Fact Check-Explaining the optical illusion in the Biden-Carter photo

Social media users have pointed out that a photograph released by the Carter Center showing U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden with the 39th President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter looks edited or staged due to the odd composition and size differences between the two couples. The image has been captured in a way that makes the Bidens look larger while the Carters and the furniture around them appear smaller.

Examples of posts making this claim can be seen here and here .

The text on one post reads: “Help me understand what the actual hell is going on with this picture! Are the Carters that tiny? Are the Bidens that huge? Is it a bad photoshop job and someone has already been fired? Or am I still drunk from last night?” Comments on the posts read: “Someone ate Alice in wonderlands cake”, “It’s a bad Photoshop job, just like the green screen video clips we see with Biden”, and “Oh my gosh I was just saying this in another post. It doesn’t look right! They didn’t really visit and just cropped themselves into the picture I bet”.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter in Plains, Georgia on April 29, 2021 (here).

The Carter Center, founded in 1982 by the Carters and Emory University to “wage peace, fight disease and build hope worldwide”, shared the photograph of the two couples on its Twitter page on May 3, 2021 here .

The photograph makes the Bidens appear to be much larger than the Carters and the furniture around them.

Following the social media reactions, news organizations have discussed exactly what may be contributing to the photograph looking so odd. The Washington Post suggested here that this may be due to a wide-angle lens, strong flash, Carter’s slim build and the photo being captured in a small space.

Adam Schultz, chief official White House photographer, confirmed to The New York Times here that he captured the photo but declined to comment on it. “It’s for people to figure out and think about,” he said.

Schultz did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment via Twitter message.

Former White House photographer Pete Souza told the New York Times that Jimmy Carter’s large shoes provide a strong clue: “That to me is an indication that the foreground was distorted by a super-wide-angle lens.”

Reuters found no evidence the photograph was staged or edited. Rather, it appears to be the type of wide-angle lens used and the way the photograph was captured that gives it this optical illusion.

Reuters senior photographer Leah Mills said the photograph appears to be distorted in a way that can happen with a wide-lens when the subjects are not centered in the frame, which can make objects closer to the edge appear stretched and larger.

“It looks to me like the combination of a wide lens plus the fact that the two are sitting in chairs and the Bidens are not, thus exposing their bodies to the distortion of the outer edge of the frame, contributed to the funky look,” Mills added.

A video showing the president, first lady and former first lady during their visit can be seen here , proving they did meet.

Reuters photographs of the visit can be seen here and here .


Missing context. The photograph of Joe Biden and Jill Biden with Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter appears distorted most likely due to the wide-angle lens used and the way it was captured.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .