FAQ 6 - Subject Manipulation

  • 601. How does TCQ define “subject manipulation”?

    “Subject manipulation” is defined as broadly as possible on this website.

    The term refers to any human-related action — intentional or accidental — that affects in any way the subject depicted in a photograph, whether that action is performed by the photographer, by the subject, or by someone else, regardless of whether the manipulation is “for the camera” or not.

    Basically, almost everything other than open ocean, virgin wilderness, and contrail-free/satellite-free skies could qualify as “subject-manipulated” under the definition that TCQ uses.

  • 602. Why does this website use such a broad definition of “subject manipulation”?

    Because it isn’t worth fussing over the nuances of individual differences in definition.

    Viewers care about not being deceived by “inapparent circumstances” more than they care about small differences in how the term “subject manipulation” is defined.

    (The terms photograph and manipulation are also defined very broadly on this website.)

  • 603. Is it true that no photograph is ever disqualified from TCQ because of what was done to the subject?

    Yes, that is true.

    A TCQ-eligible photograph can be made of any three-dimensional subject that can be photographed, regardless of what was done to the subject.


  • 604. Does Q8 mean that every photograph that meets Q1-Q7 can qualify as TCQ if it is explained well enough to viewers?

    Yes, every photograph that isn’t TCQ-ineligible and that meets Q1 through Q7 can be explained well enough to meet Q8.

    If the photo goes on to meet Q9, the photo can qualify for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.

  • 605. How does a TCQ photographer alert viewers to inapparent circumstances?

    At a minimum, with an “IC” alert (as explained in Q8), often fleshed out with additional description or explanation.

    Guide to “IC” alerts

    FAQ on “IC” alerts

  • 606. Why doesn’t TCQ simply disqualify photographs in which the subject was manipulated in any way?

    Because that would be unrealistic.


  • 607. But respected international news agencies don’t allow any subject manipulation, do they?

    Actually, when the term “subject manipulation” is as broadly defined as it is by TCQ (see #601 above), most news photographs are of subjects that had been “manipulated” by someone at some point, although usually not “for the camera” per se.


  • 608. Can’t a distinction be made between subjects that were manipulated “for the camera” and subjects that were not?

    No, it’s often impossible to make that distinction in the 21st century, because there is much more awareness than there used to be that almost any subject anywhere might be photographed anytime.

  • 609. But why are attitudes toward subject manipulation different in the 21st century than in previous times?

    Because there weren’t cameras everywhere in the past.


  • 610. What about “subject manipulation” when the “subject” is people? Does every photograph I take of someone who posed for the camera require an “IC” alert?


    If viewers can immediately see that a photograph was “posed,” then the photo doesn’t need an “IC” alert
    (unless there’s something else about the photo that warrants an “IC”).

    The test for “IC” alerts is always whether there are “inapparent circumstances” that viewers would want to know about.

    Thus an “IC” alert is usually not necessary for most pictures of people “posing” for the camera, including group photos and photos of any human subjects who were obviously “directed” by the person taking the photo.

    Are selfies eligible for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label?


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