115 Real-Life ‘When You See It’ Moments That You Might Need To Stare At For A While

115 Real-Life ‘When You See It’ Moments That You Might Need To Stare At For A While

When taking a photo, most of us don’t think to examine every bit of the background. We are usually too focused on how our hair looks or whatever subject we’re capturing to take notice of the entire image.  Even when we look back at our pictures later, we are not likely to catch anything aside from what we intended to capture. But maybe we should start looking at our photos a little more closely; we might be surprised to find hidden details or photobombers in the background that completely change the nature of the image.

We’ve gathered a list of some of the best “when you see it” photos that might play tricks on your eyes, from pictures that have hilarious things peeking out in the background to photos that will always seem off, no matter how hard you stare at them. We hope you enjoy this funny and perplexing list, and be sure to upvote the pics that you looked at long enough to induce a headache. Then if you’d like to see even more of these confusing photos, be sure to check out one of Bored Panda’s previous posts on the same topic right here.

#1 My Pillow Has A Surprise Inside

Image credits: RedditCoffeeGuy

A picture is worth a thousand words, but if there’s an unexpected twist hiding in the background, it might be worth two thousand. We’re all familiar with optical illusions, but usually they are created on purpose. It’s a rare occasion when an unsuspecting photo becomes an optical illusion after people look at it and start saying, “Wait a second…” While most of the photos here are funny based on what’s in the background or peeking out from a corner, some are just our eyes playing tricks on us. 

To learn more about how our eyes can fool us, we checked out this Vox article that explains how each of our realities are constructed by our own brains. “It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality,” neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh, a research professor at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow at Glendon College, told Vox. “We’re seeing a story that’s being created for us.” He explained that typically, what our brains tell us does match up with the real world, but sometimes our brains work to fill in gaps, which can warp our perception of reality. 

#2 I Swear There Are Four Of Us

Image credits: BalrogBunghole

#3 Happy Easter

Image credits: mdr28

In his article, Brian Resnick explains that the fact that visuals can trick us may seem disheartening at first, but we shouldn’t look at it that way. We can actually learn a great deal about how our brains work when we know what can confuse or fool them. He goes on to explain that the more we understand about how our brains work, the more we might be able to understand one another. Rather than being frustrated by someone who perceives the world differently, have some compassion. After all, their brain is feeding them a slightly different message than what yours is telling you. We should be curious about these differences and investigate them.

Brian also poses the question of why we are seeing a story of the world rather than the full picture. Apparently, we evolved to be this way. “We don’t have the necessary machinery, and we wouldn’t even want it, to process carefully all of the amount of information that we’re constantly bombarded with,” Susana Martinez-Conde, a neuroscientist and illusion researcher at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, told Vox.

#4 Nope, You're Wrong. Look Closer

Image credits: 1 like=1 respec

#5 You'll Laugh When You See It

Image credits: danthoms

#6 We Took This Photo In The Caves Of Branson, MO Over 2 Years Ago. We Never Noticed Our Unexpected Guest Until Now

Image credits: CapableOwl

When we see an object move, for example, there is a complicated process happening inside of us. “Once light hits the retinas at the back of our eyeballs, it’s converted into an electrical signal that then has to travel to the visual processing system at the back of our brains,” Brian explains. “From there, the signal travels forward through our brains, constructing what we see and creating our perception of it. This process just takes time.” 

If we only relied on what our brain had fully processed, our reflexes would be too slow for us to have very good coordination. So we need our brains to fill in the gaps and make predictions for us. When we see something moving, we see it just a tad bit further along than it actually is because we know where it’s headed. And when we see a confusing photo, it can be very hard to convince our brains that what it initially thought was happening might not actually be the case.

#7 Spot The Pug

Image credits: lilithnightstar

#8 This Is What I Have To Deal With Every Morning While Going To The Bathroom

Image credits: Tall_Whole_5777

#9 Lost My Wallet 3 Days Ago, Finally Ordered New Cards And Then

Image credits: dragonboy2734

Adam Hantman, a neuroscientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus, explains that we are almost always relying on predictions that our brain makes and then using our senses to course-correct any inaccurate predictions. Even the way we see colors can be confusing. Most of the time we can agree with others about what color something is, but sometimes colors are up for debate. Do you remember the infamous white and gold or blue and black dress? An interesting development from that whole dress drama was the theory that someone’s lifestyle might affect how they perceive images and colors.

