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:

A small Catholic church in the country. Not a step back in time, but certainly a step into a simpler time.

What I don't like in the picture:

This is what I characterize as a "pre-composed" image. The bilateral symmetry of the scene as well as the placement of every object by the priests means that this view has been "composed" by the design of the building and the decorations in it. As a photographer, there is little I need to do here other than position the camera and correct in software for rectification of the verticals. Is this art? Or, is this merely optically cleaning up for some camera anomalies?

What I learned:

There were lots of pictures I could have made here, but by selecting this obvious composition, I really haven't accomplished anything. This image might be useful as an "establishing shot," but that's about it.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

The image below (from the same church) is a photographer's composition. Okay, not a good one, but it definitely feels more like the photographer's eye made the compositional decisions than the original capture above.