Hmm, Fake or Real – Forensics

A previous post covers an interview with a paparazzo detailing why and how photos are staged or faked.  The post also names a particular agency that is notorious for staging/faking photos and a certain celebrity that has an agreement with them.

It looks like ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’ may also have an agreement with that same agency as both of the recent sets of photos from Berlin were from them.

Google is your friend. There are several good articles on how to spot photo-shopped photos. There are also various free tools that you can use to run forensics on photos.

Digital Trends has a good post on some things to watch out for when trying to determine if there is a problem with a photo.

  • Start with tell tale signs. Do all the objects look like they belong? It is difficult to make an object that is added to a photo blend in with the surroundings so it looks like it belongs.
  • Often it is hard for the brain to accept that what we are looking at is not real. Step back and take a critical look and ask questions.
  • Take a critical look at edges. Zoom in on objects/people. If the edges are jagged or overly sharp then chances are the objects/people were added to the original photo.
  • Does the light match across the photo? When pasting two different images together it is difficult to make the light match across the images.
  • What is the quality of the photos? Low resolution photos can help to hide imperfections in the photo and make it harder to detect irregularities such as jagged edges, etc.
  • Photos that are sensational are a red flag. The manipulator wants them to go viral and the best way for that to happen is if the photos touch on a subject that pushes your buttons and triggers anger, disgust, etc.
  • Pay attention to the meta data. Digital camera embed data into photos normally listing the camera model used, the exposure time, aperture, focal length, etc. Often fake photos have the meta data removed.

There are various photo forensic tools available to analyze photos. Forensic tools that include error level analysis, clone detector, level sweep analysis, meta data analysis and noise analysis are more rigorous.

  • Error level analysis allows for the identification of areas within an image that have different compression levels. An unmodified JPEG image should be compressed at the same level across the entire photo. If an area of the image has a significantly different compression level, then it most likely was digitally modified.
  • The clone detector finds similar areas within a photo. Usually the regions that are similar are marked in blue and connected with a red line. When detected, these areas can be a good indicator that the photo has been digitally manipulated.
  • The level sweep tool sweeps through the histogram of an image and magnifies the contrast of certain brightness levels. This tool draws attention to the edges of the objects(s) that were added to the image.
  • The noise analysis tool helps to detect noise that is introduced into a photo when it is digitally modified.

Now let’s take a look at some of the latest photos from Berlin. The Daily Mail ran the story (I won’t link to it) and it was written by a muck rack hack. First, many thanks to 雪霏Sophia for sharing 18 photos on weibo and to Ayako for tweeting the link. I’ll point out some obvious manipulations in some of the photos she shared.  When it comes to the entire photo, I will be using a very small photo, so refer back to weibo ones to see them at a decent size. My photo numbers correspond to the numbers on weibo photos.

Note  #1, when using forensic tools, the better the quality of the photo the better the results.

Note #2, one of my readers sent an email saying a German lady posted on social media that she went down to the site where the photos were taken and the area is drastically different from what is seen in these photos. I am not going to track this down. That being said, thank you to the lady for for going to the site and reporting out. If she is on the ground in Berlin and says the background in the photos are old, I believe her. I will take the word of someone on the ground over someone who is not there any day of the week.