In a study on the infamous dress conducted by Pascal Wallisch, he found a strange correlation between those who agreed on the color of the dress. People who consider themselves night owls were more likely to see the dress as blue and black, while early risers, or larks, were more likely to call the dress white and gold.     

#10 Bet We Can Beat You At Hiding And Seek Uncle David. Bet You Can’t

Image credits: dropkickderby

#11 The Best Place To Hide From Animal Control Is Right Under Their Noses

Image credits: motown89

#12 Took A Picture Of My Cousin At Their Wedding Table And It Caught The Groom's Nose

Image credits: Jarteast

Wallisch believed that the reason for this correlation was because participants assumed the lighting on the dress was whatever they are more familiar with. For example, larks spend more time experiencing natural light than night owls do, so if they view the image like it is being drenched in sunlight, it appears white and gold. On the other hand, night owls tend to assume that there is fluorescent light on the dress, which would make it appear blue and black.

“The owls versus lark data seems quite compelling for explaining a large part of the individual differences,” says Sam Schwarzkopf, a vision scientist at the University of Auckland. But it does not explain everything. “There are still lots of other factors that must have a strong influence here. It could be prior experience with the subject matter, or related to other aspects of people’s personality,” he says. “Yes, the dress continues to mystify.”

#13 My Sister Was Taking Pictures Of My Nephew At School

Image credits: Htxbia

#14 My Friend Tried To Take A Nice Picture At The Mall

Image credits: TongueCave

#15 Oh, Hey Mom. No, No One Is Here. I Was Talking To Myself. Yeah, Good Night Mom

Image credits: pottrpupptpals

Our brains have all sorts of biases, and they are used to ignoring information that does not serve us or overloads us. We filter out things like the fact that we can always see our noses because it does not serve us. We don’t need to see our nose; we know, or should I say knows, it’s there. But a similar thing happens when we see an image where there is just too much going on. We can’t necessarily see every detail, at least not at first glance. So that’s why it might take you a moment to catch a cat hiding in a pillowcase or a child in the corner in these photos. We can only handle so much information at once, and if there is something you’re not expecting to see, your brain might just ignore it.  

#16 I Heard This Kid Yelling For His Dad At Lowe’s, I Went Looking For Him And

Image credits: GetALoadOfToad

#17 Without That Big Wheel Sticking Out You’d Never Know There’s A Truck In The Picture

Image credits: 68PrivateJoker

#18 When You See It

Image credits: chopders

When it comes to the photos on this list that appear normal at first glance, once we do realize something bizarre is happening, it can be impossible to unsee what we now know. The picture looked completely fine 5 seconds ago, but now it’s been tainted. Why does that happen? Nothing has actually changed except our perception. Alexis C. Madrigal discussed this phenomenon in a piece for The Atlantic. She showed an example of a black and white photo that might look abstract at first glance but actually features a dalmatian. "It is hard to discern a Dalmatian standing among many black spots scattered on a white background because the part of the image corresponding to the dog lacks contours that define the edges of the dog, and the dog’s spotted texture resembles that of the background," Dartmouth cognitive scientists Peter Tse and Howard Hughes wrote about the image. "Many observers find that they first recognize one part of the dog, say the head, which then makes the whole dog’s shape apparent."

#19 Had A Nice Photo With The Missus And Had It Put On A Key Ring, Only To Later Notice This Gem. Worst/Greatest Picture Ever

Image credits: NubBiscuit96

#20 A Random Stranger Came Up To My Girlfriend And I To Show Us The Photo She Took Of Us

Image credits: theworstsailor1

#21 This Can Happen When You Blink Faster Than The Shutter On Your Camera

Image credits: bmullerone

But if people ever come across that image of the dalmatian again, they will see it immediately. "When the scene is encountered again, sensory cues will again identify high information areas, but this time the prior knowledge needed to complete the perceptual act is readily available, and the perceptual interpretation is achieved in a way that seems automatic and perhaps inevitable," says Tom Toppino, a Villanova psychologist. "One general lesson of this demonstration is that perception is not the result of simply processing stimulus cues. It also importantly involves fitting prior knowledge to the current situation to create a meaningful interpretation."

