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 first saw this string of red ribbons in inner Mongolia.

What I don't like in the picture:

The one above has distracting background elements. The one at top/left resolves that issue, but is sort of plain.

What I learned:

The one bottom/left was photographed years later at a different temple. I love the roof that adds context to the red ribbons. I immediately thought of the earlier attempts and tried to improve. We live, we learn — sometimes over a decade or two.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I might brighten those red ribbons a bit. I like the older images' sunshine.