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:

I never tire of photographing the bamboo in Japanese temples.

What I don't like in the picture:

I often hear photographers say that "photography is about light." No, it's not about light, but we do use light to enhance our subjects. These two clearly are "about bamboo" but use light so differently.

What I learned:

I'm pretty convinced there is not such thing as "bad light." The pastel image above is different from the dramatic light of the image at left, but neither is better or worse because of the light used. Different, yes. But I would protest the idea that the one at left is better because the light is more dramatic.