Windsor·Q&A

Amateur photographer walks CBC through how to tell who took a photo

On June 1, CBC Windsor featured a photograph submitted by an audience member on a story about a tornado warning. CBC gave credit to the person who submitted the storm shot — Mark Hewer — but then got an unusual email. A woman claimed her daughter took the photo from Sandusky, Ohio. 

Who's photo is it — and how do you tell?

Mark Hewer holds his original photo on the left. An edited version of his photo, the one that was in question, is on the right. (Jason Viau/CBC)

On June 1, CBC Windsor featured a photograph submitted by an audience member on a story about a tornado warning.

CBC gave credit to the person who submitted the storm shot — Mark Hewer — but then got an unusual email. 

A woman claimed her daughter took the photo from Sandusky, Ohio. 

We looked into the metadata of the photo and had Hewer bring in his original shot for one of our CBC photographers to check out — and we were able to confirm it was indeed Hewer's photo. 

Hewer and local Windsor photographer Steve Biro sat down with Windsor Morning's Tony Doucette to talk about how easy it is to confuse two photographs for each other, and how often this happens. 

MH: I was out at the cottage with my wife and we saw the storm clouds rolling in. I decided to take a walk to the beach and see if I could get a picture. Within the next 15 minutes these really ominous clouds came in. I didn't know whether to run or take a picture, so I did both. 

What did you think when we first reached out to you to find out if that was indeed a picture you had taken?

MH: At first I thought it was odd someone would take credit for a picture I'd taken. It got me wondering how often does this happen, and how do you prove it? I'd never run into this before.

To the untrained eye, how similar are these pictures?

SB: These images are similar enough that they look identical, but Mark does have the original. When you have to prove your point that the image is yours, it's important to have that original and keep it at all times.

How did you determine that the image was Mark's?

SB: I saw Mark's original image. The image that was posted was already an edited image. They claim that image was theirs but didn't have the original to send along, so that's the best I can do, detective-wise. There's also metadata you can pull off his image to investigate further.

We also checked with one of our photo experts here at the CBC. We were happy to conclude that it is your photo. Were you surprised this would even be a question?

MH: I was and I wasn't. 

We provided CBC photographer, Tim Neesam, with Mark Hewer's original image. Without being given any other information, Neesam was able to tell:

  • The image was taken using a Motorola Moto G4 smart phone.
  • The flash was turned off.
  • The exposure was set to 1/30, f2.0, ISO 500 — typical for a smart phone picture.
  • The image was taken June 1, at 2:56 p.m.
  • Images taken before and after the submitted photo are taken from the same point of view.
  • Hewer's style of post-processing (photo editing) is similar on other photos available on his Facebook page.

"It's a big world and anything is possible," said Neesam, but I have no reason to believe that it's not his picture."

Is it possible that the photos were so similar that someone may have made an honest mistake?

SB: That is possible. They were from Ohio, but there were several people who took images of the storm as it was coming in. It is possible they could be quite similar and they could mistake it for theirs.

I hear that the opposite happens from time to time and it happened to you. You got credit for a photo you did not take, is that right Steve?

SB: There were several people posting eagle images very similar to my eagle image and they were giving me credit. I had to interject and say this is not my image.It's a beautiful image as well but if you look at that side-by-side, they are not identical. If you looked at them separately, they have enough similarities you'd think they were the same. I don't want to take credit for someone else's image.

Tell me how this attention to the storm photo gathered Mark.

MH: I snapped the photo at about 3 p.m. and uploaded it to Facebook. I noticed it was getting a lot of shares. Before I went to bed that night there was more than 1,000 shares. We couldn't believe how fast it was getting shared. 

How widespread you think it might be, people wanting to claim other people's work

MH:  would imagine it's a lot higher than one might think.

SB: My guess would be maybe one in 10,000 people would try and take credit for your image. 

When we let the woman who emailed CBC know our photographers had verified its metadata, she said she was satisfied with our results.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Has this ever happened to you? We'd love to hear your story — and share your photos! You can always share your photos with us through social media or by emailing windsor@cbc.ca. 

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