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.

Click on the image to see it larger

Previous image  |  Next image

Original digital capture

Click on the image to see it larger

Click on the image to see it larger

What I saw that I liked:

Red pillars — front lit, side lit, and back lit. Same temple on a freezing winter day in China.

What I don't like in the picture:

Actually, I like all three of these, but for different reasons.

What I learned:

One strategy I picked up a long time ago was to give myself flexibility by photographing a subject from angles that provide all three kinds of light. This is a good example. At the time, I knew I wanted a photograph of the red pillars, but wasn't sure which I would need. So shoot all three and sort it out later!

So far, I've only used the backlit one in a project. And as it turns out, that one was processed as a b/w. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men.