How to Spot a Digitally Altered Photograph

idol judge eyes.jpg

Thanks to CSI and its myriad spinoffs, the kids these days love the forensics—the investigative kind, not public speaking, alas. We aren’t much interested in crime scenes (except those high fashion ones by photographer Melanie Pullen), but count us in for an hour-long network drama focused on digital forensics. The June issue of Scientific American includes a feature on the nascent profession by Dartmouth computer science professor Hany Farid, in which he not only begins a sentence with one of our favorite phrases (“In Stalin‘s day…”) but also offers up a sidebar with five ways to spot a fake photo. The above image of the enlarged left eyes of the American Idol judges in a press photo is offered as an example of suspicious specular highlights—those little white reflections of surrounding light in their eyes. It also makes us even more frightened of Simon Cowell, who is all smiles in the photo while his eye suggests he is hatching an elaborate murder plot.