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:

That little chair in the sunlight. I could just imagine elders warming themselves in this passageway/entrance.

What I don't like in the picture:

Everything points my eye to the small chair — rather than to the experience of sitting there. Also, the fully lit structure in the background competes with the little chair for our attention. Not good.

What I learned:

By changing my point of view and looking out:

  1. The shadow of the chair becomes visible and, odd as it may seem, the sunshine becomes even more important.
  2. Brining out the chairs in the shadows introduces other people and conversation. Fascinating!
  3. Those hanging crops become a focal point of the composition telling us important information about the people who live here.
  4. The post at the right edge and its shiny Chinese calligraphy tell you where this is.

All this from a subtle change of position. Yup, the most important decision in a photograph is where to stand.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I wish I had backed up another foot so the edge of the sunlit shadow was contained in that lower left corner of the image. I wonder if "content aware fill" could fix this?