#22 Pouty Kid Is Pouty

Image credits: chickenbiscuit9998

#23 When You See It

Image credits: miz0909

#24 I Was Trying To Take A Nice Photo Of My Cat When I Noticed The Neighbours' Cat In The Background

Image credits: BeardLover69

Some ambiguous images are “reversible”, like the famous Rabbit-duck illusion, where you might be able to know both are there and flip back and forth between which one you see. But other images can never be seen the same again. "I think one can describe the can't-unsee phenomenon as follows:  Once you interpret visual stimulus in a certain way, you'll continue to interpret it in the same way now and the next time you encounter the stimulus," Toppino says. "Ambiguous figures certainly involve some of the same processes."

#25 I Didn't Think I'd Actually Lose In A "Hide And Seek" Game With My Nephew

Image credits: NOCHNOY_

#26 I Lost My Cat Today And Eventually Found Him Like This Staring At Me

Image credits: filochick05

#27 And The Void Stares Back

Image credits: Thereisnocat_

We hope you are enjoying this list of photos that might require you to stare at them for several minutes to understand. Just think of them as real life Where's Waldo images. And as for the ones that are more like optical illusions, maybe your fellow pandas can help you understand what's going on in the comments. Keep upvoting the pics that you find most hilarious or confusing, and then if you want to check out even more "when you see it" pics, we've got another Bored Panda piece for you to read next right here.

#28 Find My Cat In This Photo

Image credits: pizzaslayer111

#29 When You See It

Image credits: ReigningHate

#30 When You See It

Image credits: dcooneyreddit

#31 All The Brown You Can See Is Spiders

Image credits: aloofwatermelon

#32 My Daughter Thought This Was Her. Bonus: My Son In The Background

Image credits: Trampolice

#33 Looked Up And Noticed This While Using The Bathroom

Image credits: firesprinklerman

#34 When You See It

Image credits: SAT0725

#35 Spot The Bird

Image credits: shficjshx

#36 Let's Play "Spot The Culprit"

Image credits: jelder5591

#37 I Wanted To Take A Thanksgiving Family Photo. When You See It

Image credits: AdellaCosplay

#38 Not Sure If Intentional Or Oblivious, But This Architect Did A Bad Job

Image credits: moderately_nerdifyin

#39 A Place For Everything

Image credits: princesskittydog

#40 When You See It

Image credits: Andreastheslimjim

#41 When You See It

Image credits: flojopickles

#42 I Was Laughing At This Junk-Filled Truck, Until I Looked Closer

Image credits: Masterspy2014

#43 I Really Appreciate My Math Teacher's Halloween Costume

Image credits: rickiesucks

#44 This Truck On The Highway In Front Of Me. So Much Going On Here, I Don’t Even Know Where To Start

Image credits: Aaron4_6

#45 Sometimes You Just Know You’re Being Watched

Image credits: smolprincess928

#46 He’s Not Mean, Just A Bit Stalky

Image credits: emptyshelI

#47 Look Closely

Image credits: Yuisawesome

#48 Look Closely For One Of The Reasons Why You Can't Just Swim In Any Body Of Water In The American South. This One Is In The Cape Fear Region Of North Carolina

Image credits: BryanwithaY

#49 I Was Frantically Looking For My Dog For 10 Minutes

Image credits: shetarp429

#50 An Alligator Snapping Turtle Hibernating Under A Sheet Of Ice

Image credits: Chris Binky Launius

#51 The Reason Why You Need To Watch Every Step You Take When Out In The Woods

Image credits: SssnakeySci

#52 Influencer Chess (When You See It)

Image credits: mallikasherawat

#53 Find The Toddler

Image credits: mmeestro

#54 Me At Five Years Old. When You See It

Image credits: DillPicklesNcream

#55 When You See It

Image credits: tarpolano

#56 Went Into My Dad's Attic And This Caught My Eye. Bricks Were Shat. When You See It

Image credits: chrisdv98

#57 When You See It. You'll See Why I Opted To Use The Stove Instead Of The Grill

Image credits: minnesotagal

#58 When You See It

Image credits: thatdiabetickid

#59 I Looked Over, And My Cat Was Doing The Same Thing As The Curtain

Image credits: LeadTheWay

#60 I Finally Figured Out Where My Cat Has Been Hiding. I Only Saw Him Because A Bird Chirped On TV And He Stuck His Head Up Slightly. Who Sees Him?

