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:

I get suckered into these kinds of shots more often than I should probably admit. The dramatic light is too seductive to resist.

What I don't like in the picture:

The problem with this image is that it is absolutely emotionless. At least it is for me. Yes, it's a beautiful spot and a dramatic shaft of light. So what? I got lucky. But when I look at this image, it doesn't even excite a memory of being there. Just blaaaaa.

What I learned:

If I make a photograph that anyone else standing next to me would have made, too, then I know I'm off the creative path and just using my camera as a Xerox copier of the scene.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I don't think any amount of post-processing can bring this image to life. Not for me, anyway.