FAQ 12 - Qualification 2

“One undoctored record”

  • 1201. What’s the point of Q2?

    In light of Characteristic #2 of trusted photographs, Q2 ensures that a TCQ-qualified photograph remains “undoctored.”

  • 1202. But aren’t there a lot of definitions of “undoctored”?

    Yes, there are. The only definition accepted by TCQ is clearly spelled out here and explained over the course of many pages on this website.

    As this background brief explains, TCQ’s definition is not arbitrary but in fact reflects a worldwide consensus.

    See also the FAQ on the term “undoctored”

  • 1203. Can photographers use their own definitions of “undoctored” when making TCQ photographs?

    Photographers can define any terms any way they want, but regardless of personal definitions if a photograph doesn’t meet Q2 it is disqualified from TCQ.


  • 1204. Does the term “record” in Q2 refer to anything more than “what the camera recorded”?


    But that doesn't mean the term is insignificant; see this background brief.

  • 1205. Why does TCQ say the list of Allowable Changes (linked to Q2) reflects “a worldwide consensus”?

    Because the list includes all 7 of the kinds of changes that are “baked in” to billions of devices and embraced by billions of users around the world. (Those 7 changes are #4 through #10 on the list.)

    By baking in those actions, smartphone makers have established a worldwide consensus about what is considered “doctoring a photograph.”

  • 1206. What about changes #1, 2, and 3 on the “Allowable Changes” list (linked to Q2), changes that aren’t baked in to billions of smartphones?

    (Changes #4-10 on the list are discussed here)

    #1 and #2 on the list
    have to be there, because they are applied to so many of the billions of photographs that are shared or put before the public every day (including news photos).

    Importantly, neither #1 nor #2 typically affects the content of the image in a notable way.

    #3 on the list is not baked in to smartphones because it applies primarily to billions of photographs that are made with interchangeable-lens cameras (both digital and film).

    #1, #2, and #3 are taken for granted in all branches of photography. None of the three are considered “doctoring” as they are typically performed.

  • 1207. And TCQ’s “Allowable Changes” list also applies to “the most-widely trusted photographs in the world”?

    Yes, very few of “the most widely trusted photographs in the world” undergo changes that are not on TCQ’s list of Allowable Changes.

    Just about every photograph put before the wider public — including news photographs — undergoes at least one or two of TCQ’s Allowable Changes.

  • Questions #1208-1213 address “bokeh blur”

  • 1208. Instead of completely prohibiting post-exposure manipulations like adding bokeh blur or reshaping things in the photo to change the apparent perspective, why doesn’t TCQ allow those manipulations while setting reasonable limits?

    Because there would be no trustworthy way of setting any useful limits.

    When rinairs can’t be used to make judgment calls — and rinairs doesn’t allow either manipulation described in #1208 — then efforts at a “looser” limit quickly run into a no-win situation.

  • 1209. Why does TCQ disqualify a smartphone’s blurring of various areas of a photograph if it is done instantly after the photograph is taken?

    Because no matter how quickly it happens, the blurring is still done after the photograph is taken.


  • 1210. What if I have the latest smartphone and it can add much more convincing bokeh blur than earlier phones or even than the typical photographer can add using Photoshop on their computer?

    It’s not about how convincingly a manipulation is performed (Q7 weeds out any really poor corrections).

    A manipulation is either allowed or it is not. “Adding non-optically generated bokeh blur” always disqualifies a photograph from TCQ regardless of how well it is done.


  • 1211. What if the “bokeh” blur that a smartphone adds looks identical to what an advanced photographer can do with a large-aperture lens?

    That doesn’t matter with respect to TCQ (“Photography isn’t just about how the photo looks anymore”).

    Question #1209 explains the “before/after” distinction that applies to question #1211.

    Question #1211 is addressed on the list of “Common alibis that don’t matter”

    See also the brief on def|pen

  • 1212. What if I want the smartphone-added bokeh blur in my photo?

    That’s fine, but if you keep the blur that your phone added, the photo cannot qualify as TCQ.

    You’re effectively describing the choice that advanced photographers in the 21st century often have to make, a choice between optimizing “appearance” vs. optimizing “trustworthiness.”

    — In order to optimize “appearance,” the photographer often must make changes that reduce the photograph’s “trustworthiness.”

    — In order to optimize “trustworthiness,”
    the photographer often must forego changes that would improve the photograph’s “appearance.”

    For more on this choice, see this brief

  • 1213. What about if instead of adding bokeh blur after the photo is recorded, multiple exposures are combined in which various parts were recorded as not in focus?

    That actually is quite common (it describes all instances of focus stacking, for example).

    To qualify for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label, the combined result of such exposures must meet Q4, including maximizing focus and being optically plausible.

See also the “Q2” tab on the page “What the public knows about how undoctored photographs work

The numbering of the FAQ questions will not change, so users can safely make a link to any specific question.