Image credits: Ellekm730

#61 When You Straighten Up The Guest Room For Company

Image credits: dirkclingman

#62 When You See It

Image credits: PhilthyMcNastay

#63 When You See It. Couldn't Figure Out Where She'd Got To Until I Was Walking Around The Living Room, I Felt Like I Was Being Watched

Image credits: thinknuts

#64 Thought It Was Snow

Image credits: spudVision

#65 When You're Munching Gummy Worms But Are Also Transforming Into A Werewolf

Image credits: thehospitalinc

#66 Set Up My Gaming Rig In Wife’s Office While We Work On The Basement

Image credits: Edbergj

#67 When You See It

Image credits: Ferbach

#68 When You See It

Image credits: sheslingshashforcash

#69 My Friend Sent Me Pictures Of Her Proposal. She Told Me To Look Closely

Image credits: MRwrong_

#70 I Took A Pic From My Balcony In Korea. Look Closely At The Clothesline

Image credits: cultureculture

#71 After My Initial Flash Of Fear, I Took A "When You See It" Picture

Image credits: redbullhamster

#72 Glitch In The Mirror

Image credits: 00890

#73 When You See It

Image credits: DrRevelationary

#74 Went To A Wedding Today. When You See It

Image credits: Eristic_Escalation

#75 When You See It

Image credits: TrueWarrior

#76 It Took Me 5 Minutes To Understand This Not-Disturbing Photo

Image credits: Gatamanca

#77 Took A Picture Of My Brother At The Museum Of Natural History. When You See It

Image credits: teramainia

#78 This Was In A Children's Book At An English Language School I Used To Work At. When You See It

Image credits: pac0pac0

#79 When You See It

Image credits: Kommando87

#80 When You See It

Image credits: RoyalTonic

#81 Friend Is Moving Away With Her Best Friends. When You See It

Image credits: reddit.com

#82 When You See It. Happy Holidays

Image credits: MissSonar

#83 When You See It

Image credits: Ausles_Grace

#84 When You See It

Image credits: boricua1904

#85 I Become Grocery

Image credits: Apoplectic1

#86 Our Big Bad Pitbull, Hiding From The Lawnmower

Image credits: MarieSchrader_

#87 My Family Plays A Game Where There Is Always A Rubber Duck Looking At You Around The House, Whoever Finds It Must Hide It In A Place The Duck Can See You

Just spotted it after a month in hiding.

Image credits: amplez_amplez

#88 All-Time "Hide And Seek" Winner

Image credits: FifthEyeBlinded

#89 My Cat Thinks She's A Ninja

Image credits: kbassett

#90 Took Her Outside To Get Some Distance From Her From The Non-Stop Noise Coming Out Of Her. And If This Picture Doesn't Sum Up Parenting, I Don't Know What Does

Image credits: sarahpritchard80

#91 Took Us A While To Realize What’s Going On Here

Image credits: equesureinsurance

#92 So Damn Cute

Image credits: my_ba_zj

#93 When You See It

Image credits: oscar_and_queen_n

#94 Today In "Find The Cat"

Image credits: katehinds

#95 Spot A Parrot

Image credits: mashalf

#96 My Cat Tried To Hide From Me

Image credits: tassafrass

#97 Snakes On A Plane

#98 I Woke Up In The Middle Of The Night And Couldn’t Find My Friend

Image credits: ubun09

#99 This Kids Head

Image credits: lauch_btw

#100 Blursed Fall (Look Closely In The Middle Of The Picture)

Image credits: AustinSanderson10uf

#101 Taking The GF Out For A Coffee

Image credits: az-at

#102 That's Crazy

Image credits: Jurriankoelewijn

#103 When You See It

Image credits: thomrg15

#104 When You See It

Image credits: weezabeeb

#105 Friend Tried To Take A Mirror Selfie. Look Closely

Image credits: UNew

#106 When You See It. Attic Edition

Image credits: pricelessdiamond

#107 When You See It

Image credits: uhseetoe

#108 When You See It

Image credits: midazz

#109 When You See It. No Solicitors

Image credits: franksynopsis

#110 Look Closely

Image credits: miler22

#111 Dos Mirónes - Took This Shot For A Client. Learned Later I Wasn't Alone

Image credits: Adub024

#112 Enjoying The View

Image credits: Glorious_Muffins

#113 I See What You've Been Doing All Day

Image credits: Archetype557

#114 My Cat Hiding Among The Stuffed Animals

Image credits: octoberwild

#115 Lost My Wallet A Couple Of Days Ago. Found It On My Way Home Today

Image credits: ultimatekewi32_

Back to blog