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:

Both of these images are from the same digital capture file. The one above is what it looked like to my eye as I was standing there. It's accurate . . .

What I don't like in the picture:

. . . but a bit dull, to my eye. It was a heavily overcast day and the image is a bit underexposed. The combination makes the RAW image seem lifeless.

What I learned:

I wanted to use this image in a project in Kokoro titled, The Love of Green. And here we bump up against a philosophical question. When do we cross a line as we increase the vibrance or color saturation in an image? This is artwork, not documentary, but still, is there a point when we've gone too far?

I felt justified in pushing the green pretty hard in this image (left) because green is the subject of the project — the color green itself.

I try to answer the question "How much is too much?" by keeping the context in mind. I'm fully aware that some may think I've cranked up the vibrance too much in this image, but how we make decisions like this in our artmaking process is the core of being an artist. Artmaking is committing — and then casting the work out into the world for whatever arrows or applause it may receive. I'm comfortable having pushed the green to extreme vibrance, but I know not everyone will agree with my decision. Se la vie.