It's important to note that AI technology is constantly evolving, and new techniques for generating convincing images are developed regularly. Therefore, no single method is foolproof, and a combination of these approaches may be necessary to detect AI-generated images effectively. Like text, detecting AI-generated images is still possible, despite generative AI technology becoming more sophisticated. Use the following:
Use an Online Detection Tool
There are numerous online tools that check if an image was AI-generated (see the Links and Resources page). How good they are is another matter
Reverse Image Search
Use a reverse image search engine like Google Images to check if the image appears elsewhere on the internet. AI-generated images are unique and will lack a real-world source.
If you use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge, simply right click on an image and select 'Search Image with Google' (Chrome) or 'Search in sidebar for image' (Edge).
For Firefox, there are several browser extensions that offer this functionality (see the Links and Resources Page)
Look for Repeated Patterns
AI-generated images may have repeated or unrealistic patterns, textures, or elements. These patterns can be a telltale sign of AI generation.
Examine Shadows and Lighting
Pay attention to shadows, lighting, and reflections in the image. Inconsistent or physically implausible lighting can indicate AI generation.
Check for Artefacts
Look for unusual artefacts, noise, blurring or pixelation that may be absent in real photographs.
Assess Perspective and Depth
Look at the perspective and depth in the image. AI-generated images may have inconsistencies in the rendering of 3D objects or depth perception.
Evaluate Image Composition
Analyse the composition of the image, including the arrangement of objects and their proportions. AI-generated images may lack a natural or intuitive composition - in other words, it just looks plain wrong
Look at the Background
Backgrounds may be inappropriately blurred, odd-looking or contain indecipherable text
Consider Uncanny Valley Effects
Probably the easiest way to detect AI-generated images is to look at human faces and figures. AI-generated images often show the uncanny valley effect, where they appear almost, but not quite human. Look for inconsistencies in:
- facial features, such as:
- different sized pupils
- asymmetric eyes, ears, nostrils
- number of fingers, arms or legs,
- odd poses or impossible arrangement of limbs.
- peculiar teeth
- messy hair
For example, here's an AI-generated image
Simply horrible! There's so much wrong with this that you could never confuse this with a photograph taken by a human:
- blurred/odd looking faces
- indecipherable watermark
- merging of players' arms
- unnatural arm/leg arrangement
- indecipherable text
Incidentally, Getty Images, a stock photography company, is suing the makers of Stable Diffusion (an image generating AI tool) for large-scale copyright infringement, claiming Stable Diffusion has been trained on 12 million images from the Getty database, including the original source of the Stable Diffusion image shown above.
Verify Source Authenticity
If the image is associated with a particular source or event, verify the authenticity of that source through credible news outlets or primary sources.