More on FAQ #511

“Trust” (see #510) is one of three common reasons viewers are curious about “doctoring.”

The other two reasons “difficulty” and “meaning” are explained below.

Difficulty (“Impressiveness”)

There was an old axiom back in the days of film photography, when it was much harder to make technically excellent photographs:

“Viewers aren’t impressed by how hard the photographer worked to make the photo.”

In the digital era, when it’s much easier to make technically excellent photographs, the modern counterpart is,

“Viewers aren’t impressed with a photo if they think it would be easy to make it themselves.”

From personal experience viewers know how hard it is (see #320) to make a photograph that looks impressive without doctoring it — and, thanks to smartphones, how easy it is to doctor a photograph to make it look more impressive.

Viewers are understandably curious about “Wow” photographs that they encounter. They are human and naturally want to compare other photographers’ skills to their own.

So viewers who find a photograph to be impressive-looking are usually going to be even more impressed if they find out that it is undoctored (because they know that that is not something that is easy for them to do).

“The more impressive your photos look, the more likely they’ll be assumed to be doctored unless you say otherwise,” as it says in #313 and #521.



An undoctored photograph often “means” something different to viewers than a doctored photograph means even when the two photos look identical to each other.

For example (speaking of degrees of difficulty) imagine a scenario that involved challenges for both the subject and for the photographer:

1. Imagine a photograph of a free-soloing rock climber (no ropes) standing atop a scary-steep rock pinnacle several storeys high, photographed by a photographer who was precariously perched atop a nearby pinnacle, with snow and fog swirling all around.

2. Now imagine a photograph that looks identical but was made by combining a photo of the empty pinnacle as photographed by a drone on a normal overcast day, to which a photograph of a climber standing on solid ground was cloned in atop the pinnacle, after which the depiction of swirling snow and fog was then added in.

Many viewers who were told how both photographs were made would say that the two photographs “mean” something different to them even though the two photos look identical to each other (and even though it’s not a “news” photo).

More on difficulty and meaning

More on “photos that look identical but aren’t equally qualified for TCQ”

More on viewers’ curiosity about manipulation in “non-news” photos