#11 in a series of “how-to” guides

On the label “Guaranteed TCQ/IC”

Q8 makes it easy to avoid deceiving viewers about any “inapparent circumstances” under which a photograph was made.

“IC” alerts

  • A. Kinds of photos that typically need an “IC” to meet Q8

    The “Guaranteed TCQ/IC” version of the label can cover all sorts of potentially deceptive “inapparent circumstances” that viewers would want to know about, including:

    1. Many varieties of photographs that do not depict what they appear to depict

    2. Photographs of “animals of typically wild species” in which the photograph was made in less-than-fully-wild conditions that are not immediately apparent to the viewer (see “C” below)

    3. Optical illusions and trick photos

    4. Photographs of things that had undergone “subject manipulation” that isn’t visually apparent but that the viewer would want to know about

    5. Set-up photos whose set-up nature is not immediately obvious to the viewer

  • B. “What’s the simplest test for whether my photo needs an IC alert?”

    Ask yourself a simple question:

    “Does this photo involve any inapparent circumstances that I would want to know about if someone I don’t know had made the photo and I was admiring it?”

    If the answer is “Yes,” then it’s safe to say that the photo needs an “IC” alert at a minimum.

    To qualify as TCQ, the photograph has to meet Q8:

    — If a respected international news agency would alert viewers to “inapparent circumstances” when publishing the photo in an information-reportage context, then the TCQ photographer must attach an “IC” or the photo cannot meet Q8.

    — But if such an agency would not attach an alert to that photo in an information-reportage context, then the TCQ photographer need not attach an “IC” either.

  • C. Do all TCQ photos of “typically wild animals photographed in less-than-fully-wild conditions” always need an “IC” to meet Q8?

    Yes, with only two exceptions:

    1. There are instantly visible signs in the photo of the less-than-fully-wild conditions (for example, a zoo cage is visible)


    2. The photo is published in a context where ALL of the photos were taken in similar conditions (for example, in an article where all of the photos are from a zoo, or on a webpage where all of the photos are from a particular nature reserve).

    Adding an “IC” to TCQ-labeled photos of ”typically wild animals photographed in less-than-fully-wild conditions” does not compromise the value of such photos, because all other “Guaranteed TCQ” photos taken in similar contexts should have an “IC” as well.

  • D. Applying Q8 can “save” any otherwise TCQ-qualified photograph from being deceptive

    Any photograph that meets Q1-Q7 can be explained well enough to meet Q8 (with the sole exception listed in the last paragraph of Q8).

    Seen another way, except for that one exception no photograph is ever disqualified from TCQ because of what was done to the subject.

    The resulting image can always be explained well enough — with an “IC” alert and further explanation — to keep the photo eligible for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.

  • E. On “posed” photos

    Photographs usually do not need an “IC” if they are obviously posed, including group photos and photos of any human subjects who were clearly “directed” for the purposes of the photograph.

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

    If the circumstances are immediately apparent — for example, if viewers can instantly tell 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”).

    Are selfies eligible for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label?

  • F. The photographer can say more than “IC”

    In many cases the TCQ photographer will want to provide more explanation to viewers than a simple “IC” alert.

    (Why? See #1 on this page)

    In those cases, the photographer puts an * after the IC (so that the label says Guaranteed TCQ/IC*). Then viewers know to look nearby for the additional explanation, which will begin with *

  • G. What viewers should know about “IC”

    • Viewers can disregard the “Guaranteed TCQ” label if the “IC” isn’t in the same size, font, color, and location as the “Guaranteed TCQ” label; see #11 here. (It is obviously deceptive for the photographer to try to hide, bury, or minimize an alert that is meant to prevent deception!)

    • Viewers should treat the absence of an “IC” alert when an alert is warranted just as seriously as they treat a secretly doctored photograph.

    • Viewers should be aware that TCQ photographers can permanently damage their reputation if they fail to attach an “IC” alert when one is needed, especially if that omission occurs in a trustworthy context.

FAQ on “IC” alerts