Peter Lik Called Out by Photographers Over ‘Faked’ Moon Photo

Photographer Peter Lik is purportedly one of the bestselling landscape photographers on Earth, having sold a reported half a billion dollars worth of prints by 2015. He also claims to have sold a single print for $6.5 million in 2014, which would still be the world’s most expensive photo today. But one of Lik’s new prints is raising eyebrows and eliciting cries of “Photoshop!”

The photo and print at the center of it all is titled “Moonlit Dreams.” Lik’s website states that the photo was captured in the USA, and he’s currently selling 950 Limited Edition prints and 45 Artist Proof prints.

“Moonlit Dreams” by photographer Peter Lik. Displayed at a larger resolution to show the details of the moon.

Fstoppers first called out Lik for the photo by publishing a 31-minute panel discussion and debate titled “How Fake is this Photo by Peter Lik?“:

“Peter Lik has become extremely wealthy selling prints that his sale team swear are ‘real’,” Fstoppers writes. “As we all know, each photographer (and the general public) has their own view on how much Photoshop is too much, and at a certain point, we can easily cross that line.

“Although we haven’t spoken with anyone working for Lik about this particular image, we imagine they will say that this too is a single, unaltered frame. So the question then becomes, how far is too far?”

A number of observations are being made about this photo — many of them arguments as to why it can’t possibly be real. One of the most glaring ones for many people is the fact that some of the clouds in the photo appear to be behind the moon.

Questions are also being raised about the dynamic range (everything in the scene is properly exposed), the lighting (particularly the direction of the light on various things in the shot), the depth of field (everything is perfectly sharp), physics (there seems to be a complete lack of atmospheric disturbance), and more.

In a separate article on Fstoppers, photographer Steve Cullen points out another curious issue that may be a strong argument against the truthfulness of the photo: the moon appears to be identical to the moon in another Lik photo, titled “Bella Luna”:

A side-by-side comparison of “Moonlit Dreams” (left) and “Bella Luna” (right). Both photos by Peter Lik.

Cullen argues that because of the moon’s wobble and movements relative to the Earth, “it would be extremely unlikely to capture the exact same face of the moon in two separate shots at different times and in different locations.”

“The odds of this happening by chance are probably something like winning the lottery, getting hit by lightning, and solving global warming all in the same day,” Cullen writes. “Planning for such an alignment would also be next to impossible.”

“I don’t believe that the moon in either of Lik’s photographs was there when the picture was taken. I am not saying there couldn’t be a moon in his raw images, it just is not the moon we see in the final works.”

Regardless of how truthful “Moonlit Dreams” is, it has apparently been selling like hotcakes:

If you’re interested in getting a large print for yourself, there’s a dedicated microsite on Lik’s website set up for “Moonlit Dreams.” The page also contains a zoomable 3000px version of the image if you’d like to pixel-peep at it more closely.

Update on 2/12/18: A representative for Lik has now confirmed that “Moonlit Dreams” IS indeed a composite photo.

Image credits: Header portrait of Peter Lik by Bagima and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0