  • If you look at the large photo on weibo (photo 1), notice that Keanu appears in focus with overly sharp edges while both the background and the foreground are out of focus. Also look at the light distribution. Keanu and the car appear to be lit from the front. Now look at everyone else in the photo – they are all lit on their right sides. Keanu is alone – there is no sign of ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’.
  • When you look at the error level analysis (photo 2), you can see that the compression level across the image is not the same, there are areas that are highlighted strongly suggesting that digital manipulation has occurred. It looks like Keanu and the car were dropped into the photo.
  • You can see in the luminance gradient (photo 3) in the third panel. the turquoise is evenly distributed on Keanu and the car indicating the light is hitting both front on and the turquoise is highlighted on the right side of everyone else. This uneven lighting pattern is another indication that the photo was digitally manipulated.
  • Hmm, note how much his beard has grayed in the 13 days since he arrived in Berlin on June 21 (photos 4 and 5).
  • Notice in both of these photos Keanu is in sharp focus while the foreground and background are out of focus. Also, ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’ is not in sight.
  • You can see from the error level analysis (middle photos), that the compression level differs across both photos, strong indicator that digital manipulation has occurred.
  • Similarly, noise analysis (end photos) indicates that a lot of noise is seen in both photos further evidence that the photos have been digitally altered.
  • Notice in the bottom analysis capture, there is an interesting checker board pattern that does not appear in the original photo that is being analyzed.
  • The forensics on these two photos of Carrie-Anne Moss are very similar to the other photos of her arriving where ever. In the bottom left photo, notice the two mannequins – we will revisit this.
  • The error level analysis for both photos shows that the level of compression varies across the image for both the top and bottom images. Noise analysis also shows that a lot of noise is present in both images. Collectively they strongly indicate that digital manipulation has occurred. Once again, there is a checker board pattern in the bottom row analysis photos. Perhaps the pattern appears as you digitally add layers to an image.
  • The forensics hold regardless of the cast member.  The error level analysis for both photos shows that the level of compression varies across the image for both the top and bottom images. Noise analysis also shows that a lot of noise is present in both images. Collectively they strongly indicate that digital manipulation has occurred.
  • In the top row, I cropped two areas and drew circles around the areas (photos 2 and 3). In photo 2, ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’ is carrying two phones plus there is something else in her hand (photo 2) – whatever it is, it appears to be different from the present she is seen carrying in her other hand in a different photos (photo 6). Whatever she is holding onto with her phones (photo 2) almost looks like it was unsuccessfully removed when the photo was being altered. In photo 5, she is just holding her phones so where did the two different objects go that she is seen holding in photos 2 and 6? In photo 3 , notice the reflection of the dress in the door glass. That dress was on a mannequin in other photos with Carrie-Anne and the skirt was quite full, so it seems odd that it can’t be seen in the photo.
  • In photo 4 you can see a small section of the dress skirt peeking out behind Keanu. It is circled in  photo 5. I added another cropped photo from a different angle of the mannequins and circled them (photo 7). Also look at the photos of Carrie-Anne up above, you can see the mannequins in the first photo in the bottom row. Notice the location of the mannequins out on the street – the location of the mannequins in the photos with Carrie-Anne appears to be different from where the mannequin is in the photo with Keanu and ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’.
  • The error level analysis for the above photo shows different areas of compression. Noise analysis highlights the areas of noise in the image. Both indicate that digital manipulation has occurred.
  • Although I did not show it, the second photo from above of Keanu and ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’ showed similar results from error level analysis and noise analysis. Both analysis photos are showing a checker board pattern.
  • There are no surprises here. Both error level analysis and noise analysis indicate the photos have been digitally altered and the checker board pattern is visible in some of them. Once again, it looks like they were both dropped into that background.
  • I included two older photos and their analysis for a comparison. The top photo is from the Markus Klinko Indrani photoshoot and the other was taken at LAX in July 2017.


    • The Daily Mail article primarily focuses on the ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’ and regurgitates the steaming pile of horse manure that she normally feeds the muck rack hacks who are writing the piece.
    • There were several photos that had visible issues including light distribution problems, overly sharp edges on the cast with blurry foreground and background, reflections in glass that are not accounted for, inconsistencies in the location of the mannequins between shots, etc.
    • Based on forensics, the photos show evidence of being digitally altered and it appears that the cast and ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’ have been dropped into various German backgrounds. From a report on social media via one of my readers, the background in some of the photos are not recent. It is not clear when the photos of the cast were taken that were used.
    • When you consider the travel restrictions placed on people in the USA with respect to visiting the EU, chances are she was not there. We also know that Neil Patrick Harris is in quarantine until July 8. While I’m not on the ground in Berlin and can’t speak to their rules, quarantine is quarantine.
    • It looks like the photos were slapped together to advance ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’s’ false narrative. Considering the number of visual issues and the overall forensic findings, the end result reflects poorly on whomever did the manipulations.
    • Warners Bros., if you are reading, you may want to consider a restraining order or a law suit.

Note: None of the original photos have meta data associated with them.