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