You are on page 1of 14

Three ways to spot if an image has been

by Craig SilvermanPublished May 24, 2012 8:44 amUpdated Nov. 25, 2014 8:24 am

Over the course of 16 years spent working in product management for Adobe, Kevin Connor often heard
customers ask if there was any way to determine whether an image had been altered using Photoshop.
We would get calls pretty frequently (and as time went on, more frequently) from people asking, Are
there ways to detect this? said Connor, who was vice president of product management for Photoshop
when left the company last year.
Connor is now working with noted digital image forensics expert Dr. Hany Farid on a startup to provide
tools to help sniff out altered images. Their company, Fourandsix, will roll out its first detection product
later this year. (Its currently in beta and I hope to start testing it soon.)
The upcoming release will be the first in a suite of products that could potentially be used by news
organizations, law enforcement and others to help evaluate whether an image has been manipulated.
Connor said their products will assist with the process of image verification and evaluation, and help
people make a more informed decision about the likely origins and lifespan of an image.
Theres a temptation to want to have some magic bullet or magic algorithm that will tell you whether an
image is real or not, and we quickly realized thats just not going to work, he said. What you have to do
is approach it as a detective and examine all the various clues in the image itself and the file that contains
the image.
The solution, he said, requires not one but a series of technologies and a trained person making an
informed call.
I offered some background on photo verification in the aftermath of Osama bin Ladens death. There are
some other great tips for analyzing images in the links I shared in this post on real-time verification.
This Columbia Journalism Review interview with Dr. Farid explains more about his work.
A lot of the tips contained in those references relate to the content of the image: Do the things you see
people, clothing, landmarks, etc. match what the image is supposed to depict?
Connors suggestions for spotting manipulation focus more on the image files and some of the telltale
clues that emerge when people mess with photos.
Below are three tips from him that can help evaluate whether an image has been manipulated.

Check the file and metadata. Any digital photo file contains useful metadata. Some of this is contained
as EXIF data, which you can easily look at by using a tool such as this one or this Firefox add-on. The
EXIF data will tell you things such as the type of camera that took the photo, and it can also sometimes
reveal the last piece of software used to save the image. Be aware, however, that many factors can affect
EXIF data. Cameras do make different choices about what information to store in EXIF metadata, and
when you edit a photo in software it may make further modifications to the EXIF, Connor said. So not all
EXIF data will be the same.
Look for telltale tool marks. Many of the photo editing tools leave traces behind, Connor said. An
example is if you use the clone tool [in Photoshop] and clone from one area to another, then you will have
a repetition of pixels. As a result, experts often look to see if parts of an image have been cloned,
resulting in copycat pixels within the same image. Is that field of flowers actually one small square of
flowers that was cloned again and again? Connor also said that if you apply image enhancements you
may get halos around certain parts of the images. So scan for halos within the image, and be skeptical if
you find any.
Search shadows and reflections. When it comes to manipulated photos, Connor said, its really hard to
get everything right. Hoaxsters make errors. In particular, pay attention to shadows, reflections and
perspective lines. This requires you to train yourself to spot these irregularities. Connor said most people
dont notice them including, of course, some photo manipulators. There have been studies that show
that the human visual system is not particularly attuned to spotting problems with shadows, Connor said.
If they are even remotely in the right place or even in the wrong place as long as there is a shadow
then we tend to not see anything wrong. It takes some practice to become adept at shadow spotting.
Dr. Farid is writing a series of blog posts for the Fourandsix website that offer guidance on how to detect
irregularities using image forensics techniques. This post looks at how to examine shadows to see if they
are consistent with a light source using what he calls geometric analysis. Dr. Farid did two other posts
(1,2) about shadows, and heres a post about understanding reflections.
The image below comes from one of his posts. It illustrates how geometric analysis is performed. The key
data illustrated below is that the lines do not intersect in the same place. If the reflections were a result of
the same light source, the geometric lines would intersect in the same place, according to Connor. (Read
the full post for more detail.)

Correction: Connor followed up after this article was first published to clarify one of his statements about
EXIf data. As a result, we changed his quote from When you save a jpeg there are choices that the
camera or software has to make about how to store that jpeg to Cameras do make different choices

about what information to store in EXIF metadata, and when you edit a photo in software it may make
further modifications to the EXIF. He said his comments about jpegs were inaccurate.

Photo Forensics: How to Check If a

Picture Has Been Photoshopped or Not
Posted By
Ryan Matsunaga11492 years ago

Considering how easy and convenient Photoshop has become, even for the average
computer user, it's nearly impossible to tell whether a photo is authentic, or if it's had some
Luckily, there's a free online tool that can help you sniff out the real from the fake. It's
called FotoForensic, and here's how it works.
Let's start with an unmodified photo. Here is a shot of myself, my girlfriend, and a very large
pancake. After running it through FotoForensic, we get the photo to the right.

