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:

Winter trees out front of a Japanese tea house in Tohoku.

What I don't like in the picture:

Other than me, I doubt anyone would realize this is an image from Japan. I rejected this image almost immediately from my projects about Japan. For that purpose, this is a failure.

What I learned:

A few years ago, however, I was working on a project of "winter tree bones" and stumbled across this Japan reject. It was a perfect image for a "tree bones" project. I cropped in a bit to concentrate on the tree and sky and bingo! I had an image I was delighted to use — rescued from the reject pile.

An image is neither good nor bad. It may be good or bad for a given project, but that is not a reflection of the image, but rather its suitability for a given use. There are no "rejects," only image that haven't found a place where they belong yet.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Clearly, I need to spend more time with my rejects to see what else I've overlooked.