I've taken lately to thinking of it sort of like a movie. When we watch a movie in a theater, we see the movie screen, blank and real. When the movie starts, light is projected onto the screen in shifting patterns. The light is just as real as the screen. However, when we focus on the patterns the light makes on the screen (both light and screen are necessary, and both appear as one), we get sucked into those patterns, so much so that we forget all about the screen and the light. Even if we were to think of them, chances are good that the patterns of the light would seem more real in that moment than either the screen or the light themselves.
Are the patterns real? Yes. Are the patterns imitations? Yes. Is the screen real? Is the light real? Yes. And no. But the reality in that moment truly is screen, light, patterns, all distinct, all one, all real, all not real.
Not to mention the thoughts and emotions we experience as we watch the film. Are they real? Have you ever left the theater after an intense movie that was wrenchingly sad and suddenly felt sad about your happy life, somehow, for a few minutes or hours? Is that sadness real? Yes. And no.