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Less Than Perfect Is … Perfect

Photography is no different than most other endeavors when it comes to results. You try to increase your chances of success by removing as many variables as possible. You have an idea. You plan. You practice. You know the applicable principles and how to apply them.

What you’re really doing is riding that Great Probability Distribution, trying to get the odds on your side. You can’t guarantee success – you can only improve your odds.

Because not everything is under your control. This is particularly true when you shoot people.

The photographer and his subject are a team – as is hair and makeup, the assistant, the digital tech, etc. The more personalities, the more variables, the more that probability distribution gets skewed. Not always in your favor.

Fortunately, photography is an art. And a craft. And like any art or craft, sometimes what arrives isn’t exactly what was planned. Or its materialization surprises us – the process produces the unexpected. Many times it’s bad. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes the mistake makes the art.

This shot is so painfully close to being technically perfect. The dancer is doing her thing wonderfully. But the photographer – me in this case – is suffering from variable overload. The focus is close, but not dead on. Motion is almost frozen. Almost. Lighting produced great results in the sequence – but isn’t perfect here.

It’s a near miss – a foul ball – destined for the bin, as the English say.

Or is it?

While I got many sharp, motion-stopped images, the less-than-perfect nature of this exposure adds something the others lack. Though not technically perfect, you can feel the movement – the joy – of the dancer leaping towards the surf. You feel.

The strobe is a little hot on her face. Like the rays of the sun as it dips lower onto the horizon – still bright, but warm. A feeling.

Not perfect. But perfect, enough.

Relying on the happy accident – the mistake – is risky business. But in trying for perfection – by stacking the odds in our favor – assures us of not only getting the proper shot, but of some improper ones as well. The runt of the litter. The misbehaving child that has a special place in our heart. That perfect shot that is less than – perfect.

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