FAQ 1 - TCQ
101. Before diving in, why doesn’t this website have illustrations to show the difference between TCQ and non-TCQ photographs?
Because often there is no visual difference.
The entire reason TCQ exists is because now, for the first time in history, there are created every day millions of “undoctored” and “doctored” photographs that look equally believable.
In other words, TCQ and non-TCQ photographs can look identical to each other.
Could someone make an explanatory video about TCQ?
102. Where does TCQ fit in with the evolution of photography?
TCQ helps to “level the playing field” toward an emerging side of photography that up to now has been easily overshadowed.
As this background brief explains, there are now — for the first time in history — billions of each of two kinds of photos that look equally believable:
1. Photos that are “undoctored”
2. Photos that are “doctored”
The #2 kind of photographs optimize “appearance,” so they get much of the popular attention (especially on social media).
But the #1 kind of photographs optimize “trustworthiness,” and they are the photographs celebrated by TCQ.
More on how TCQ “levels the playing field” between the two kinds of photos
103. Why does TCQ say that the Trust Checklist is “a blueprint for photography’s future”?
Because the Checklist helps to answer what will be one of the biggest public questions of the 21st century: “Which images put before the public can be trusted?”
Background brief on the “future” aspect of TCQ
104. Is it true that anybody can use the Trust Checklist and the “Guaranteed TCQ” label?
Yes. Anyone anywhere, at any level of proficiency, can compare any of their own photos to the Trust Checklist at any time and can apply the “Guaranteed TCQ” label to any of their photos that they wish.
There is never any cost, fee, signing up, logging in, registration, licensing, certification, approval, or permission involved in using any aspect of TCQ, including the Checklist and the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.
Everything about TCQ is freely available to all.
105. So any yahoo can attach the “Guarantee TCQ” label to any completely unqualified photograph, with no organizational or institutional oversight to point out that the photo isn’t qualified for the label?
Yes, anyone can do that, including the reader of this sentence.
As it says in the brief When viewers can disregard the “Guaranteed TCQ” label, “anyone anywhere anytime can attach the “Guaranteed TCQ” label to any photo they want, putting it online anywhere without any kind of permission or approval required from anybody.”
It’s exactly the same as with the “Nonfiction” label on books: Anyone can publish a book spouting any nonsense they want, calling it “Nonfiction,” and there’s no one to stop them from doing so.
106. What’s to keep countless unqualified photographs on social media from being labeled as “Guaranteed TCQ”?
Nothing at all! The public should expect to see plenty of preposterous social-media photos labeled “Guaranteed TCQ.” (In other words, much of the time the “Guaranteed TCQ” label will be meaningless.)
But that’s actually a good thing if it makes viewers more discerning about images they find online, which is part of the goal of TCQ.
The more that viewers see the “Guaranteed TCQ” label attached to unqualified photographs in contexts that viewers don’t trust, the sooner viewers will learn to identify which contexts are less trustworthy than others. More
107. Won’t unqualified photographs on social media that are labeled as “Guaranteed TCQ” damage the credibility of the label?
No. There’s no reason to worry about the credibility of the “Guaranteed TCQ” label even knowing that it will often be inappropriately applied (most commonly on social media).
108. Why isn’t social media a reliable source for trustworthy photographs?
Social media doesn’t give viewers confidence that they can trust all of the claims that are being made about the photograph (see this brief).
While you personally may believe all of the claims that you read on social media, enough other people do not believe such claims that the term “social media” is not synonymous with “a context where viewers trust all of the claims they see.”
But public perceptions aside — and assuming that #108 is a serious question — the answer to #108 is that “social media is not structured or operated in a way that consistently gives viewers confidence that they can trust all of the claims they see on social media.”
109. So is the message that NO photographs on social media should be trusted?
No, that’s not the message at all. With hundreds of millions of photographs being posted on social media every day, obviously many millions of those photographs will be plenty trustworthy.
110. Where will the “Guaranteed TCQ” label be most trustworthy?
That is covered on the “trustworthy contexts” page.
111. What are “the most-widely trusted photographs in the world” on whose 9 characteristics the Trust Checklist is based?
112. What’s the distinction [described on the Summary page in #9] between the “hundreds of millions of new TCQ-qualified photos made every day” vs. “photos that are likely to be labeled ‘Guaranteed TCQ’”?
It’s quite simple:
The less remarkable a photograph looks, the less likely it is to be widely seen and the less viewers will be curious about how much they should trust it.
The more remarkable a photograph looks, the more likely it is to be widely seen and the more likely viewers will be curious about how much they should trust it.
Billions of snapshots made every week are viewed by one person at most (never being shared at all). Billions more snapshots are seen by only 2 or 3 people (being shared once).
So even though a photo qualifies as TCQ doesn’t mean it’s worth putting the “Guaranteed TCQ” label on it.
113. Why will so few “impressive-looking photographs put before the public outside of news settings” be guaranteed TCQ by the photographer in credible contexts?
(This is a reference to the bottom paragraph of #112-more)
Because many of the most popular changes used by advanced photographers to make their photos look more “impressive” also disqualify those images from the Trust Checklist.
