FourMatch: A Photoshop Plugin That Can Spot Manipulated Photos

Earlier this year, we wrote about a new company called Fourandsix (pronounced “forensics”), a collaboration between a former Photoshop product manager and a professor who’s an expert in digital forensics. The goal of the new startup was to build powerful tools that would make detecting digital photo manipulation easy. Well, the first Fourandsix product is now available.

Called FourMatch, it’s an extension for Photoshop CS5/CS6 that “instantly distinguishes unmodified digital camera files from those that may have been edited.”

Unlike the duo’s other secretly brewing projects that haven’t been announced yet, FourMatch doesn’t take a photograph’s content itself into consideration. Instead, it peers into the file’s metadata to search for indications of tampering. The company explains,

FourMatch leverages the fact that there is nearly endless variety to exactly how hardware and software products can choose to store a JPEG file. This variety results in a distinctive set of “signatures” from each hardware and software product. Once an image has been edited and resaved from a software product, this signature is changed to match the software rather than the original capture device. Thus, when a file signature correctly matches a known signature from the device that captured the photo, you can be confident that the photo has not been edited.

Fourandsix has built a database of more than 70,000 signatures representing more than 2,400 camera models and mobile devices, as well as signatures from a variety of image editing programs and online services. When you purchase a copy of FourMatch, you’re also purchasing access to this valuable database, which is updated frequently as new devices become available. Loaded with this database, FourMatch can quickly assess the authenticity of many images.

Appearing as a floating panel on the right side of your Photoshop workspace, the plug-in shows a “green light” when the currently open JPEG file has metadata that matches the company’s signature database. This means that the photo has not been edited at all since leaving the camera from whence it came.

A red light indicates that the camera information metadata has been completely stripped away from the image — a sure sign that the image has at least gone through some kind of processing.

Yellow indicates that a camera has been identified, but the metadata signature doesn’t completely match an entry in the database. This doesn’t necessarily prove photo manipulation, since alterations that don’t affect the visual image itself can still alter the EXIF data.

The plugin can also make an educated guess as to which program was used to edit the photo, even if there isn’t any mention of the program in the metadata.

Check out this introduction video for a better idea of how the plugin works:

Determining the authenticity of images is useful for a variety of fields, from photojournalism and photo contests, to law enforcement and insurance.

The price of the program suggests that it’s not designed for ordinary consumers: a license that includes one year of maintenance and updates will set you back $890. The company is planning to donate 2 percent of the proceeds to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in an effort to combat the abduction and sexual exploitation of children.

  • Jjjustinnn

    This questions comes to my mind when reading this:
    How difficult is it exactly to forge the EXIF-data of a photo?
    Say I extract and copy the EXIF-data, manipulate the photo, save it, then paste the data back into the file?
    I do have some vague memory of finding some simple freeware-programs that let you do this.
    Whoever has the need to fool this program will most likely have the resources/patience to also make it pass under the radar.

    $890 is also an interesting price-tag…

  • Rob S

    There are a number of tools that will let you do exactly this.

    This might work for catching the average idiot faking and insurance claim but it wont work for someone determined to fake an image.

  • Rob Dickinson

    Forensics from the exif/ Really? For $890? Who are they kidding?

  • Marcus Welham

    wish I could photoshop my car dents in reality..hahahah

  • Larry Jones

    Or I just take a picture with my camera of the photoshopped picture

  • Neoracer Xox

    Disappointing. Who doesn’t run their pictures thru lightroom or photoshop these days? By that reckoning the picture is a fake?!! LOL I thought it was gonna SHOW where the image was editing. This is useless.

  • Andre Gasket

    How does it do with images that have been uploaded to places like facebook (who I assume rescale and compress things)