This page is an entry in the Key.


On this website, the word “trust” refers to the combined total of two things:

1. The viewer’s level of confidence that they are seeing what the camera saw (within the limitations of the medium, of course);


2. The viewer’s level of confidence that they are not misunderstanding the circumstances behind the making of the photograph.

What are “limitations of the medium”?

In Trust Checklist terms,
is covered by Q1-Q7 and
is covered by Q8.

Varying levels

Levels of “trust” are usually on a continuum or spectrum; trust often is not a “yes-or-no” type of thing. Viewers have different degrees of trust about different photographs (see for example #211).

To “trust” a photograph refers to a high level of the viewer confidence described in #1 and #2 above. “Distrust” and “mistrust” involve lower levels of viewer confidence.


1. Each viewer’s assessment of a photograph’s trustworthiness is based on that viewer’s years of experience “reading” and interpreting countless single-exposure undoctored photographs.

2. When viewed without helpful context, even undoctored photographs can be baffling, meaningless, or even misleading.

But those same photographs can be understood and justifiably trusted by viewers when ancillary/supporting information is supplied with the photograph (including the many things covered by the word “presentation” in Q8). See for example the guide to “IC” alerts.

3. See also trustworthiness, trust chain, and trust exchange