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:

Way out in rural China, loved this old guy coming down the steps.

What I don't like in the picture:

He is looking right at me. I feel busted for snapping his portrait. That personal guilt is silly, but I can't let go of the feeling that it ruins this photograph.

What I learned:

But fortunately, the previous frame was the one at left. This image I do like. When photographing people, it's all about expression, the right moment, the fleeting gesture. Burst mode is our friend.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I'm bothered a bit by the bright, out-of-focus area at the top of the stairs. I should crop that out. Won't change the content of the image a bit, and might eliminate a bothersome distraction.