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:

A cliché I am supposed to photograph because everyone does it and I don't want to be left out. Seriously, that's what I saw.

What I don't like in the picture:

Rules. I guess I am just too damned independent for my own good. When I succumb to making a photograph because it's a "compulsory" (as my friend Joe Lipka calls them), I know I have failed.

What I learned:

Yes, I have photographed dewy spider webs, sunsets at the coast, and kittens playing with yarn. All good exercises to hone our skills. But once done, let go and move on. Fine art photography is not about how well you can follow the rules. It's also not about how vigorously you can break them. As the Buddhist's say, whether you are bound by chains of iron or chains of gold, you are still bound.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Not that an interesting picture can't be made from frequently photographed subjects! If you want to go to Yosemite, go there. Just don't go so you can make clones of the great Ansel Adams photographs. I'll make you a deal: you go to Yosemite and photograph it from your heart and I'll try to do the same the next time I have my camera pointed at a succulent.