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:

The way the branches above mirror the shape of the tree below.

What I don't like in the picture:

Boy, do I have a lot of these kinds of pictures! They are what I call "meaningless compositions." Some how the graphic elements in the scene caught my eye so I try to make a composition. The problem is that the resulting photograph is merely graphics with no content.

Another example is at left where the crack in the wall caught my attention. And it's pointing down to a shadow! Oh, goody!! Art with a Capital A!!! Except it isn't because it's only graphics and who cares?

What I learned:

Should I stop capturing these images and wasting my time? Or do they contribute something to the process — like honing my eye and keeping it in shape for when a serious photograph presents itself? Makes sense to me, and what difference does it make if these "exercises" never go anywhere but keep my eye in shape?