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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Don't Delete Week

I know there are some photographers who permanently delete their "losers" in an effort to keep their required storage space to a minimum. Some even delete images from the camera while they are in the field! Don't. You never know what the future may hold.

What I don't like in the picture:

Admit it. We've all done it — accidently exposed incorrectly by 100 stops or so. At least. Garbage, right?

What I learned:

Because of my "don't delete" policy, I held onto this file even though it was crap. Then one day, just for fun, I wanted to explore the possibility of a pastel rendition of Death Vally. My assumption was to start with properly exposed images and lighten them to a pastel color palette. Then, I found this bad boy and took it in the opposite direction. To be honest, I had no idea I could pull this much out of the blown highlights, but it worked. Again, so glad I didn't delete it.