How to spot a fake (photo)


Shark2 Photo manipulation is nothing new. For as long as there have been people taking photos, there have been those who get creative with the final product. But now that anyone with a PC can be a digital magician, how can you tell what’s real and what is trickery?

The photo shown here (courtesy of snopes.com) is one of the most widely distributed pics on the web. It captures the moment right before a lethal encounter between a great white shark and a navy sailor trying to get aboard his helicopter.

It’s also a fake.

The image was assembled from two completely unrelated photos…

Shark

Helicopter

It’s a great example of just how creative software like Photoshop lets you get with digital imagery. And it’s a reminder to maintain a healthy skepticism when you see photos that are presented as being authentic visual accounts of events.

But how can you tell when an image has been manipulated? When done at a professional level, using prepared photo-shoots (like magazine covers) it can be nearly impossible to tell. However most fakes leave tell-tale signs that you can easily identify once you know what you’re looking for.

Check out Scientific American for an excellent photographic fakery field-guide.

Your turn… Be honest… if someone sent you the fake version of the shark attack, were you fooled? I know I was :-)

Advertisements

13 comments

  1. Khalid Al-Amoudi

    Nope I wasn't really fooled. But it proved to be more realistic than the photos of the 3-eyed, 6-fingered policeman my brother showed me. xD

    Like

  2. CB

    Fake or did they just airbrush the shark out of the second photograph?

    Its just as easy to manipulate the picture in that manner. .
    lol

    Like

  3. vern

    worth1000.com is a great site where they hold contest to photoshop an image to create art. Great when you know the image has been played with. Not great if our kids are fooled, or scared. Also not great if we become so de-sensitized that we can't recognize a fake photo. For example, do we not expect that the women on a magazine cover are super skinny, have no flaws, perfect skin, etc? Are our children aspiring to fake vs. real?

    Like

  4. Jon

    No!! This is a fake photo?? Gee thanks, couldn't have figured that one out on my own. What a pointless article. You know there is real news worthy stuff happening in the world today. Why not talk about important issues, not this…. I don't know what this is. Garbage.

    Like

  5. Simon Cohen

    Jon, you clicked on a headline that said "Spotting fake photos". What exactly were you expecting?

    Like

  6. Jenn

    I think I shat my pants when I saw the final photoshop image. Fake or not, that picture is terrifying!

    Like

  7. Lori

    Hello…by looking at the pic of the shark "supposedly" attacking the man…the man in no way seemed or looked scared or startled in any way from the shark being that close to him…so i figured that it was fake by the lack of response by the man..

    Like

  8. cousin of Captain Obvious

    cool shark photo. but my cousin is right. Your article implies that you will offer tips on how to spot a fake photograph. You don't do this. At least you could have put the top 2 ways to spot a fake rather than just give a link. In addition you should try to keep us on your website and not send us to someone elses.

    cheers mate.

    Like

  9. grandmother of captain obvious

    great article Simon. That doctored photo of the shark and the navy seal reminds me the fake pictures and videos of when the americans claim they landed on the moon. You should do an article on doctored video's as well.

    Like

  10. Graphic Designer

    It is blatantly obvious that the shark in the image with the helicopter is fake… where's the water running off the sharks body? Hmm…

    Like

  11. MARK McKEOWN

    THAT PHOTO IS PRETTY COOL TO LOOK AT, YOU WONDER IF THE SAILOR GOT SNAPPED OFF BY THAT MASSIVE GREAT WHITE SHARK!!!

    Like