Photography is not simply pointing and shooting; it’s an art form. And the photographers who took the following photos are artists who figured out how to get the most out of their camera.

Sure, you could fly to exotic locations or pay top dollar to rent the most expensive equipment for your photo shoot. The alternative is thinking creatively and using perspective and lighting techniques to create magical photographs. Here are some of our favorite examples of photographs that aren’t quite what they seem.

1. Fairy Tale Wedding at a Castle

Here is a wedding photograph that is not quite what it seems. The photographer has creatively used a puddle to give the illusion that the couple is standing next to a pond. The reflection of the castle and the couple gives the photograph a magical quality.

When you see what the photographer was working with, the results are nothing short of amazing. The castle was a stunning backdrop, but the grounds and the mucky puddle were somewhat depressing.

The photographer was able to clip out most of the dull grass and mud by getting right in the puddle. Using just the precise angle, he filled the frame with the water from the puddle without revealing the edges of the puddle. This allowed him to transform the puddle into a lake or pond that doubled all of the nice qualities (the couple, the castle, and the sky) of the photo through the reflection.

2. Depression-Era Cars

The details on these old-timey cars look strangely crisp for the photography of the day. So what gives? Are they replicas or restored originals that someone photographed with a modern camera?

The answer is that they are replicas of a sort. These incredibly detailed miniatures were shot using forced perspective.

To use this technique, the photographer set up his camera extremely close to the miniature cars, making them look larger in the frame. Because the houses and trees were so far away from the miniatures, they end up matching in size.

This technique relies on perfect placement of the foreground objects so as not to give away the trick. The board that the cars sit on must blend seamlessly with the road in the background. We’d say the photographer did an amazing job pulling off this illusion.

When you see the actual size of the cars, it’s hard to believe that they are the same ones in the first photograph. That is the power of forced perspective.

3. Old-Fashioned Effects

The advent of Photoshop and other editing software has made it easy for photographers to enhance and alter images, but sometimes providing physical effects achieves a better photograph.

Take, for example, this swimsuit model with a big splash in the background. The photographer could have merged two photographs together on a computer to create a similar image.

The simpler solution to getting the shot was to have a man cannon-ball into the pool behind the model. After setting a fast shutter speed on the camera, the photographer just had to capture a burst of photos once the man jumped.

4. Underwater Perfection

Achieving a perfect underwater photo has long been a challenge. Of course you need a specialized waterproof camera, but that’s not all. There are many challenges due to having to rely on natural lighting. Most of all, it’s hard for models to look pretty when they are holding their breath and trying to prevent bubbles from forming in front of them.

This creative photographer found a way to achieve the effect without anyone getting wet. The solution was to light a model through water. By stirring up the water and sending the light through it, the photographer achieved the unique glimmers and waves of light that are characteristic of underwater photography.

A simple blue background reinforces the illusion that the model is at the bottom of a swimming pool. Best of all, the model’s makeup, hair, and expression aren’t constrained by the difficult conditions of being underwater.

5. Dream Girl

Even the best photographers find it difficult to give a subject a dreamlike quality. In nature, the elements all come together to make the shot possible at times, but recreating the sensation for an indoor photoshoot is not as easy as you’d think.

That’s why this photographer got creative with his lens. Using just a piece of plastic wrap loosely hung around the lens, the photographer affected the light enough to give a dreamy quality to the photo. That kind of simple creativity helps create a good photo better than any editing software can.

The Art of Photography

Now that you’ve seen how dramatically lighting and perspective can change a photo, you can understand why photography is truly an art. Far from simply documenting reality, photographers interpret and change the world through their lens.