Composites and online hoaxes: how to tell the difference between real and fake photos

With the advent of digital photography and photo retouching programs available to everyone, photography has lost the innocence with which it originated and has now, at times, become a true tool for manipulation. It is therefore important to understand how to tell the difference between real and fake photos in order to protect ourselves from online hoaxes and always know if what we are looking at are real photos or composites.

Discover how to tell the difference between real and fake photos

There are many ways to tell the difference between real photos and composites, beginning with common sense. In order not to fall for online hoaxes, every time you doubt the authenticity of an image it’s essential to do some research on the subject in the shot. For example, if a picture of a politician acting inappropriately suddenly appears online, check whether or not the subject is married: if he or she is, but you don’t see a wedding ring on the person’s hand, then the photo has probably been tweaked.

A more technical method for knowing how to tell the difference between real and fake photos is to analyze the number of pixels. The tools used to manipulate photos always leave signs of passage, by dirtying the original pixels each time you touch up the shot. There are many useful online tools for verifying if the shots are composites or real photos. These tools check if the photo’s pixels have been manipulated and if the shot is a screenshot or not. In fact, quite often modified images are screenshot to avoid the dirty pixel trick. Unfortunately for them, however, some of these tools (as well as the expert eye of a post-production tech) will recognize the ruse.

Although there are many ways to tell the difference between real and fake photos, there still isn’t scientific certainty to back it. Most of the time, to avoid falling for online hoaxes and be able to tell the difference between composites and real photos it’s enough to have a little common sense and a slightly skeptical eye that doesn’t trust just anything that comes from the web but questions what is being looked at.

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