Error level analysis (ELA)

Short description

In a world where images are easy to manipulate it is important not only to understand how images can be manipulated, but also provide tools that help people to analyze images if they want to.

Error level analysis can help you work out if a photo has been digitally altered. Photos in a jpeg file format actually lose quality each time they are re-saved. We can take advantage of this to try and work out if an image has been digitally manipulated.

For instance, if you have a jpeg photo at 90% quality, and resave it, again at 90% quality, you will end up with an image at 90% of 90% (so, 81% quality). If now, you were to copy and paste an element from a different photo into your current photo, you can end up with sections of the image at differing quality levels. This happens because some parts have been resaved three times, whilst some parts may have only been saved once.

One challenge is that most images are in a format, such as jpeg, that is already compressed so that images can look as if they are manipulated even if they are not. Still these kind of tools will probably become more and more important.

As product placement and other ways to push people to consume/change preferences becomes more sophisticated tools that help citizens identify when and how groups/companies communicate messages.

Read more about the initiative here.
The work that inspired the page is

The best with the app/supporting initiative

Contribute to the discussion about manipulation in the digital and connected age. Simple to use.

The weak parts of the app/supporting initiative

Maybe a little to simple to use and it might be good ti highlight the fact that compression results in loss of quality. And while jpg and other formats can be seen as a form of manipulation it is not of the kind that this project helps identify.

What could accelerate this app/supporting initiative into a world changer?

Connecting it to key images (both ads and other news photos) to see how often images are changed.

Developing the software in order to improve it and also develop a user interface that encourage sharing and discussions.


How direct is the delivery of the result the app tries to achieve
  • Direct
  • Indirect
  • Inspirational
  • Long shot


The tool helps identify areas where manipulation might have happened.

Transformative approach

How transformative is it
  • A new world
  • A major shift
  • A bit of a shake-up
  • A gentle rocking


To allow anyone the opportunity to see how images are manipulated can help a discussion about "truth" and values.

How much does it encourage collaborations

How much are new networks supported
  • Strong support for global networks?
  • Currently encourages new forms of collaboration
  • Provides interesting opportunities in the future
  • Restricted to a small (expert) group


Not now, but with a new interface it could be used by different groups.

What synergies can be delivered

How well does it also solve other problems/generate solutions
  • It solves everything
  • Several important challenges
  • Some important challenges
  • Only one challenge


There are many ways to manipulate images and this tool could be connected to a broader toolbox.

Nine billion contribution

How global is it? Is it helping/will it help everyone on the planet
  • Instant global equality
  • Almost global
  • Getting (incrementally) global
  • Not applicable


Not really any direct contribution.

Building on current trends

How well does it use current trends
  • The app is setting new trends by itself
  • Building on multiple trends
  • Effectively building on one trend
  • Not really building on any major trend


Images and digital tools are developing fast. Showing how we can understand them is important.


How fast can it deliver
  • It's already happening
  • In the coming weeks
  • In a year or so
  • In a distant future (hopefully)


It's up and running.


Does it support transformative transparency
  • Brave new transparency
  • Transparency that is innovative (never seen before)
  • Increased transparency, but nothing innovative
  • No increase in transparency


We will soon see a number of filters that we can apply. Hopefully "the original" image will not be forgotten.

Comments are closed.