#8 in a series of “how-to” guides

Focus and bokeh blur

  • 1. TCQ photographers can use whatever lenses* and apertures they want when recording a scene.

    Photographs that exhibit any amount of optically [lens] generated bokeh blur are eligible for TCQ.

    That is true whether the image is shot “wide-open” with a large-aperture lens on a large-sensor camera or “stopped down” with a small-sensor camera (or any combination in between).


    *If using a swing/tilt setup of any kind — whether a precision tilt/shift lens, an aftermarket tilt adapter, a Lensbaby, or a view camera — see #7 below.

  • 2. A photograph is disqualified from TCQ if it does not show as much of the scene as “in focus” as can be based on the sum of what the camera recorded in all of the components that comprise the photograph.

    (The focus maximization requirement is in Q3.)

    #2 is true regardless of the device used to make the photos (digital SLR, film camera, multi-lens smartphone, computational device) and regardless of how many exposures were combined to make the photo (including on multi-lens devices).

  • 3. Any non-optically generated bokeh blur added to the photo — including bokeh blur added instantly by smartphones in “Portrait” mode — must be undone or the photo will be disqualified from Q2 and thus from TCQ.


    What exactly is meant by the term “bokeh”?

    Smartphones are increasingly adept at simulating — through “bokeh blur” — how a lens records out-of-focus backgrounds.

    But “simulations” aren’t trustworthy enough to qualify as TCQ photographs (see the page on def|pen).

    Apart from TCQ’s Allowable Changes, all non-“light”-related aspects in TCQ photographs must be left as they were recorded — not as anyone wishes they had been recorded.

    Fortunately for TCQ photographers, on smartphones it is easy to Undo any added focus blur and have the photograph depict all areas of the photo as much “in focus” as they were recorded (see #2 above), without any added simulations.

    To Undo “bokeh” blur on a smartphone, the slider controlling the amount of blur is simply slid to the setting that depicts the least amount of blur.

    FAQ questions #1208-1213 deal with “bokeh” blur.

    See also “Why isn’t my favorite manipulation allowed?”

  • 4. Photos are disqualified from TCQ if the “quality” of out-of-focus areas is changed.

    It isn’t just about how much (“quantity”) of the scene is rendered out of focus:

    Any post-exposure changes of any kind* to bokeh, blur, or the rendering of out-of-focus areas disqualify the photograph from Q2 and from TCQ.

    *apart from effects of TCQ’s Allowable Changes

  • 5. Something in every TCQ photo must be in focus.

    A photo with nothing in focus will not meet rinairs (as required by Q7) and is TCQ-ineligible.

  • 6. Focus stacking does not disqualify a photograph from TCQ...

    . . . as long as all of the qualifications in the Trust Checklist are met.

    See the guide to combining exposures for a complete list of of the “combining” limits imposed by the Trust Checklist.

  • 7. Contraswing and contratilt effects (the “toy city” look) — always disqualify a photograph from TCQ.

    “Contraswing” and “contratilt” effects are the rendering of prominent areas of the photograph less in focus by making the camera’s “focus” plane non-parallel with the “recording” plane.

    Contraswing and contratilt effects can be achieved at the time the photograph is recorded (with use of a geared tilt lens, with a view camera, or with a Lensbaby or similar flexible lens) or they can be achieved later, with software.

    Since contraswing/contratilt images cannot meet rinairs (as per Q7) no matter how many of TCQ’s Allowable Changes are applied, those images are considered TCQ-ineligible.

    Contraswing/contratilt images cannot qualify for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label no matter how they are achieved, presented, labeled, or explained.


    Note that using “swing” or “tilt” during the exposure to render prominent areas of the photograph more in focus does not disqualify photographs from rinairs or from TCQ. See the Key for more.

  • 8. When multiple exposures are combined, all focus effects in the final image must be “optically plausible” or the photograph cannot meet Q7.

    “Optically plausible”

    Guide to combining photographs

    Q7 of the Trust Checklist