back to article Finally, an AI that can reliably catch and undo Photoshop airbrushing. Who made it? Er, Photoshop maker Adobe

Artificial intelligence built by Adobe can detect how an image may have been manipulated using, er, Adobe Photoshop, and predict what a doctored picture should have looked like. Eggheads at the software giant teamed up with academics at the University of California, Berkeley, to develop, and hopefully soon release, tools that …

  1. defiler

    Fake photos and magazines

    I remember glimpsing a magazine on the way into the petrol station shop that jarred me so hard I had to stop and look at it. Couldn't tell you what the magazine was now - it was a while ago (so long that the petrol station has been demolished, used fora few years to sell Christmas trees, and rebuilt as townhouses). It was Cosmopolitan (or something of its ilk), though, so it had a close-up of a woman's face on the front.

    Only it had stopped looking like a woman's face to me, and had started looking like a cartoon.

    Still, looking at the fashion these days for heavy makeup, it all looks like people have been breaking out Homer Simpson's makeup-gun. Makes me feel like I should be shaking my fist at youngsters...

    1. Andy Nugent

      Re: Fake photos and magazines

      I had similar for an advert and it turned out the "models" were CGI (perhaps from a Final Fantasy game?), but it wasn't immediately obvious because all the other ads were so heavily photoshopped.

      (It was for Louis Vuitton

      1. defiler

        Re: Fake photos and magazines

        My sister's being held captive! Quick - blow a grand on a handbag!!

        Disemboweling is too good for the lot of them...

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    It's a household name now

    The term photoshopped is as common as the notion of googling something. Is there any irony in the fact that the very company who made that happen is now wanting to "keep it real" ?

    I think so.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: It's a household name now

      It's ironic, but it also makes sense. "Googling" is a neutral term, but "Photoshopping" tends to have negative connotations. I can see the marketing department wanting to do something about that.

  3. Blockchain commentard

    6 seconds to recognise the subtle differences in 2 images of (I assume) human faces? No wonder the pass rate was only about 50%. That's called guessing.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge


      I reckon that real "consumers" of images don't critically study for anything like as much as six seconds before accepting what they see, so this protocol is actually quite a tough test. If one looks at a published photograph, the question should be "how much has this been altered from a raw capture?", not "is this real?"

      While the means of manipulation have become ever more sophisticated, the hollowness of "the camera cannot lie" meme has been noted for well over 120 years.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Guessing

        "I reckon that real "consumers" of images don't critically study for anything like as much as six seconds before accepting what they see,"

        It's also well known that the human brain is wired to see and recognise human faces and will commonly "see" faces in odd patterns, so it's not surprising at all that people would have difficulty seeing modified images of faces as normal faces unless specifically looking for errors, changes, enhancements etc.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      And I guess "mechanical turks" are not exactly the most skilled people - and have no training in looking at images, you can train people as you train neural networks.

      Show people how images are photoshopped, and they will start to look at subtle hints too. While images modified by experts with a lot of time to spend in little details will be harder to spot, those made by less competent user and/or less time will be easier to spot.

      Still most people will want to see what they want to see. Why bother with reality (and not "reality shows")?

  4. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Leave the tools alone though

    There are legitimate uses for the PS tools. I've used them for science images, not to alter the data but do things like remove bubbles and things from shots of samples in liquid. They come out bright and are distracting. Better tools to do this are a boon, used carefully and with a solid eye on the rules of research misconduct. But trying to tweak biological samples is always going to lead to wrongdoing and pain. Background, light, sharpness, contrast. The latter two used very, very lightly indeed.

    Most of my efforts went into taking better photos which did not need editing. Careful tweaking of light angles etc. Waiting until someone had walked past the scope before taking the shot (vibration) type of thing. I used to do transmission electron microscopy, in the basement but you could tell when a truck drove down the road outside.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Leave the tools alone though

      [edited] tags needed. Especially in science "image edited for clarity, original unedited available at..."

      I mean, even The Register comments have that option. Editing scientific images creates a lot of confusion. May not in the specific field of study, but anyone outside may not know that image/set of images was edited.

