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Is the photo of "Brutus the Croc" real?

July 15, 2011 - A photo in the news recently shows a huge critter, Brutus the Crocodile, in Australia, putting on a show for tourists in a boat. He's very big and very close to the boat in the photo. You can't really tell from the photo, but people who run the tour say Brutus measures about 18 feet long.

The photograph was featured on ABC's Good Morning America and other newscasts and websites; thousands of people voted in our poll, and the overwhelming majority of our responders believe the photo was faked.

After I did some research, here are the three things I've found that make me believe the photo is legit:

1. Legitimate sources have checked the photo:

Journalists in Australia say they've seen the photo still in the camera on the memory card upon which it was originally saved.

According to the North Territory News website the photo has even been submitted to police investigators for verification, and they believe it's legit:

"Photographic Technician Chris Cooper from the NT Police said; 'I've had a look at the Metadata. I do think it is real. It does however look out of proportion but that is only because it has been cropped a fair bit.' "

But still, some people think it's possible to fool even the best experts...

2. There's video:

It might not be as clear as the photograph, but there is video on YouTube posted showing Brutus the three-legged jumping crocodile.

We've included it here.

You don't really get a good look at just how big the crocodile is until the end of the video... and even then a definitive reading on the scale of the croc compared to the boat is tough... but it's definitely big!

There is more than just that one video of giant jumping crocodiles on YouTube, and they are posted here, here, here, here.

If the experts' opinions and videos still don't persuade you, then there's...

3. Photo Analysis:

It is possible to tell when a photo is digitally altered. Here's a good explanation of ways to try tell with the naked eye if a photo has been doctored. Many of the Facebook and Twitter comments have been that the people in the boat don't seem frightened at all, or that they're looking in the wrong direction.

However, people's reactions aren't proof of anything, and the lights and shadows on the photo all seem to be going the correct direction. That's where we turned to a type of digital analysis that can be done to a picture called "Error Level Analysis." Without getting too much into all the math and computational requirements, the computer checks out each pixel and recreates the image.

In the resulting image, extremely different levels of brightness throughout the newly-created image are a very strong indicator that the original image was manipulated after it was taken. Take, for example, the Victoria's Secret model image shown above. In this analysis done by Dr. Neal Krawetz on The Hacker Factor Blog, you can see that the model's hair, eyes, mouth, arms and dress all display much brighter in the Error Level Analysis of the picture.

We did the same thing with the photos of Brutus, thanks to a website Image Forensics: Error Level Analysis. As the site explains: " As a jpeg image is resaved over and over again, its image quality decreases... If parts of the image are from different source files, they may have been saved a number of different times, and thus they will stand out as a different colour in the ELA test."

The Error Level Analysis of this photo shows no extreme bright spots surrounding the crocodile or the boat. The brightest spots on the photo are in the bottom left (where we added text for the photo credit) and around the red shirt of one of the passengers (which sometimes happens because of the way computer programs save the color red. The explanation of this is at the bottom of the page).

So, with the statements from other, reliable news sources, the videos of Brutus and other huge jumping crocodiles posted on YouTube, and the digital analysis of the Brutus photo itself, I think it's kind of hard to argue that the photo was faked.

NOW..... are you ready for the really scary part?.... Check out this video and article which shows there is a crocodile out there that's even bigger than Brutus!

Posted by - Corey Herman