Photo manipulation is as old as photography itself, and its history can be seen as part of the history of image manipulation in general, which can be found already in Ancient Egypt. So Kanawati gives examples where images have been removed to penalize persons.

Before computers, photo manipulation was achieved by retouching with ink, paint, double-exposure, piecing photos or negatives together in the darkroom or scratching Poloroids. Airbrushes were also used, whence the term “airbrushing” for manipulation . Darkroom manipulations are sometimes regarded as traditional art rather than job related skill. In the early days of photography, the use of technology was not as advanced and efficient as it is now. Results are similar to digital manipulation but they are harder to create.

An early example of tampering was in the early 1860s, when a photo of Abraham Lincoln was altered using the body from a portrait of John C. Calhoun and the head of Lincoln from a famous seated portrait by Mathew Brady – the same portrait which was the basis for the original Lincoln Five Dollar bill.

The 1980s saw the advent of digital retouching with Quantel computers running certain imaging workstations being used professionally. Computers running Barco Creator became available in the late 1980s which, alongside other contemporary packages, were effectively replaced in the market by Adobe Photoshop.