Background briefs

See also the index of How-to guides

  • 1. TCQ: The basics

    Background brief #1 covers all of the essentials.

  • 2. Putting TCQ to use

    “How TCQ can be of use to you” is the subject of Background brief #2

  • 3. Why there is TCQ

    The world’s most universal language (photography) has proven surprisingly underequipped to deal with one of the biggest concerns of our time (trustworthiness).

    Background brief #3 explains that TCQ was created as a corrective to that deficiency.

  • 4. The logic of TCQ

    A bit like a mathematical proof, TCQ is built on a set of accepted assumptions that support a logical conclusion.

    Those assumptions are spelled out in Background brief #4.

  • 5. The development of TCQ

    Some of the major steps in the evolution of TCQ are listed in Background brief #5.

  • 6. Things people know about how photographs “work”

    The first 6 qualifications of the Trust Checklist are built on 6 things that the public knows about how single-exposure, undoctored photographs “work,” Background brief #6 explains.

  • 7. The Trust Checklist: “A blueprint for photography's future”

    The Trust Checklist is configured to ensure that it will keep identifying trustworthy photographs no matter what technological changes come along in the future.

    Background brief #7

  • 8. Treating photographs as subjective “records”

    Background brief #8 explains how TCQ builds on 21st-century attitudes toward photographs — not on attitudes that were predominant in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • 9. The 9 characteristics

    TCQ is built around the 9 characteristics that are shared by “the most-widely trusted photographs in the world.”

    Background brief #9 provides background on the 9 characteristics

  • 10. Why it’s called “A ‘Nonfiction’ label for photographs”

    The “Guaranteed TCQ” label for photographs was modeled on the “Nonfiction” label for books.

    Background brief #10

  • 11. The central role of “Light” for TCQ

    TCQ uses the behavior of “light” both to identify which manipulations reduce viewer trust and to define the terms “undoctored” and “doctored.”

    Background brief #11 expands on TCQ and “Light”

  • 12. The biggest change in photography’s history

    Background brief #12 explains why photography isn’t just about “how the photo looks” anymore.

  • 13. Photography’s new (dual) identity

    From now on there will always be billions of both of two kinds of photographs, both looking equally believable but often bearing very different meanings.

    Background brief #13 explains this epochal change.

  • 14. The 21st-century photographer’s choice

    From now on photographers will have to make a choice they rarely had to make in the past: a choice between optimizing “trustworthiness” vs. optimizing “appearance,” Background brief #14 explains.

  • 15. “Before” vs. “After”: An important distinction

    It is perhaps the most consistent theme on this website, but much of the public is unaware of it.

    Background brief #15 describes the principle.

  • 16. rinairs

    TCQ will always incorporate the standards of the world’s largest providers of trusted photographs, thanks to the reliance on “rinairs” — respected international news agencies’ information-reportage standards.

    Background brief #16 explains “rinairs”

  • 17. A worldwide consensus

    . . . on what constitutes “doctoring” a photograph is the subject of Background brief #17.

  • 18. “Undoctored” vs. “doctored”

    Often the first thing that viewers want to know when they encounter an impressive-looking photograph is whether it is “undoctored or doctored” (that curiosity is summarized in the “real or Photoshop?” question at the top of the Home page).

    Background brief #18 spells out TCQ’s definitions of “undoctored” and “doctored”

  • 19. def|pen

    def - “during exposure = fine”:

    Many visual effects do NOT disqualify a photo from TCQ if they are the result of things that affected the photograph during the exposure —

    pen - “post-exposure = never”:

    — but a photo is disqualified by TCQ if after the exposure it is doctored to simulate those same visual effects.

    Background brief #19 has more on def|pen

  • 20. The “satode” test

    Background brief #20 explains how to keep photographs eligible for TCQ by ensuring that they depict one “specific arrangement that occurred during exposure”

  • 21. The “motarri” principle

    What kinds of moving objects in the scene cannot be rendered invisibly (or unrecognizably blurred) in a TCQ photo?

    Background brief #21 explains how to keep photographs eligible for TCQ by applying the “motarri” principle

  • 22. TCQ-ineligible photographs

    Photographs are considered “TCQ-ineligible” if they cannot meet the Trust Checklist no matter how many of TCQ’s Allowable Changes are applied.

    Background brief #22 is a list of descriptions of numerous kinds of TCQ-ineligible images

  • 23. Types of photos not well-suited to TCQ

    TCQ was never meant for every photographer or every photograph, and TCQ is not well-suited to some huge swaths of the photography world.

    Background brief #23 lists some of the larger categories

  • 24. When should viewers disregard the label?

    Background brief #24 answers, “Quite often, actually.”

  • 25. Why the “context” matters

    Background brief #25 explains why it matters where viewers see the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.

  • 26. Attributes of trusted websites

    Background brief #26 may be a helpful aid whether you want to identify trustworthy websites or create one.

  • 27. Credible contexts

    Background brief #27 lists three categories of settings where the “Guaranteed TCQ” label is more likely to be trustworthy.

  • 28. Convincing viewers

    Background brief #28 outlines some things that TCQ photographers can do to convince viewers to trust the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.

  • 29. The problem of arbitrariness

    Background brief #29 explains why anyone who wants to create a “looser” standard than TCQ — for any kind of manipulation — immediately encounters a no-win situation.

  • 30. “Why isn’t my favorite manipulation allowed?”

    Photographers may wonder why a manipulation that is a routine part of their personal workflow isn’t allowed by TCQ.

    Background brief #30 explains why.

  • 31. On making a less-strict standard

    Background brief #31 offers 9 tips for anyone interested in making a standard that is similar to TCQ but less strict.

  • 32. 100 famous photographers

    Background brief #32 has an explanation of — and a link to — a list of 100 famous photographers who each made thousands of photographs that would meet all nine qualifications of the Trust Checklist.

  • 33. Common alibis that don’t cut it with TCQ

    There are many good reasons to doctor photographs after they are taken, but when it comes to fully meeting the Trust Checklist, a photo either qualifies or it doesn’t.

    Background brief #33
    list some popular alibis.

  • 34. Photography: Our most-universal language

    Background brief #34 explains why photography is a stronger candidate for that title than any other medium.

  • 35. The technical effects of “digital”

    Background brief #35 discusses the effect of digital technology on how photography is practiced.

  • 36. A short history of photo manipulation

    Background brief #36 retraces the state of the art over the past few decades.

  • 37. Fulfilling a universal longing

    Many photographers’ photographic goals include not merely making an excellent-looking picture but also having their viewers believe what the photographer is “saying.”

    Background brief #37 explains that those photographers’ personal photographic goals cannot be achieved when their photographs are assumed to be doctored.

  • 38. “Single-exposure, undoctored photographs”

    Why are they the reference point? Background brief #38 explains why almost all photos are intended to look like them (even when a photo is neither “single-exposure” nor “undoctored”).

  • 39. The changing role of combined-exposure photos

    In the film era, combined-exposure photographs were usually consigned to a less-trusted status.

    Background brief #39 explains how in the digital era millions of trusted photographs are made every day by combining exposures.

  • 40. The changing meaning of “the decisive moment”

    Background brief #40 explains how TCQ’s allowance for combining exposures reflects a redefinition of the terms “decisive” and “moment.”


Users are safe linking to these briefs: the names and numbers of the briefs will not change. New briefs added in the future will be numbered higher than #40.



















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