12 Ways to Tell if a Photo was Photoshopped

The dark side of images is that they can be easily manipulated or faked. The proliferation of technology has allowed us access to various creative programs that can be used to make images, edit images, and potentially stray away from the truth. People are getting so good at using these programs too and it becomes very difficult to identify the true image from the edited ones.

Manipulating Photos with Adobe Photoshop

One of the most popular tools in photo and image manipulation is Adobe Photoshop. It’s a very robust tool with countless features that are purposely developed for editing photos and images. The program seems intimidating to use at first but once you learn the basics, you’d have taken the first step to become a graphic artist.

Again, Photoshop is easy to learn so you can just imagine the amount of people in the world that have the know-how to manipulate photos.

But not all are experts. So if you have a trained eye or know the things to watch out for, you can spot authentic images from edited ones. This knowledge will come in handy if someone is trying to pull a fast one on you.

Here are 12 ways on how you can check if the photo has been photoshopped:

1. Warped Backgrounds

distorted areas

The quickest way to detect authenticity is to look at the photo and notice if there are any elements that are distorted. Take some time to notice if any of the parts of the photo are pixelated, discolored, or distorted. Those are good indications of a photo that has been manipulated.

When you see a warped background, it’s usually done to accentuate something else. A lot of celebrities do this to manipulate the way their body looks but when done aggressively, it can be obvious.

2. Airbrushed Skin

airbrushed picture

One way to know if an image has been photoshopped is to check for any imperfections. This is useful if you’re trying to analyze someone’s face to see if it’s been manipulated. To check for this, you’ll need to zoom in on the details and check for wrinkles, pores, blemished, and lines.

Apps that allow you to airbrush pictures usually blur the are that has been specified. This leaves the skin looking like a painting rather than skin.

3. Shadow, Reflection, Lighting

incorrect shadows

Determining the shadow, reflection and lighting can be difficult because there can be glaring differences or very subtle changes. However, it’s difficult to manipulate the shadow, lighting and possible reflections in persons or things. Look carefully at the background and try to check if there’s anything suspicious. Think about how the light would behave or how it would appear through the lens of a camera.

4. Search by Image

search by image

Most photos are available via Google. One easy way to identify if a photo is edited is to use the Google image search function. Simply drag and drop a photo into the Google search box. This will prompt the platform to search for the photo. The Google Image Visual search results may give you relevant photos or even the original photo of the edited picture.

5. Analyzing Photo


This next method is similar to Google’s Search by Image. You can use a photo analyzing website to determine if a photo has been edited in some way. FotoForensics is a tool which you could use to check on the authenticity of the photo. The results will help you dig into more of the details of the photo and locate which part was edited.

When the photo has been analyzed, it’ll show you a black and white grainy version of the ‘photoshopped’ picture. The whitest areas of the analyzed version of the photo were likely photoshopped.

6. Check for Minor or Major Mistakes

Another way to check if an image is edited is to spot for things that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Look at the limbs, faces, background or texts. Use your imagination and picture if the scenario could be real or not.

7. Check the Image Size

resolution of image

Most of the edited photos that get saved from Photoshop will have a larger file size. This is a result of the added objects to the composition of the photo as compared to its normal size. This is not an accurate measure but it can be used as a way to validate your analysis.

If you’re analyzing a photo of someone that regularly uploads, you can compare their other pictures with the picture you think is photoshopped. You’ll need to look at the resolution of the image and if the suspected image looks like it’s got a lower resolution, it’s probably been heavily manipulated.

8. The Photo is Entirely Focused

everything is in focus

The rules of photography will show that only a part of the photo will be focused. This means that the focus is the portion which is most clear. Similar to how our eyes work. We can only focus on one thing at a time unless we zoom out of a scene.

This means that parts of the picture will be out of focus. If the entire photo is focused, sharp and clear, this is an indication that the photo is comprised of many other elements put together.

9. Cloned Image

Another way to look at images is to check for recurring patterns. This means you have to be a good observer because Cloning and Patching is quite common in editing images. There can be inconsistencies with the lines or repetitive patterns that will give you an idea of how the image was treated in order to look the way it does.

If you notice that the same spot looks exactly the same in another area, it’s likely that the photo has been manipulated so that the area looks more consistent and even which a why a perfect patch has been cloned.

10. Restored Old Photos

restored old photos

Old photos that are taken in black and white or have a sepia type of effect is sure to be photoshopped or edited. This is because old photos have deteriorated, and thus, there should be signs of aging on the image. If the image looks good, complete, and devoid of any faded marks, this means it has undergone a restorative process.

11. Color Consistency

incorrect hue

One of the major things that you can spot but may go unnoticed to the untrained eye is the inconsistency of colors. If the entire image is warm in hue, then an element may have a cooler color, then you can deduct that it has been edited.

12. Photos of Ads

ad photos

Lastly, if the photo is from an advertiser or is advertising something, then you could already start to speculate that it is edited in order to be more appealing. Advertisers are more inclined to edit images and photographs in order to sell products or get a message across to an audience.

Bottom Line

The world is quite complex nowadays because sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Take for instance photos and images of people on social media. There are a lot of attractive images of men, women, and cats.

Some of those are real and authentic but some are edited in order to appear more attractive or desirable. The most important item to consider is you shouldn’t be tricked into believing something that isn’t real.

Now that you’ve read this article, consider thinking twice about the images that you see on the internet. This way, you’re able to discern for yourself on the authenticity of a claim that has photographic proof.

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