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:

Waterfall in misty Hawaii

What I don't like in the picture:

Too much sky. And what do I do with that mist?

What I learned:

My knee-jerk reaction with an image like this is to usually try to eliminate the mist — pretend like it wasn't even there. Crank up the De-haze, etc., and I end up with something like the one at left.

But that's not the only choice. Sometimes it's better to push the defect until it becomes an asset. In the one at left below, I used minus De-haze and minus Clarity to enhance the misty atmosphere. Then cleaned up the mist just from the tree in the lower left to give the image three-dimensionality.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I think both of these are sort of making lemonaide out of lemons, but doing so is a form of practice. I never find my time wasted with this sort of exercise, even if I never use either image in a finished project. Practice, practice, practice. If we were musicians we'd know this is just part of the process. Good lesson for photographers, too.