Real or fake? How to identify the authenticity of online photos 

photoshopped images
Real or fake?

 

Perhaps just as critical in determining the veracity of a photo is reviewing its context. Who published it and what story is the source trying to tell? It is election season, after all, and everyone has their own agenda.

Former Adobe vice-president Kevin Connor founded Fourandsix Technologies to develop a better system of fact-checking photos. The first thing he suggests people do in photo forensics is reverse-Google the photo to see if it has appeared online before. If you identify a match, check for edits. You should also, advises Connor, research original publish dates.

“For example, it’s not uncommon for an image to appear on social media claiming to be of a crowd in a recent protest, but reverse image searches then reveal that the image was actually taken in a completely different city years earlier.”

Connor developed the website izitru.com to help streamline the verification process. Photographers can upload their original files to its database to authenticate their images.

Last but not least, fact-checkers can run images through error-level analysis (ELA) on websites like fotoforensics.com. An ELA scans the compressed areas to reveal the modified parts of the image. But remain wary of drawing any conclusions.

“At best, ELA might be useful for directing your attention to certain areas of the image that may deserve future scrutiny, but you shouldn’t make any final conclusions based on ELA alone.”

In all cases, the best thing to do in determining image authenticity is to use common sense. Look at an image for clues. The below example shows a woman wearing a laughable t-shirt at a Clinton campaign rally, only to be voided by the original untouched version shared on Twitter.

Fake (obviously)

 

hillary clinton pep rally election 2016
Real/Source: Twitter

Online images are innocent until proven guilty. Use your best judgment to sort the retouched marketing images, most notably in fashion and food ads, from the the news. But when it comes to real stories, we can’t afford fake. Media outlets like the AP forbid manipulation:

“AP pictures must always tell the truth. We do not alter or digitally manipulate the content of a photograph in any way. The content of a photograph must not be altered in Photoshop or by any other means.”

You shouldn’t believe your eyes: how to identify fake images online

PS: The below image of 300 dead reindeer struck by lightning in Norway last week initially looked photoshopped. But the Norwegian Environment Agency confirmed the report, even capturing a video of the aftermath.

Lightning Kills More Than 300 Reindeer in Rare Mass Death
Image courtesy of Havard Kjontvedt, the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate

Celebrating World Photo Day with a cautionary twist

world photo day

We live in an age of constant photography. It is not just that anyone can share a photo, but anyone can also look artistic doing it too, blurring the line between an amateur and professional photographer. Smartphone accessibility and a high-quality lense reduce the barrier to entry.

While we turned the camera inward with the egotistical selfie, technology has also turned photos into new formats like GIFs, Motion Stills, Prisma art pieces, Instagram Boomerangs and Hyperspaces. Movies are collections of photos as well, albeit frames laced together.

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams 

Photography is just as much about process as is its end-product. Where, when and what camera predetermine the creation process. However, at its essence, photography is the art of noticing.

“The things that deserve our attention are often the things that allude our attention.” – Teju Cole

The challenge today as a photographer is abundance. Since the cloud backs up our photos automatically, we take as many as we want. It is impossible to sort through them let alone remember them. We are so busy capturing, as Om Malik put it, “we confuse photos on our smartphone as memories.” A camera’s memory is infinite; the human brain, distracted and full.

Multiple versions of a photo also make it difficult to select which image is best — companies like EyeM’s The Roll and Microsoft Pix use algorithms to help us decide which version is right for Instagram and which is more suitable for Instagram or Snapchat Stories.

Viewing photos on social media comes with the same overwhelming abundance. 400+ Million photos are shared on Snapchat each day, and more than billion if you combine photos uploaded to Instagram and Facebook. It’s impossible to sort through them all, so we depend on social networks to work their algorithms to show us what’s best.

When we document everything we see, the images lose their meaning. On the other hand, we can look back at photos to see what we missed. Our photos will become the archives for the future to interpret.

The thing about photography is that it always records more than the photographer intends. Photography makes the past present at all times. It changed the world. It gave ordinary people access to their own pasts. – Elizabeth Edwards, In Our Time: The Invention of Photography

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Food porn in the 18th century

food porn and instagram via ikea

There’s a saying in table top advertising or food marketing that goes like this:

“The first taste is always with your eyes.”

Naturally, IKEA made an 18th-century version of social media food porn. The father hires an artist to paint the spread and then has his servicemen carry it around town seeking approval.

Flash forward two hundred years later and the painting is a photograph, and the Internet is where we go for the likes.

Two thumbs up!

(h/t via Kottke)

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