This is the now infamous photo of Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre (then Roberts) with his hands around her bare midriff.
Is the photo genuine or has it been doctored in some evil way?
My four reasons why I think it is real – a forensic analysis
As a professional photographer (now retired), I did my fair share of image fakery using Photoshop to swap heads, or sometimes complete bodies around. Heads were normally swapped in group photos if somebody blinked as the shot was taken, and I’d substitute the head (or even just the eyes) from a shot taken just seconds later. Bodies for the same reason.
I’ve even been asked on the odd occasion to remove a spouse from the centre of a family group photo because of an acrimonious divorce. Easier said than done as it leaves a big gaping hole behind them!! It’s easy to swap heads and bodies using Photoshop, but not so easy to make it look very real and natural.
Before I even start, it should be known that freelance photographer Michael Thomas who found the photo, told the BBC Panorama:-
"These were 5x7 photos that looked like they had come from Boots the chemist, nothing more complicated than that. They were just typical teenage snaps - It wasn't like she pulled the photo of Prince Andrew out, it was just in amongst the rest of them."
So obviously that would suggest the photo is real, but despite a thorough search, I have not been able to find a very detailed forensic analysis of the digitised photo that we see here. There are several tell-tale signs that can expose the truth about whether an image has been doctored or manipulated, so let’s take a look.
Reason 1: The Lighting
You can see from the flash in the window that the photo has been taken with a flashgun. The lighting on all three faces supports this, as it is exactly the kind of overall flat ‘Hard’ light that you get from a small light source. Ghislaine Maxwell’s face is darker due to her being further away and so the light has ‘fallen off'. The light from compact camera flashes only reaches 10-12 feet, plus the Inverse Square Law means that her being just a couple of feet further back, reduces the light reaching her by a quarter.
Had the lighting been different for any of the faces (i.e a photo taken under different lighting conditions), that face would have had a slightly different shadow pattern. You can see from this crop of the main photo, that they have the same flat lighting on their faces ('flat' means the light is the same on both sides of the face).
As an example of that, here's a photo of Prince Andrew taken at a different time, I've cut his head out and placed it next to Virginia's. You can clearly see that the lighting and colour is different on their faces. Prince Andrew's face has what is knows as 'modeling', whereby there is a light and shadow difference between the two sides of his face, indicating that the light is coming from the side rather than straight on, whereas the light on Virginia's face is even on both sides. Obviously Prince Andrew's photo here is an extreme example, but even smaller amounts of light source differences are detectable by carefully examining faces.
The lighting and colour of the hands also looks consistent and suggests they havn’t been manipulated.
Reason 2: Catchlights in the eyes
Reasonably well lit portraits will put a small sparkle in the subject’s eyes, these are known as ‘catchlights’. You can tell from the catchlights where the light source was positioned, so if the catchlights are in different positions in both sets of eyes, that would be a dead giveaway that one of the photos was taken with differently positioned lighting and that a head had been swapped. However, zooming in on their faces you can see that the catchlights are in the same position, exactly what you'd expect. There’s a touch of red-eye because the photo was taken with small flash pointed directly at them (as opposed to the light being bounced off a wall or ceiling, using a more advanced approach.).
Compare the catchlights in Prince Andrew’s eyes here with those of Virginia’s, easy to spot the difference. The fact that his catchlights are higher up in the eyes in this photos, show that the light source was higher up, i.e the sky!
Reason 3: Shadows
Depending on various circumstances, small built-in flashes can cast hard edged shadows onto walls and surfaces behind subjects. You can see just to the left side of Prince Andrew’s face, running from his chin to his hair, a narrow shadow on the white wall behind him. Virginia’s arm from her wrist to her elbow has also made a narrow shadow on Ghislaine’s white blouse.
The shadows have exactly the same pattern indicating that the light source was the same and positioned in the same place.
Reason 4: Her Hair
Hair is notoriously difficult to cut out, if not done absolutely expertly, the very edges of the hair will have a discernible hard edge, indicating that it’s been cut-out. Look at the way Virginia’s hair overlaps Prince Andrew’s blue shirt, it looks perfectly natural and un-retouched. A slightly hard-edge to her hair would have been a dead giveaway.
…. and finally:-
Prince Andrew has reportedly said that ‘from the investigations that we've done, you can't prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph’ and that "nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored".
Admittedly, he is quite correct in that it is not possible to prove beyond doubt that the photo has not been doctored (especially as it is a low resolution copy of the print), but in my opinion, if it has been doctored, it has been done by someone so expert, that they should receive an OBE for services to art!