#6 in a series of background briefs

6 things the public knows about how photographs “work”

  • What is this page about?

    Sight. Light.
    Space. Motion.
    Time. Stasis.

    As basic as the laws of physics, the effects of these six elements are at the root of the public’s knowledge of how single-exposure, undoctored photographs “work.”

    These six elements are the basis of the first six qualifications of the Trust Checklist the six qualifications that expressly spell out what can and cannot be done to TCQ photographs.

  • The presence, absence, and nature of these six elements affects the appearance of every photograph ever made:

  • Q1 is based on SIGHT.

    The public knows that apart from limitations of the medium and camera/lens/shutter anomalies, a normal single-exposure, undoctored photograph does not depict subjects that the human eye cannot see.

    Q1 reassures viewers that no depictions of anything in a TCQ-qualified photograph were rendered by electromagnetic waves outside the range of human vision.

    FAQ on Q1

  • Q2 is based on LIGHT.

    The public knows that unless an aspect of a photograph is related to “light,” that aspect will not change on its own when a photograph is reproduced in a new format.

    (That is to say, forms and shapes in the photograph don’t magically appear or disappear, or move or resize or reshape or blur themselves, when the same photograph is viewed in different formats — for example on a device’s screen vs. in a printed version of the same photograph.)

    Q2 reassures viewers that non-“light”-related changes to the photograph are kept to a minimum.

    More on “light”

    FAQ on Q2

  • Q3 is based on SPACE.

    The public knows that in a single-exposure, undoctored photograph, the appearance of the subject is determined by “spatial relationships” — where the camera is positioned and pointed in relation to the subject.

    (For example, a tourist with a smartphone will instinctively crouch down and point the camera up to get into the frame both the human subject and the tall building behind the subject.)

    Q3 reassures viewers that a TCQ photograph made by combining exposures does not depict different spatial relationships than if it had been made with a single exposure.

    FAQ on Q3

  • Q4 is based on MOTION.

    The public knows that a single-exposure undoctored photograph depicts moving objects in continuous light in one of three ways:

    • frozen still;
    • blurred; or
    • invisibly.

    Q4 reassures viewers that if there were moving objects in the scene, in a TCQ-qualified photograph those objects won’t be rendered in any way other than those three ways.

    FAQ on Q4

  • Q5 is based on TIME.

    The public knows that a single-exposure, undoctored photograph depicts what happened in front of the camera “at one unrepeatable moment in time.”

    Smartphone technologies make it unrealistic to always limit photographers to single-exposure photographs, but Q5 reassures viewers that TCQ-qualified photographs never incorporate any exposures not made within the same single minute.

    FAQ on Q5

  • Q6 is based on STASIS.

    (“Stasis” refers to permanence, equilibrium, stillness, “staticness,” non-change)

    The public knows that — unlike, say, with a video or a GIF — a single-exposure, undoctored photograph’s appearance does not change while it is being viewed.

    Q6 reassures viewers that a TCQ-qualified photograph will not change in appearance when viewed by different viewers at different times.

    FAQ on Q6


What about Q7, Q8, and Q9?