How can you tell if an image is fake?

Cristina Tavares Correia

Is that really a shark swimming under the surfer? It may be, but calm, not all the photos you see on the Internet are real. Just as there is fake news (the famous fake news), there are also many images that are falsified, exaggerated and manipulated by a computer.

Sometimes this happens as a joke, on humour sites, or to gain your click or share (even if they know that it is a montage). Others, because people want to look more beautiful and then change some of their physical features through an image editing program. And some use false images to make us feel confused, scared or angry and thus get their message across.

Is it possible that an emoji is a human? hmmm, not true.

But there are techniques to detect these graphical dots. We give you some tricks:

1. There is a technique called Reverse Image. You can use it to confirm the photos you find in your travels on the Internet. Click on the image with the right mouse button. A window will open with options: select the one that says "copy the URL of this image". Then open Google Images and paste the photo's address (or URL) into the search bar. Next to it, you have an icon with a camera: click there and start your image search.

Google image

Then, you should see results for every time that photo was published. Compare the images and try to find the differences. If it repeatedly appears on different sites, it is likely to be real, but they may also have been misled and are sharing the same fake.

It helps to ask yourself some questions

Do you know the site where the photo appears and are you confident in the information it gives you? Doesn't what you see in the image seem to be one of those action exaggerations or science fiction films?

2. Notice the details:

  • Peoples shadows, buildings, trees or other elements of the scenery are always a good indicator. If you think something is missing there, it is usually because it can be a forgery.
  • The contours of people or objects may appear more blurred. This happened when the original image was manipulated by an image editing program, to make people look thinner or more muscular, for example.
The pencils on the left are blurred and the colours are not real. The image on the right is correct.
  • Pay attention to proportions: if people or objects seem too small or big concerning each other.

Proportions and location are not correct on the left. People are jumping on the desert on top of a coconut tree. The image is fake. On the right side, the image is true.
  • Search for repeated patterns: it's easy to take a photo with a group of 20 people and turn it into a crowd, for example. Or duplicated photos so the elements could look bigger and symmetric.
On the left, the traffic signs are repeated and flipped like the building. This image is false. The right one is on the right.

  • Think about whether the colours of landscape elements seem real to you. Have you seen lilac grass somewhere before? Or blue bananas?...
Blue bananas? Not real.
Do not help spread the lie. It may even be a spectacular image, but if you share it with your friends, you are only helping fake to continue spreading lies.

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