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:

Lovely clouds and lovely rocks.

What I don't like in the picture:

Pick your poison. Either the rocks are exposed correctly or the clouds are.

What I learned:

This was very early in my efforts with a digital camera. Not knowing how to make this exposure decision, I made two versions — one for the clouds and another for the rocks. It was my first lesson on the impossibility of recovering blown highlights compare to boosting shadows. Fortunately, with the exposure set for the clouds, I was able to pull the rocks out of the shadows in the version at left.

Also, I should mention HDR. I almost never use it because I've found that there is a lot more detail in the shadows than you might think. HDR is a useful tool, but it's best reserved for extreme cases.