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:

Yosemite! El Capitan!

What I don't like in the picture:

I suppose there is nothing drastically wrong with this picture — except the fact that almost everyone else's photograph of El Capitan will be better.

What I learned:

That is one of the problems with subjects that are saturated in photographic history. It's simply impossible to look at an image like this without doing a mental comparison to dozens and dozens of other images of El Capitan by very competent photographers. Worse, there is only one photographer who is at the top of this pile — and that isn't because his name is first alphabetically.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

It is fun to compete, but the essence of artmaking is not a competition. I have lots of image from Yosemite that I really like, but none of them involve a famous rock or a comparison to a famous photographer.