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:

Something in those old medicine bottle intrigues me.

What I don't like in the picture:

Too bad the composition above is flat and lifeless. Downright awful, if we are honest.

What I learned:

The power of diagonal lines in a composition. Both of these images were made in the Pioneer Village museum in Crosby, North Dakota in adjacent buildings. I photographed the one above first, then in the next building found the scene at left. I loved that it was back-lit, had more dramatic light, but in particular saw that the diagonal lines of light made this composition more three-dimensional. Diagonals are our friends.