With the plethora of digitized photos now sweeping the industry, it’s tempting to ignore older photos for new, super-stylized photos. Products like Photoshop make editing easy, and flashy effects create the illusion that new means better. This can be a good thing. After all, new technology means innovation and cooler products. But in our efforts to stay on top of the market, we may have forgotten about all those old photos collecting virtual dust in our computer files. I’d like to show you what to do about those forgotten pictures and how innovative techniques can actually help bring renewed life to these old pictures.
Photography is constantly changing, and I am urged as a photographer to make new content and improve my performance. This can be an obstacle to my practice because it takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. In addition, I expend a lot of hours and sometimes money to outdo older projects. This is where revisiting old work comes in handy. Recently, I wanted to submit some old pictures I had done about a year and a half ago for a portrait article. Using Lightroom to fiddle with one of the images, I was able to resolve an inconsistency previously left undone. I quickly realised that with a couple of basic techniques, I was able to bring new life to the old photograph. In fact, one of its counterparts now seemed dull and lifeless by comparison. So I ended up redoing the entire batch of old pictures, and in around an hour I had a new batch of photographs that I could proudly display.
You can see how my previously unwanted old pictures now had new life, and yours might prove useful, too. There are situations when, for example, the first time you took the photos was for a special occasion, and some shots didn’t make the initial cut. Or your editor hated a couple of photos that you kept for a rainy day. Now’s your chance to bring your favourites back to life. With the use of new technology and editing techniques, those old favourites don’t have to become unwanted leftovers.
Another Man’s Treasure
Just because your old pictures are old to you, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be seen. After all, if they’ve been hiding in the backlogs of your disc drive for a year, chances are, no one’s seen them but you. So dust off those old files and bring them back for a second look. Do the images capture a moment worth remembering? Are they colorful, composed well, set just right? If not, then work with them. Publishers are always in need of good, solid work so don’t worry about the timeline as long as the shot is relevant to your medium. Whether you need to revitalize your portfolio or update your stock book, revisiting old pictures is a sure-fire way to add quantity and quality.
The world of art, especially photography, is full of critics. We judge each other on our form, content, and creativity. We do this constantly, and in nowhere is this more evident than in our own work, where we are constantly evolving in our points of view. Going through your old pictures can yield quite a different result than the first time you looked. After all, many things could have changed. Your perspective on life, your circumstances, and even the subject of the photographs can all change, meaning the way you look at them will change. Once this happens, there’s no telling what treasure lies hidden in the old photograph.
Since technology is constantly evolving, your editing software will probably have gotten an update since you took some of your old pictures. Chances are that as a professional photographer, you’ve invested some serious funds into new technology. Why not show off your new suites by pulling old pictures and re-editing them? After all, you won’t want to let go to waste all that money you spent and time you spent learning the latest Photoshop or Lightroom. With new features, your old pictures can look smart and fresh.
Because you’ve integrated this new technology, chances are you’ve also developed additional skills to add to your repertoire. Your old pictures will benefit from this additional knowledge. As you edit and build more skill, you’ll discover what’s important to you as a photographer and an editor. Each piece becomes better and better, so that eventually, your thousandth shot has evolved light years from your first. Going back through an old catalogue of photographs allows you an opportunity to revisit your earlier work and see if there’s a way to make it better, knowing what you know now.
The Way They Were
Photographs by their nature capture moments in time, and time is always changing. You may be tempted to discard old pictures in favor of new art, but don’t be so quick to ignore the memories associated with these gems. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, and to the subjects of the old pictures, these moments in time are worth much more. That old hair style, Dad’s first car, your favorite family holiday — these are moments worth saving, and they’re worth the extra time to re-edit and preserve. Even things that happen in recent memory become altered by other circumstances, so it’s a good idea to keep track of those “old” photographs that may not seem so old to the people who enjoy them.
Photoshoot, Part II
Once you’ve revisited your old pictures and given them new life, I recommend that all photographers give the original locations a second chance, too. As you have evolved as an artist, so the place where you took these photos has evolved, too. It might even be helpful, as a project, to retake some of the old pictures as new images and compare/contrast the outcome. You might be surprised by what you find. It will also help you gain perspective on why the location had such a special meaning to the original subject.
Having said all of this, I leave it to you. I recommend taking a few hours and sorting through your older work to see what’s waiting for a second chance. You might find something you didn’t know was there, maybe a whole catalogue to rework. Or you may just see a few old pictures that need new love. In any case, it can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor to undertake. I truly enjoy reworking my old pictures, which has been a pleasure over the years, and I wish you luck in doing the same.