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:

The above is not my photograph, but a wonderful image by Linda Butler from her spectacular book Yangtze Remembered. We published a portfolio of her project in LensWork #56, Jan - Feb 2005.

Our mental gallery:

Butler's image made a real impression on me for reasons I'm still trying to figure out. I think it may have to do with the polished stone that are the result of generations of people walking over these stones. That element of time is so present in her image. Whatever the reason, Butler's image has been a part of my mental gallery since I first saw it.

What I learned:

The image at left is mine from a trip to China in 2012. Clearly it is an image that grew out of Butler's. I was purposely trying to do something inspired by her photograph. Butler's is way better. Sometimes you can't really appreciate an image until you try to do something similar yourself.