There are all sorts of sayings about how one should never live in the past, always keep moving forward, never look back. It’s generally good advice — I get the lesson these precepts intend to instil. But as always, there are exceptions.
I think it’s a good idea for photographers to look back every once in a while. You know that virtual mountain of photos you have stored across multiple hard drives? What are you doing with them? When was the last time you clicked on the earliest dated folder in your Lightroom library?
If you haven’t had a look at your old photos in a while, you should.
Here are 3 reasons you should occasionally rummage through your personal photo archive.
Find Hidden Gems
When you’re culling a bunch of photos you have had a mental checklist of characteristics of you want those images to possess — it’s more than a matter of whether they’re good or bad.
In cases such as this, it’s easy to overlook or dismiss photos that are actually pretty good, but due to the fact that they don’t fit into what you need at the moment, you don’t pay much attention to them.
And then you just forget about them.
When you go back and look at those old images with fresh eyes, you’re likely to come across a shot or two that you like more than you remember, which is always fun.
New Skills, New Edits
No one excels at image editing when first starting out. You can prove this to yourself when you dig through your old photos and find some potentially good images that make you cringe at how poorly you edited them.
Odds are you went overboard with the editing — too much sharpening, contrast, clarity. The usual rookie mistakes.
Now that your post-processing skills have improved, you can re-edit those older photos and give them the treatment they deserve.
Mistakes To Learn From
I think this is the most important reasons to revisit your old photos.
Again, it can be a cringe-inducing activity — I’ve buried my head in my hands numerous times when looking at shots I took years ago. But I do believe it’s time well spent.
Not only does reviewing your mistakes remind you not to make those same mistakes again, but it also allows you to take an honest assessment of just how far you’ve come — or haven’t.
Obviously, you want to be able to look at your old photos and say, “Wow, I’ve come a long way.” Progression should be the goal of any creative individual.
If, however, you look at those shots and feel not much has changed from then to now…well…at least you know you’ve got work to do. And that maybe all it takes to light a fire under you and get you motivated.
There’s nothing wrong with a periodic trip down memory lane. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. You get to rediscover some of the good things you did that you may have forgotten about; you can rework otherwise good shots with your improved editing skills; you can assess your creative growth.
When was the last time you revisited your archives? What did it teach you?
Jason, I have been doing this for the last few weeks. Along with “cleaning” some pics up, I have also been making copies and turning them into digital artworks, creating new stories.
Hello! These are so true!! I do this work the last weeks, I clean my hard drives!
All 3 are so true!! Thank you for your article!!
Hi Jason As purely an amateur photographer I have made a point in revisiting old catalogues since the current COVID crisis began and I have found lots of photos that had either been overlooked or re-edited with some great results, keep up the good work