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:

Japanese temple bells. Damn, I want a good photograph of one.

What I don't like in the picture:

I have dozens of images of various temple bells from numerous visits to Japan. None of them work for the same reason this one doesn't — distracting background.

What I learned:

Repeatedly, my knee-jerk reaction to eliminating the distracting background is to move in closer and photograph the details on the surface of the bell. Unfortunately, none of these images feel like a bell. It looks more like a wall. The answer eludes me.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

What if I could find a moment when the bell is being rung by a monk and captured that action?