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:

I'm a sucker for old tool benches. Here is a place I photographed in 2011.

What I don't like in the picture:

The challenge with this subject is to simplify the chaos through a tight composition. Obviously, I failed badly on the one above.

What I learned:

The one at left is better, but there's a problem. I've done this already — way back in 1986. I used the drill bits below in Made of Steel. The one at left was fun to do, but I'm repeating myself — and not by improving.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

A walk down memory lane can be fun, but it's a tricky business to not just repeat ourselves in a meaningless exercise.