How to Tell if an Image Has Been Photoshopped

We all know of the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Now, imagine what will happen if this picture is fake or manipulated. Photoshop is undoubtedly the best photo editing program ever. And thanks to Photoshop tutorials on YouTube, Photo manipulation is not just for experts anymore. Anyone can learn the basics of Photoshop in just a few hours. But like everything useful, Photoshop can also be used with wrong intentions. The majority of “Photoshop fakes” are harmless. But, sometimes, Photoshop can be used to forge documents, manipulate images to change the context, and do other illegal stuff.

Nova 3: Huawei
Image: Huawei

Unless the one that is manipulating the image is an expert, he or she will leave enough traces. We can look for these traces and check if an image is photoshopped or not. So, let’s see how we can do that.

Also Read: 10 Best Ways to Open and Edit PSD files without Photoshop

How to detect Photoshop Fake

1. Look for Signs of Image Compression

This trick is best suited to detect fake documents. When in doubt whether the document is manipulated or not, you can take help of an online tool called FotoForensics. Start by uploading the picture you suspect is doctorated and click on the button “Upload File.” It will run some tests on the uploaded image and displays a “compression heat map” as an output.


For example, if the final image is in the JPEG format, then the entire picture should be at roughly the same level of compression, however, when the part of an image is edited later, that particular section will have different compress level i.e. appear brighter than the rest

If that is the case, the image might be manipulated. However, this may not be true in all cases. In those situations follow their detail guide and video tutorial on how to analyze the compression map to evaluate if the picture you uploaded is Photoshopped or not.


2. Check Metadata or Exif Data

When you capture an image using a camera, extra meta information like date, time, camera model, geolocation, etc., are automatically added to it. In some cases, the metadata might also have information about the software that is used to edit or manipulate the image.

Although this information cannot be viewed directly, we can use online image metadata viewer and photoshop edit detector to pull up all the metadata. If the metadata tells a different story then what the image provider has to say then it can be a possible case of image manipulation.

However, this method is not full proof. More often than not, legitimate photos have to be manipulated to remove background objects and to make it look better. Therefore, if the metadata says that the image was edited using Photoshop then it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is fake. Moreover, if a person has enough skill to manipulate an image using Photoshop they can easily modify and hide relevant Exif data with ease.

3. Look for the Shadow

If the picture consists of some scenery or similar stuff then always look for the shadows and mismatched lights. Manipulating shadows is one of the hardest things even for a Photoshop expert. Often, Photoshop beginners are not able to create a perfect shadow and viewing angle. Thus leaving behind a blind spot to detect if the image is Photoshopped or not.

Read: Top 5 Free Online Image Editor Like Photoshop

Look for the Shadow

4. Pay Attention to the Image Size

Image or pictures faked using Photoshop are often too big in size compared to what the average size should have been. This is because, Photoshop work with layers and when an image is heavily Photoshopped, the image size tends to increase due to all the layers and extra content. However, do remember that one can easily compress the image to reduce the size. So, this method is not that reliable but it is good to keep in mind when looking for fake Photoshopped images.

5. Use Common Sense

The best way to detect if an image is manipulated is by using common sense. For instance, what do you think when you see images of “Aliens eating sushi in Chinese restaurant” or “a giant cobra swallowing an adult human.” A Photoshop fake, that’s it. Similarly, if you believe, a recipe is manipulated, simply call the shop and ask them if such a purchase was made.

Wrapping Up

To find out if an image is “Photoshop fake” or not is simply a question of “who is doing the editing”. For instance, if the editor is less experienced, he or she will leave enough trail. However, if the suspect is an expert then you will also need an expert. And that is why we have people working in photo forensics department.


About Vamsi Krishna

Vamsi is a tech geek who enjoys writing how-to guides and tinkering with computers and software in general. He especially loves using Windows and writing about it. You can check out his Windows guides at WindowsLoop.