This is an Error Level Analysis (ELA). It is identifying areas in the photo that are at different
compression levels. When an image is saved or re-saved, the ELA should change at a fairly

consistent rate. What this means is the colors you see in the picture to the right should be at
roughly the same color range. The high-contrast areas in the photo are the only deviation,
but you can tell by looking at the original image what these correspond to.
Here is another photo of myself, my girlfriend, a very large pancake, and a very small
Batman Photoshopped in.

Notice here the white outline around the caped crusader? What's happened here is that
because Batman was added after the fact, he didn't go through the same number of

compressions as the original image. Thus, his ELA level is noticeably different than the rest
of the image. His own ELA values are very consistent though, making it obvious that he is
an entirely different image that has been superimposed.
Give it a try yourself. Larger images (the original if you have access to them would be best)
will produce better results, and it will take a little while to pick out the differences in better
Photoshopped images. But with some practice, analyzing the ELA values is a great way to
check for sneaky Photoshops.
Want to do some more photo forensics? See what metadata is lurking in your photos
and how to remove it!

Did you know there is hidden data in your digital pictures? Well, there is, and that data might
be a security risk to you. Think back at all of those pictures you're in and are connected
with. I'm sure some of those you'd like to distance yourself from. And surely you wouldn't
mind checking out the metadata in a few of those images. In this article, we'll be going over
how to do just that.

What Is Metadata?
Metadata is nothing new, but with camera phones and other mobile devices becoming the
standard for personal photography, new avenues open up for gaining knowledge on your
Metadata is simply data about data, or in our context, data about content. While the word
has far reaching definitions, we will focus on how it applies to digital photos. Normally, this
would contain information describing the type of image, when the image was created, and
other details such as contrast, color and context. Basic stuff.
Sometimes you get more than that though. Sometimes you get names, dates, times of
creation, and other identifying items. Some cameras even let you add your name in the
setup, which goes into the metadata. And let's not forget about location. Geotagging is when
actual location info is stored in the image. This is a growing trend, since more and more
mobile phones are equipped with GPS. Using the techniques below, you'll be able to pull
this GPS data and determine just where the picture was taken.
Let's take a look at a personal favorite program of mine, exiftool.

Finding Metadata!
I am going to walk you through obtaining, installing and using exiftool. By the end of this
article, you should be ready to perform your own investigation and data retrieval. You need:


Some digital pictures to look at

A can-do attitude

Step 1 Obtaining Exiftool

Use wget to make the downloading process simple. Wget is a great and powerful tool and
usually beats downloads through your browser in speed and reliability. Just type:
$ wget

Step 2 Extract and Run

Follow that up by expanding the tarball and moving into the directory with:
$ tar zxvf Image-ExifTool-8.80.tar.gz; cd Image-ExifTool-8.80/

Step 3 Profit!

Let's take a look at the metadata of a picture my dear old mother sent to me this morning.
For my own protection, this will not include any personal info, but it will show you the general
output and commands to use.
$ ./exiftool [path and filename]

You can also use option flags to produce different output. Let's use the verbose flag of '-v':
$ ./exiftool -v [path and filename]

In Closing
Understanding metadata in images is critical. You might find yourself looking for someone
else, or not wanting to be found at all. It's wise for the paranoid to check pictures that they're
in for GPS tags and other possible identifying information, such as dates and software
For those interested, Phil Harvey has written a well laid out breakdown of the more
advanced applications for Exiftool. You can do more then just look at metadata, but not
everyone needs to bother with it, so I left it out of the main article. But if you're curious, click

In case you just want the commands...

$ wget
$ tar
$ ./exiftool
Ever find anything interesting in your images? Ever pull metadata out of an photograph and
locate someone? Share your stories with us! Questions? Comments? I would love to hear
them. Shoot me a line below, send me a message or visit our forum!
Photos by Libby Arnold, ContractExpress

How to Completely Remove Your

Hidden Personal Information from
Digital Photos
Posted By
Ryan Matsunaga11522 years ago

You probably already know that your digital pictures have quite a bit of information
embedded in them. What you might not know is just how much personal information is
included in that metadata, including your camera information, and in some cases, even the
precise GPS coordinates of where you took the picture.
Before posting your photos to a public website, it's probably a good idea to look into clearing
it of any information you don't want out there. The information is stored in what are called
"EXIF Tags," which are fairly easy to access via Windows Explorer or many image editing
programs. There's also something called Exiftool, the PHP method, and Exif Reader,
among others.

Luckily, that metadata is pretty easy to get rid of without any additional software. This only
works in Windows. If you're on a Mac, there's tons of tools out there like Jhead, SmallImage,
etc., or you can just convert the file to a PNG, which wipes the metadata away.

Step 1: Consolidate the Images

Place all of the photos that you wish to clean in a single folder.

Step 2: Remove Properties and Personal Information Option

Select all of the images files and right-click on them. Choose Properties, then go to
the Details tab. Click on "Remove Properties and Personal Information."

Step 3: Delete the EXIF Tags

Select which EXIF tags you wish to remove, then click OK.

If you need a more visual walkthrough of the process, check out Labnol's video tutorial:
Know of any other ways to remove the metadata from your JPGs? Let us know in the
Main photo by SupportLife