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.

Click on the image to see it larger

Previous image  |  Next image

Original digital capture

Click on the image to see it larger

What I saw that I liked:

A historic 3-dimensional statue against a 2-dimensional painted wall in San Juan Bautista in California.


This kind of subject often presents a debate in my thinking: Do I photograph the context? Or, do I photograph the details? The dilemma is that both compositions work and I like both images.

This is where working in multiple-image projects helps. I have no idea how to choose just one of these images for finishing as wall art. On the other hand, I could easily use both of them in a folio, a chapbook, or a PDF. The actually compliment each other. This is one of the reasons I prefer working in projects rather than "greatest hits" images.

In fact, using both of them has a distinct advantage in a project. By using the "context" image above first in a sequence of images, the appearance of the "detail" image at left has the psychological impression of drawing the viewer in. It's as though they walked closer to the statue — which naturally makes the viewer more involved in the sequence of images.

So, my advice is to make both images. In fact, maybe an entire series that move closer and closer. For example, too bad I didn't have an image from outside the building looking in with just a glimpse of the statue and maybe a super close image of just Christ's feet. That sequence of four images would be interesting.