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:

That dirt road covered by a skiff of snow. What a lovely s-curve!

What I don't like in the picture:

Actually, I like this one, but just a bit down the road I found the composition at left. To my eye, that one at left is a killer image. I can't seem to find a use for the one above, not when I have the one at left as a better option. Sometimes "good" just can't compete with "better."

What I learned:

But there is a deeper problem with the landscape at left. The tones are good, the composition is good, the snow is fun, the trees — are what's left from a forest fire. Who want a landscape photograph of a forest fire hanging above the fireplace? I think it's images like this one that have pushed me to far into project-oriented photography. Not everything should be a "pretty picture." Beauty isn't the only option for art; there's also truth.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

This would make a big print. I need to try, even though it's not every going to be a hot seller.