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:

I nice branch of fall maple leaves under some pretty bland light in a temple in Japan in 2009.

What I don't like in the picture:

Sometimes the light needs a little coaxing.

What I learned:

Perhaps the most talented photographer I've met at "orchestrating the light" was the late Jack Curran. It was by studying his images in some detail that I learned how to make "fake light" that brings a bland picture back from the brink of deletion.

These two renditions are from the same digital capture. The trick is to control the shadow detail so it looks real. I suppose this isn't so much orchestrating the light, as it is orchestrating the shadows.