"Ok. This is NOT a joke," writes Pam Zaring, from Hillsboro, Missouri, on her Facebook account.

The mother-of-two had booked a professional family portrait session with her husband Dave, her two sons, Connor and Cade and her husband's mother, Sharon. The family paid between $2 and 250 (£1.50 -181) for the shoot. But when they received the developed pictures, they got way more than they bargained for.

"Please see these FOR REAL photos she delivered to us....She said the shadows were really bad on the beautiful, clear, sunny day and that her professor never taught her to retouch photos," Zaring writes in a Facebook post accompanying the bizarre video on 12 January.

The whole family's face had been photo-shopped to the worst effect. Their natural skin colour replaced by a hollow strain of grey, their eyes closer to dots on the orbit. The only subjects left untarnished were the dogs. The peculiar portrait seems to have straight out of Disneyworld's Haunted House, or a very creepy cartoon.

The Facebook post with the picture has been shared more than 378,000 times at time of reporting, and liked more than 365,000 times.

Zaring was not disappointed with the final product, though:"Feel free to share," she wrote in the same Facebook post. "I literally have not laughed this hard in YEARS!!!!!"

Zaring was contacted by a woman claiming to be a professional photographer last spring, reports KCEN. She agreed and the whole family visited Forest Park in St. Louis for the sitting.

"My kids were so confused. They thought we were playing a joke on them," Zaring said, adding her sons kept saying they looked like "Lego people".

The family soon saw the funny side of the story and decided to keep the pictures. Zaring told the photographer the pictures had brought her family "so much joy".

"This has been worth every dime that we spent," she said, while prompting people to do a little more research before hiring someone for a particular job.