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:

Dappled sunlight is so fun!

What I don't like in the picture:

Dappled sunlight can be too much fun and end up creating a confusing mess.

What I learned:

Not a foolproof bit of advice, but I often find that dappled sunlight is best if it strikes only one surface of an image. In the above, the dappled sunlight is everywhere — in the trees, on the forest floor, in the distant background. Too much to visually deal with.

In the image on the left, the dappled sunlight mixes with the shadows, but only on the ground. The wall behind this rock garden at Ryoanji in Kyoto is in total shadow which makes the image easier to comprehend. Not nearly as visually confusing at the one above.