As our computers and mobile devices grow more sophisticated, so do their capabilities. Editing graphics, for example, has grown from an infrequently used specialized tool to a commonly relied on tactic. Most notably among magazines, advertisements, and entertainment, Photoshop has become a sophisticated and sleek way to quickly tweak photos. Though slimmer bodies and younger faces are constantly produced for the media we consume, sometimes an edited image is not superior. There are a range of scenarios in which it can be useful to determine if a photo has been photoshopped, and thanks to a growing body of tools and search features, finding out is easier than ever. The following six ways are the most helpful and successful in finding out whether a photo is the original or not.
Know what to look for
Simply looking over a potentially photoshopped image is the first way to figure out if a photo has been manipulated. Certain visual characteristics are difficult to successfully duplicate and can be red flags that a photo has been tampered with. One such indicator is bent or liquid looking surfaces that should otherwise appear solid. Especially if the subject of a photograph has been changed, objects in the background might not appear as straight as they should be. Straight edges, corners, wood grain, and tiles are all difficult to keep in the right perspective when working with Photoshop.
Pay attention to pixelation
Modifying a photo often causes digital distortion. Whether this distortion takes the form of pixelation or just imperfect coloring, it can be a good indicator of the photo’s validity. In extremely large photos, this degradation in quality is less prevalent, but in medium and small photos, pixelation is common. Spots of distortion are a tell-tale sign the image has been altered, especially if the photo is otherwise clear.
Look at the light
Another way to spot a picture that’s been photoshopped is by examining the way light interacts with the objects in the photo. Shadows and highlights will appear to violate the laws of physics, especially when a subject has been removed or added to a photo. An object that doesn’t cast a shadow is one common mistake, as well as subjects with highlights coming from a different direction than the light in the rest of the photo.
Find obvious errors
Another common Photoshop fail occurs when the digital artist neglects to catch obvious problems. Recently, various magazines and other ads have been caught with photos of people with too many limbs or otherwise impossible situations. These errors tend to hide in plain sight and can be surprisingly easy to miss.
Reverse image search
While not the most airtight method in discovering if a photo is doctored, a reverse image search can be helpful. Drag and drop a photo onto the Google image search bar to bring up all sources of an image. In the case of a photo that’s been manipulated, this can bring up the original image, or images that resemble the doctored photos, giving away a manipulated photo.
Examine the data
A newer way to detect if a photo has been doctored or not is to use a photo analyzing website. Some of these services require that you have the original, RAW photo data, but many do not, allowing you to analyze a JPEG or PNG image. Some of these services even locate where in the photo the manipulation takes place, which can be helpful if the photoshopped image has been well done. Such tools include sites, like FotoForensics, which is a free and simple photo verifying service.