Jessup Playbooks Logo

How do I fact check images?

Need Help?

Ask a Librarian @
Betty Sue Jessup Library

501 College Drive
Charlottesville, VA 22902


You don't have to solely rely on fact-checking sites to evaluate an image. Using your critical thinking skills, you can evaluate the image yourself. Watch this video from The Critical Thinking Consortium to learn more.

The 5 W's

The Critical Thinking Consortium advocates asking the 5 W's about an photograph. First you ask yourself who, what, when, where, and why. Note your observations and then ask yourself what inferences (a conclusion based on evidence and reasoning) you can make.

The 5 W's Table
5 W's Observations Possible Conclusions (Inferences)
Who? Record your observations about the people in the image? Who are they?  What can we infer from what we observed? Answer this questions for each W.
What? Record your observations about what objects you see? What are the people doing?
Where? Where is the photo taken? What is the environment?
When? When was this photo likely taken?
Why? Why would this situation/event have occurred? What is the reason for the photo?  


Recognizing Doctored Photos

  1. Tip icon            Who is sharing this photo or video? What is the source?
  2. Look closely at the photo.
  3. Distortion is a clear sign of doctoring.
    1. Are supposedly straight lines curved strangely?
    2. Is a person's skin blurred, like a filter has been used?
    3. Are the shadows wrong given the observed time of day or lighting? 
  4. What is your emotional response? Does it make you especially angry? Does your gut tell you this is so far-fetched as to be impossible?

Read more in the BBC article, "The Hidden Signs That Can Reveal a Fake Photo."