Vanderpump Rules is a festering sore of a TV show: it is gross and mean, it will never improve anyone’s health, and it is sickly fascinating enough to derail my train of thought for days at a time.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills spinoff is about the waitstaff at a restaurant owned by Lisa Vanderpump. The restaurant is called SUR, which is an acronym for “Sexy Unique Restaurant.” Everyone on the show is extremely cruel, very unprofessional, and much older than you might guess based on their behavior. Their main hobbies include getting preventative botox, saying “whore,” throwing beers, flying to Las Vegas, reading text messages out loud to third parties, stealing stuff in front of reality TV cameras, and accusing each other of being unfaithful to romantic partners.
Over the course of five seasons of this incredible show, cheaters have been caught in some surprising ways — Twitter DMs, Uber receipts, poorly timed entrances while two people were watching Drive and also having sex, etc. Kristen Doute, the 34-year-old screaming addict at the center of the show, is even writing a book about how she uses iTunes (among other innovative techniques!) to keep her romantic partners honest.
This year, the person accused of cheating (the most) is the 24-year-old DJ James Kennedy, who refers to himself as “the white fucking Kanye West” and refers to everyone else alive as “disgusting.” He is an absolute nightmare — the type of dude who is never not wearing a scarf with a T-shirt while knocking back a bottle of cough syrup in public. He uses a hoverboard to move around inside his own home, and Jennifer Lawrence once called him “a worthless little creep.”
Anyway, SUR waitress Ellie and SUR hostess GG (that’s her name!) both claim to have slept with James while he was with his girlfriend Raquel, though only the former had the... common sense (?) to take five photos of herself in bed with him, which she keeps handy on her iPhone and shows to people without prompting.
Since James readily admits to sleeping with Ellie in 2015 — or as he would tell you, “I met Raquel on New Year’s Eve 2015, and my dick has not been inside Ellie in 2016. That was a 2015 smash.” — the key here is the timestamp, which reads March 13th, 2016.
It’s unclear why anyone cares if this is true — no one on the show is friends with James, none of them know Raquel, James gets fired from SUR in episode five, and he is at least a decade younger than every single other person in the cast.
But over and over, confronted with the photo from Raquel’s phone, James squawks things like “Do you know how easy it is? You can change pictures, dates on apps!” and “There are apps to change a whole fucking face nowadays.” Nobody believes him, or nobody wants to, and I absolutely don’t believe him either, though it is none of my business.
I don’t care whether James cheated on his girlfriend, but I feel a little bit bad that Kristen and crew have such a bizarre obsession with sabotaging his life. Plus, Kristen knows her way around an iPhone, as we know, so insisting that it’s impossible that the photo’s timestamp was changed without painstaking Photoshop effort is brazenly dishonest of her.
So, for you James Kennedy, here are four simple methods for changing the the timestamp on an iPhone photo:
Edit the EXIF data with Lightroom
EXIF is a file standard for photos — the EXIF data is the supplementary file that’s attached to, for example, a JPEG whenever you take a picture. It includes things like copyright information, camera settings, a thumbnail, and the date and time the photo was taken.
Adobe Lightroom, a companion app to Photoshop that helps anyone with lots of important photographs organize and edit said photographs, is likely to be already downloaded onto the computer of someone who is, say, an aspiring reality TV star. If not, it’s $9.99 per month for a subscription to both apps.
In Lightroom, you can easily change the “capture time” on a photo. Here’s a photo that my co-worker Jake Kastrenakes manipulated, I guess for some kind of router-related subterfuge. It took him all of 10 seconds, and he already had Lightroom installed on his computer using a Vox Media credit card. I’m not saying it makes a ton of sense to do this, or that I approve of whatever Jake is doing in his free time with faked router images, but it’s possible, and if your employer trusts you and thinks you need photography software — free.
Edit the EXIF data with a desktop app designed for that sole purpose
Exif Editor is a $10.99 desktop app for Mac that exists for the sole purpose of editing the metadata on photo files. This app is primarily for professional photographers, who might use it to remove camera or software information from a photo before sending it to a customer. You might also use it to edit or restore lost information like location, author name, and, of course, timestamp before sending a photo along to someone else.
Anyone could, if they wanted, download this app and change the metadata on a photo to give it a new timestamp. It would cost them $10.99, and probably 10 minutes of their lives. I’m not saying I understand why anyone who is not a professional photographer would want to — I’m just saying they could.
Edit the EXIF data with an iPhone app
Here you go, this option is one step easier. The 99 cent iPhone app EXIF-fi lets you view and edit the metadata for any photo on your phone. It’s much cheaper because it’s pretty basic and pretty ugly, but it has everything someone looking to do some deceiving via photo evidence would need: You can change the geotag, the date, and the time, and you can do this to multiple photos at once.
Anyone could, if they wanted, download this app and spend a mere 99 cents and 30 seconds creating a revisionist version of history.
Uh, take a screenshot
This is the easiest and most obvious way to make an old iPhone photo seem new again, at least convincingly enough for the detective work the staff at SUR are likely to undertake. All you have to do is open the photo on your phone and take a screenshot. Presto — now a photo from 2015 is a photo from March 13th, 2016. No offense to James, but duh. And all possible offense to Kristen, you fully knew this the whole time.
Season 5 of the brilliant TV show Vanderpump Rules will wrap on Monday following part two of the annual reunion special.