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“What the camera saw”

This is simply an allusion to the camera as an “eye,” imagining what a human eye would have seen had it been in exactly the same place as the camera.

No photograph can show exactly “what the camera saw” the way a human eye would see it, because cameras record things differently than does the human brain.

TCQ naturally takes these differences into account, as does every news organization in the world. (For more on these differences, see limitations of the medium.)

As with the word “scene,” the phrase “what the camera saw” relates not just to place but also to time.

In other words, the phrase “What the camera saw” describes not only what was in the camera’s view but also what was in the camera’s view during the exposure(s) and not a moment before or after that time period.

See also Should TCQ photographs reflect “what the photographer saw” or “what the camera recorded”?

Why not just say “What the camera recorded”?