Telltale Tips to Spot Altered Images

Photographs can present powerful evidence, but beware of images that have been Photoshopped or otherwise manipulated.  How to Geek, Electrons, and FindLaw offer some tips on spotting an altered image:

  • Images that look a little too perfect may reveal use of airbrushing
  • Look beyond the subject of a photo for signs of warping, which is when someone uses a tool to grab an area of an image and move, shrink, or enlarge it
  • Scan the image for patterns and repeated objects which may indicate cloning, or duplicating part of an image and pasting it over another part
  • Missing or mismatched shadows can indicate that part of an image has been replaced
  • Look for blurry areas.  If a single image is saved and re-saved, the entire image will have the same level of quality; however, if part of an image comes from somewhere else, and it was saved at a different compression level, it will be lower in quality
  • Check the EXIF metadata which is stored along with a photo when it’s taken. This includes information like which camera was used, the focal length, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and so on. Location data in the form of real-world coordinates are also often stored in a photo.

Still can’t tell?  Fortunately, there are a couple of tools that can help you spot a fake.

  • Image Edited? uses most of the above techniques to check and report whether any inconsistencies were found
  • FotoForensics is similar to Image Edited?, except it leaves the analysis up to you
  • Do reverse image search to find other instances of the same image online, as well as images that look similar using Google Image Search
  • Assembler is an experimental platform advancing new detection technology to help fact-checkers and journalists identify manipulated media