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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Original digital capture

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What I saw that I liked:

The shape of the lion and the spots of sunlight through the trees. Behind him is smoke from the buring of incense, and I liked that hazy atmosphere.

What I don't like in the picture:

Green. Out of focus green. Blob-like, sickly yellow green. If this has any chance of success, it will be as a monochromatic image.

What I learned:

It may not seem like it, but this was an important image for me. After I had composed it and opened up for the deep shadows, the background became simply unusable. But then I remembered that I can flip my digital camera's LCD monitor to black-and-white mode. I did so and immediately saw the potential for a b/w image. I now leave the monitor on b/w always, and only have it display full color when I know the image needs full color. Composing in the eventual color space was the lesson for me with this one. Of course the image capture is RGB, but the monitor on the camera helps me see in b/w.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I'm going to try this high-key gray with leaves in other images that might be able to create this smoky atmosphere.