10 Tips to Spot a Fake Image and Not Let Photoshoppers Fool You

Although the majority of Photoshop fakes that massively appear online are harmless, sometimes images are manipulated to change context or create “fake news.” According to a recent study, 4 out of 10 people cannot identify a fake photo, and half of those who can, cannot say exactly what is wrong. Here are some tips that can help you spot a fraud.

These 10 tips, collected by Bright Side, will help you check the integrity of an image before sharing it online. Read the list through to the end to find how some fake but viral images were eventually identified.

1. Check the background for bent or distorted parts.

Photoshop is widely used by magazines and celebrities to manipulate the shape of their bodies. When a hip or a thigh is “pushed” to look skinnier, the background behind will appear bent as well. A door frame that’s not straight or a crooked glass, like on this Beyonce photo, is a sign that the photo has been doctored.

2. Pay attention to reflections.

Users with limited knowledge of Photoshop often forget to manipulate the shadow properly, which is one of the hardest things to do. If the shadow is there, but you still have doubts, draw a line from one point on an object to the corresponding point on its shadow for several objects on the image. All lines should converge on the light source.

3. Beware of low quality images.

The manipulated sections of an image often appear blurred around the edges: like those muscles on the famous bodybuilder Art Atwood. To make these blurry parts less obvious, photoshoppers often intentionally reduce the quality of the image. However, the quality won’t be reduced uniformly and the photoshopped parts will be a lower quality than the rest of the image.

4. Search for identical patterns.

Photoshoppers often copy one area of an image and insert it somewhere else. Our brain is wired to search for patterns, and the cloning errors are quickly spotted. When a picture of an Iranian missile test appeared in the media it was noticed that the second missile from the right is basically a copy of the missile to its left and the smoke from the missile to its right. Indeed, this missile was photoshopped on the original image, which contained only three missiles.

5. Assess the perspective, shadows, and proportions.

When an object from one image is inserted into another image, it takes a lot of skill to get colors, brightness, and contrast matched between the different parts. This picture of world leaders attentively listening to Putin was circulating around the Internet after the G20 Summit. Even if you didn’t notice that Merkel was wearing a Russian St. George ribbon, it’s easy to spot that Turkey’s Foreign Minister would be just about kissing Putin’s head if the picture had been real.

6. Use reverse image search.

One of the easiest ways to spot a fake image is to use reverse image search in Google Images or TinEye. According to Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert, the images of sharks swimming down the street regularly appear online after natural disasters. Reverse image search allows you to find where the image appeared for the first time or even find it debunked already.

7. Evaluate the naturalness of tones and colours.

Unnatural colors can be another reason to doubt the integrity of a photo. The Internet was fascinated by the purple vegetation surrounding what was supposedly a blue river on The Isle of Skye in Scotland. In reality, this purple color was photoshopped. The river is actually located in New Zealand, and although the scenery is still breathtaking, the color is a natural green.

8. Don’t miss odd body parts.

One of the common errors made by photoshoppers concerns missing arms and legs. These mistakes are easy to spot, like on this Netflix poster, where the actress happens to have two right hands, or on this Victoria Secret ad where the model is missing her arm. Yet, sometimes photoshoppers remain blind.

A famous model, Coco Rocha, even published a request to photoshoppers on her twitter account asking them to be sure to count two arms and two legs on the models.

9. Get image metadata.

Some webpages allow you to dig deeper in the image and check its metadata, like where and how the image was taken. This crucial information is stored under the EXIF heading. It will also tell you whether the image was opened and saved in Photoshop. You can also get the EXIF data if you open the image in any image editing programs. Note, however, that this data is stripped from the images uploaded to Facebook and Twitter.

10. Use common sense.

Finally, always think twice before overreacting about the picture you saw online. The easiest way to detect a manipulated image is to use common sense. The image above was not taken during hurricane Sandy, it’s a shot from the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Do you use Photoshop yourself and are you good at spotting doctored images? Share your tips and observations in the comments.

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