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'd previously had success with this idea of a white road in a sparse landscape. Thought I'd try it again.

What I don't like in the picture:

The above RAW capture seemed encouraging. That's the way it is with some pictures; they build your hopes and then mercilessly crush your spirit.

What I learned:

The first lesson was: Why did I feel the need to repeat this former success? Why? The second lesson was: There are limits to how much tone-pushing can be done when the image starts out lifeless. The third lesson was: Composition and content trump clever tones every time.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I'm rarely ready to give up on an image, but this one is, I'm afraid, destined for failure.