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:

Walking through a village in rural China, I rounded a corner and saw this guy working these pots of steaming somethint or other.

What I don't like in the picture:

What guy? Precisely. Just as I was lifting the camera to my eye, he walked out of the frame. He hadn't seen me, he just needed to go inside, I guess, to get something. I waited a few minutes, but he didn't come back out. Damn.

What I learned:

Make lemonaide. The picture would have been better with the guy in it, but the steaming pots were still interesting.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I wish now I'd have had the presence of mind to ask my driver or translator to knock on the door and ask him if he'd come out for a portrait. He might have said no, but since we didn't ask, we'll never know.