As it says in this brief, “When photographers perform ‘whatever manipulations they want’ on a photograph, they cannot expect viewers to trust the result.”
114. So it’s “easy” to make TCQ photographs but “hard” to make impressive TCQ photographs?
That’s correct. The biggest challenge in 21st century photography will be making remarkable photographs that fully meet the Trust Checklist.
For more on this challenge, see #320. (See the Photos page for images that meet this challenge.)
115. Is TCQ for “news” or for “non-news” photographs?
In the 21st century, “trust” is increasingly a concern in any discussion of news organizations, so those organizations can certainly make use of TCQ on some level (even if only as background in formulating their internal policies).
But questions like “Is it real or is it Photoshop?” get asked more often of “non-news” photographs than of “news” photographs, so TCQ can be helpful in many different branches of photography — not just with “news” photographs.
116. Why would photographers hold “non-news” photographs to reportage-based standards like the Trust Checklist?
Because viewers do! Viewers don’t magically suspend their curiosity about a photograph just because it isn’t in a “news” setting. More
117. But couldn’t there be a less-strict standard created for “non-news” photographs? Something a little more lax than “information-reportage” standards?
It’s conceivable, although making a “softer” standard that is both credible and non-arbitrary would not be easy.
But anyone who wants to create a less-strict standard can put their standard before the public and invite comments!
118. Are selfies eligible for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label?
119. Why is it said that the “Guaranteed TCQ” label can be credibly attached only by the photographer responsible for the photograph?
Because for viewers to trust the label, they need to be confident that the person responsible for creating the photograph is the same person who is staking their reputation on the guarantee.
See also the entry on “trust exchange,” and see #1904 and #1905 on “who is responsible.”
120. If the photographer is the only person who can credibly attach the “Guaranteed TCQ” label to a photograph, how can someone else publish photographs that have the “Guaranteed TCQ” label?
The third party simply publishes the “Guaranteed TCQ” label along with the name of the photographer who is standing behind that guarantee.
See the guide to Publishing TCQ Photographs for details.
121. Why is the “Guaranteed TCQ” label called a “Nonfiction”-like label for photographs?
122. Does the “Guaranteed TCQ” label on a photograph mean the same thing that the “Nonfiction” label means on books?
The term “fiction” means something different in both cases, but in some ways the labels are similar; see the background page on “Nonfiction” (which was also linked in the previous question).
Like the “Nonfiction” label, the “Guaranteed TCQ” label is not any kind of official “seal of approval” or statement of “objective facts.”
Just as the “Nonfiction” label doesn’t mean “Blindly trust this book,” the “Guaranteed TCQ” label doesn’t mean “Blindly trust this photograph.”
See also “Aren’t all photographs fiction?”
123. What does the “Guaranteed TCQ” label actually mean on a photograph if it doesn’t mean “Blindly trust this photograph”?
As with the “Nonfiction” label on books, the “Guaranteed TCQ” label on photographs is merely a shorthand way for the creator of a work to stake his or her reputation on claims being made to the audience.
For creators of photographs, those claims are the 9 qualifications of the Trust Checklist.
124. What if the photographer says he or she only made “minor” changes to the photograph?
Viewers should be skeptical unless the photographer spells out exactly what “minor” includes.
125. How does TCQ deal with photographs that aren’t “doctored” but are still deceptive, like a set-up scene that looks spontaneous or a zoo animal that looks like it’s in the wild?
Those are dealt with through an “IC” alert.
That’s how the photographer alerts viewers to potentially deceptive “inapparent circumstances” so that the photograph can meet Q8 of the Trust Checklist.
Many photographs meet the first 7 qualifications of the TCQ standard but are still potentially deceptive because of the circumstances under which those photos was made.
That’s when “the presentation” of the photograph (an “IC” alert) can be used to ensure that viewers are not deceived.
Guide to “IC” alerts
126. Does the “Guaranteed TCQ” label imply that all non-TCQ-qualified photographs aren’t trustworthy?
No, not at all. For example, if you personally make a photograph and change it in some way that disqualifies it from the Trust Checklist, it’s doubtful that you suddenly won’t trust your own photograph.
The “Guaranteed TCQ” label is simply the quickest way to declare when a photo has all nine characteristics of the world’s most-widely trusted photographs.
The label doesn’t render as “untrustworthy” all photos that don’t have all nine characteristics.
127. What about photographers who have no need for the Guaranteed TCQ label?
They can easily ignore TCQ.
See questions #311 and following in the Photographers’ FAQ
128. When should viewers disregard the “Guaranteed TCQ” label?
129. Why are viewers told to ignore the “Guaranteed TCQ” label when it’s not in English?
That is a safeguard against deception of viewers.
When the same phrasing is used worldwide (“Guaranteed TCQ”), even non-English-speakers can quickly learn what the wording means, as people do with brand names.
But when viewers anywhere see the words for “NOT guaranteed TCQ” in language characters that they don’t know, they might assume the label says “Guaranteed TCQ.”
130. Why did it take two decades to develop TCQ?
Because most of the questions that TCQ needed to answer had not been answered before — and because the world changed so much between 2000 and 2020.
The numbering of the FAQ questions will not change, so users can safely make a link to any specific question.