Brooks Jensen Arts

Every Picture Is a Compromise

Lessons from the Also-rans

Most photography websites show the photographer's very best work. Wonderful. But that's not the full story of a creative life. If we want to learn, we'd better pay attention to the images that aren't "greatest hits" and see what lessons they have to offer. Every picture is a compromise — the sum of its parts, optical, technical, visual, emotional, and even cosmic – well, maybe not cosmic, but sometimes spiritual. Success on all fronts is rare. It's ok to learn from those that are not our best.

This is a series about my also-rans, some of which I've been able to improve at bit (i.e., "best effort"), none of which I would consider my best. With each there are lessons worth sharing, so I will.

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What I saw that I liked:

I desperately want to like this photograph because I love the place so much. I'm a sucker for a diagonal line and this has several of them. Not often does one find dirt of such contrasting colors in juxtaposition like this. There just has to be a photograph here.

What I don't like in the picture:

The light is flat; the composition static; and as painful as it is to admit, almost completely devoid of any emotional zing. Damn. And the damned bush in the lower left corner is too complex to clone out. Next time, I'm taking a shovel.

What I learned:

Great shapes don't guarantee great photographs. Unique colors don't guarantee great photographs. Technical success doesn't guarantee a great photograph.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I'd love to have another chance to photograph this at evening light when there are deep, angular shadows that might help. Even playing around with "orchestrated light" using the graduated filter tool in Lightroom didn't make greatness. It helped, but just enough to raise from bland to passably OK.