      It's common knowledge now, but still needs constant reminding, that NASAs images are often stitched and colour corrected for clarity to the viewer. However, this is all documented and reference images available. Which is great, as it allow both artwork/educational material and raw data to use.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Leave the tools alone though

      Any use is legitimate as long as it is disclosed - and they don't try to sell it to me as the "real thing".

    3. Tikimon
      Thumb Up

      Re: Leave the tools alone though

      Is this really a question? Digital photo editing has plenty of legit uses. "Professional" photographers can take a thousand pictures and take time to find the best ones. I can't, and probably can't make those tourists move for more than a few seconds either. Well then, have to airbrush out that crying kid. I didn't notice that Aunt Jane closed her eyes when I shot the group photo. Guess I'll clone stamp her eyes from the previous shot. Background blown out on a shady pavilion picture? White balance background adjustment. I've had loads of fun with friends' pics as well, swapping heads around, adding sharks or yetis, all kinds of surreal stuff. Gets lots of laughs and never hurt anyone yet.

      Digital editing is a great way to compensate for not taking those thousand pictures in search of Perfect. It lets you get a Close Enough shot and do a little cleanup. Faking is only a sin when it's presented as evidence of the truth and a lie can cause harm.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet there are a lot of Instagram "influencers" that would pay good money to see this research abandoned.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Close but broken by design?

    Have they programmed (AI trained) a "unphotoshop" tool, or a "turn that smile into a frown" tool? Needs more testing. XD

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    I'm an old fart who grew up.using film, I value being able to get good results at the camera.

    The big advantage for me with digital is the ability to take multiple shots with various settings without spending a fortune in film and processing time.

    Mostly I use the artillery effect of bracketing so that the money shot should be somewhere in the middle.

    It seems to me that the camera and taking a good shot is the least significant part of producing an image for many nowadays.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To be fair.

      A lot of the best production on Youtube use very nice cameras, lenses, lighting setup and colour "correction". The interesting thing about Youtube compared to say film/TV, is it's a button click to see the back catalogue, and how the production has changed over time (240x240 webcam to 8k RED cameras! ).

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Even with film high-end images were post-processed. The whole "zone system" by Adams was about getting a specific negative image to be "post processed" while printing to get the desired result.

      More complex techniques were also used - up to modifying negative and prints directly with brushes or the like. Fashion editors modified images far earlier than Photoshop - and not only them.

      Reversal film (slides) made this process a little more complex - still look at what Hollywood could do on film too... now it just became simpler, requiring less time, less skills, and is far less expensive.

      1. ma1010

        You bet!

        Fashion editors modified images far earlier than Photoshop - and not only them.

        Back in the 1960s, a friend of my mother's worked at a photo studio that did high school pictures. This one girl had left a pack of cigarettes in her pocket when her school photo was taken. (I told you this was a long time ago, right? Schools had smoking areas back then!)

        She called the studio in hysterics because "My mom will kill me!" No problem, my mother's friend told her, and was as good as her word. She was an artist with an airbrush.

  8. I.Geller Bronze badge

    Тextual search

    AI answers questions. That is enough to annotate images with descriptions and the problem will be reduced to textual search.

    1. I.Geller Bronze badge

      Image search has been around for years and it has never worked, never images were recognized, never been said computer can do that. Only after images were annotated by texts - AI that recognizes images appeared.

  9. Tikimon

    Expect a population drop soon

    The day is coming soon when your average person can check a Match or Tinder portrait and detect that it's been manipulated. When they reverse the changes and see what the prospect REALLY looks like, lots and lots of sex just won't happen anymore. It will affect all searches for all purposes - booty calls, Friends with Benefits, and long-term relationships.

    1. ma1010

      Re: Expect a population drop soon

      Nah, they'll just do what a lot of folks do now, either:

      1) Put someone else's picture on the dating site

      2) Put a 15+ year old picture on the dating site

      Of course, once they actually meet...but that's a problem now, too.

  10. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Since it appears that it is set up to only detect when the Adobe’s Face Aware Liquify tool has been used and therefore not other Photoshop tools or even other filters from different photo editing packages I am not sure that is really of much use. Also how well does it detect altering if other filters have been applied after the Adobe’s Face Aware Liquify tool has been used to further change the image?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Photoshop Disasters is always worth a visit for a laugh.

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