FAQ 4 - “Light”

  • 401. Why is “light” such a big deal in photography?

    Because “recording onto a light-sensitive surface” has from the beginning been at the heart of most definitions of the word “photography.”

    The word “photo” actually comes from the Greek word for “light,” and advanced photographers often say that “understanding light” is the key to successful photography.

    Light” is one of photography’s six foundational elements that shape TCQ.

  • 402. Why does TCQ make such a strong distinction between “light”-related changes (tones and colors) vs. non-“light”-related changes (forms and shapes)?

    Because viewers do!

    That distinction is so much a part of the public’s knowledge about photography — their “photographic literacy” — that there’s rarely a need to talk about it.

    But here’s more talk about it

  • 403. And that public awareness of how “light” behaves in photos affects the degree to which people trust photographs?

    Yes, definitely.

    -“light”-related changes are naturally regarded more skeptically than are “light”-related changes.

    Viewers are always going to be more wary of

    “changes that wouldn’t happen unless someone intervened to change them” (variations in forms and shapes) vs.

    as opposed to

    “changes of a type that would have happened anyway” (variations in tones and colors).

  • 404. But the behavior of “light” in photographs hasn’t changed, so why is this an issue now when it wasn’t 50 or 100 years ago?

    Because of the introduction of digital technology, which for the first time made NON-“light”-related changes easy to make.


  • 405. Why doesn’t TCQ spell out which specific “light”-related changes are allowed, the way allowable non-“light”-related changes are carefully spelled out?

    (This is a reference to TCQ’s Allowable Changes)

    The answer is, “Because there is no limit on the degree of light-related changes that are permissible in order to meet Q7.”


  • 406. Technically speaking, aren’t most changes to non-“light”-related aspects of digital photographs really just changes to the “light”-related aspects of individual pixels?

    Yes, most changes to most digital photographs could be described as “changing the tones and colors of individual pixels.”


  • 407. What’s to keep a photographer from making “light”-related changes to accomplish disqualifying non-“light”-related changes (like making things disappear) and then labeling the result as TCQ?

    Q7 is there for that.

    The fact that TCQ doesn’t spell out which “light”-related changes are allowed (see #405 above) doesn’t mean that TCQ photographers can make any “light”-related changes they want.

    See for example #406 and also see “D” on this page.

    All “light”-related changes have to combine to produce a result that meets Q7 or the photograph cannot qualify for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.

  • 408. What does “light” vs. non-“light” distinction mean for TCQ photographers?

    It means that TCQ photographers should record non-“light”-related aspects (forms and shapes) the way they want them to appear in the final image.

    Only a select few kinds of changes can be made to a photograph without disqualifying it from TCQ.

    Many of the post-exposure changes that photographers have in recent years been performing on non-“light”-related aspects will disqualify the photograph from the Trust Checklist.

    Why doesn’t TCQ allow my favorite manipulation?”


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