoshoot. However, things apparently went badly when the photographer tried to retouch the photos. Really, really badly.

Since Friday, the post has been shared more than 380,000 times and — because this is how things work on the internet now — it's spawned a wave of copycat memes and parody Facebook pages. There's even a tutorial to teach would-be photoshop-failures how to digitally smudge a perfectly fine portrait into nightmare fuel-perfection.

Naturally, in this age of hoaxes, some have questioned the authenticity of the "Photoshop fail," and it's easy to see why: If the photos reflect a sincere attempt at retouching, the work is almost literally too bad to be true.

The Zarings never named the photographer, but the images had a watermark with Lesa Hall's name. And so Facebook comment sections quickly became rife with theories. Perhaps the photos are part of a viral marketing stunt? Maybe the Zarings wanted to embarrass the photographer for some reason, and edited the photos themselves? Does Lesa Hall even exist?

Adding to the confusion, screenshots of Facebook comments written by Hall have surfaced in various comment threads; they appear to show Hall denying that she edited her photos into faceless oblivion.

Those screenshots, however, were lifted out of context. Contacted via Facebook last night, Hall explained that she had been talking about a different set of photos someone else had edited in a similar fashion and then attributed to her. Hall declined further comment. But suffice it to say: The seven photos shared by the Zarings are indeed her handiwork.

According to a LinkedIn account listed under Hall's name, the photographer lives in the St. Louis area and attended St. Louis Community College, where she earned a certificate as a "digital photography specialist." Fortunately for her instructor, she didn't provide details as to that person's identity.

The Zarings, meanwhile, are taking the terrible images in stride. "I literally have not laughed this hard in YEARS!!!!!!" they wrote on their Facebook page. And now, hundreds of thousands of people are laughing with them.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com