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:

In 2009 during my first trip to China, I carried a brand new ultra-wide 7-14mm lens. I'd never used it, but was excited to try it out.

What I don't like in the picture:

The above is one of the first images with this lens, shot at 10mm. Notice anything missing? Like something at distance to give compositional near/far balance to the roasting chickens?

What I learned:

After half a dozen failures like this, I figured it out. Ultra-wides are all about the near/far subjects relating to one another. Should have been obvious, but I didn't pick up on it until I had enough failures under my belt to learn the lesson.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I wonder if I could convincingly clone out that guy just off the subject's right elbow?