#38 in a series of background briefs

Single-exposure, undoctored photographs
Why are they the reference point for TCQ?

“Every TCQ photo must depict an arrangement of elements that would be seen in a momentary ‘glimpse’ or ‘snapshot’ of the subject.”

Single-exposure, undoctored photos are the reference point for TCQ because they are by far the most-widely trusted kind of photographs worldwide.

When members of the public think of trusted photographs, even when the subject is in motion people typically call to mind a “freeze frame,”

— a momentary “glimpse” or “snapshot” —

— more like a single frame of a movie or video than like the continually changing “motion picture” that typifies much of daily life.

Almost all of the most-widely trusted photographs in history were fully recorded in less than 1/10th of a second.


How viewers decide which photos to trust

Each viewer’s assessment of a photograph’s trustworthiness is based on that viewer’s “photographic literacy” — what they have learned from years of experience “reading” and interpreting countless single-exposure undoctored photographs.

No matter how a photograph was made or what it depicts, viewers are much more inclined to trust a photograph if it looks like it is a single-exposure, undoctored photograph than if it does not look like one.

That’s why smartphone makers try to ensure that no matter how many exposures are instantly combined to make a photograph, the result looks as much as possible like single-exposure, undoctored photograph.

As the combining guide makes clear, the Trust Checklist is written so that even when a photograph is made by combining exposures, the result looks like — you guessed it — a single-exposure, undoctored photograph.

See also the background brief on what the public knows about how photographs “work”