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:

Cool, a lighthouse. [Snap]

What I don't like in the picture:

This is what my friend Joe Lipka calls a "compulsory." You have to do it because you are there and it is so, so obvious. But once you've snapped the shutter you lose all sense of self-respect as an artist.

What I learned:

I used to avoid making these obvious ones because I thought they were cheesy. (I was right.) But I've learned that it's true what they say about ghosts — if you see one, walk straight towards it and it disappears. Likewise with these kinds of images. Better to make them and get them out of your system so you can then let go of them and move on to the work you are supposed to be doing.

Just don't show them to anyone. And now that I've done so, where do I buy one of the MIB neuralizer thingies so I can make you all forget I've shown you this?