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:

Antique glasses in the Presby House Museum.

What I don't like in the picture:

Close objects like this are a challenge. The laws of optics dictate that shots like this are going to have a shallow depth of field.

What I learned:

Our normal response is to use a tiny aperture, but small apertures like f/18 or f/22 will soften the image due to diffraction. Not only that, but even at f/22 there might not be enough depth of field to cover the entire object. This is a perfect opportunity for focus stacking.

The image at left is a blend of 8 exposures, each one focused on part of the object just a bit farther away than the previous exposure. These 8 exposures were combined in Photoshop to create the image at left with all of the glasses in focus from the nearest point to the farthest point. There are pleny of YouTube videos where you can learn how to do this. My camera allows me to have it make the series of exposures and the camera changes the focus point in small steps to cover the entire object. Sweet!