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:

After yesterday's image, I thought I'd look through my Lightroom catalog for other images from high-rise hotel room. Found this one from Sanya, China.

What I don't like in the picture:

Clearly the above is underexposed. Wonder what I can pull out of those shadows?

What I learned:

More than I thought! And this was with a 2011 camera with an early sensor, the Panasonic G1. No doubt today's better sensors would do an even better job.

So, if it speaks to you, just make the exposure. "Fix it in post" has become an excuse that's looked down upon, but in truth it's not bad advice. As Shakepeare wrote in Hamlet, "There are more pixels in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your photography." At least that's the quote as I remember it.