"A few days ago, I saw an interesting political picture at FotoForensics. It shows Putin (right) and Viktor Orban (Prime Minister of Hungary, left) with some guy in the middle signing papers. The picture caught my attention because of the frame over the mantel. It looks like it should be a mirror, but it isn’t reflecting anything…
The picture (1) was uploaded to the Hungary news site “index.hu” on 11-Feb-2014. However, I couldn’t find the article that went with it. (I blame my inability to ready Hungarian.) What I did find was far more interesting. I sent the picture to TinEye and immediately found the source picture… sort of (pic. 2)
This picture shows Putin and Orban in the exact same pose. It is the same camera angle, their clothing has not moved, their fingers have not moved… This is the same picture, but the man in the middle has been replaced by flowers on the table. The flowers picture was released on 31-January-2013. Back in January 2013, Orban met with Putin to discuss a variety of topics, including energy. A year later, on 15-Jan-2014, they met again and signed an agreement to expand a nuclear power plant.
There are more problems with this picture than just the digital addition of the man in the middle. For example, PCA measures JPEG actifacts. Look for the amount of detail (or lack of detail) within each JPEG grid. Visible JPEG grids indicate a low quality picture. Large blocks within each grid is a medium quality, and fine pixelated detail is high quality. (Ignore the coloring, look at the detail. The coloring is just to help highlight details, like dropping dye onto a microscope slide.) In this case, the quality seen on the man in the middle is different from the rest of the room — so he was added. The lower corners of the picture frame/mirror are also different, so they were modified. (pic 4)
At this point, we can be certain that the 2014 picture is a digital composition. However, the biggest clue appears when we apply a basic color histogram to the picture:
The histogram shows a distinct white outline between Putin, Orban, and the background. The entire picture looks like a digital composition.
I showed the pictures to some of the news media people in the Open Newsroom. They noticed other things. For example, one of the table legs is distinctly longer than the other legs. There also appears to have been some rework along the frame near the candle holders, and one of the vertical columns bends near the candle holders (warping not due to the lens).
Given that the pictures appear to be manufactured and not directly photographed, I tried to find a source for the Putin and Orban pieces. I could not find the individual pieces. However, while searching for photos of Putin sitting, I noticed that he used a limited wardrobe.
Pics or it didn’t happen
Media outlets use pictures to help convey a story. But if the picture that supports the story is fictional, then what does it say about the actual event? Did Putin meet with Orban in 2013? Did they sign an agreement to expand a nuclear power plant? Or is the story like the photos — altered to change the meaning or cover something up?
This picture is hosted at kremlin.ru. That makes me wonder what other photos released by the Kremlin have been altered. With Putin dressing the same every year, they could even be releasing old photos as if they were current.” (via)