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Making Your Old Images Feel New Again

I’ve been thinking about this photo tip for a while, mostly because I make it a habit to review my archive from years ago. As photographers who constantly practice and learn new things, it is natural for our sensibilities to evolve. What we thought looked good before may not today.

This can be attributed to a number of reasons, each of which may have large or subtle effects on what we find visually pleasing. We’re spending more time than ever looking at other people’s work. We read articles and watch tutorials on techniques that we may not have known about before. New software gets released all the time, offering different ways to express ourselves.

All of these things have an impact on how we approach our photos, both in the way we compose and in the way we process, Change is a constant that we should fully embrace and I find it really rewarding to see how my own photographic sensibilities have evolved over time. In this case, I am focusing on two photos taken, edited, and shared six years ago.

I took this photo in 2008 while touring around Arizona and Utah with some good friends. I was using a Canon Digital Rebel XTi at the time and was still very much in my formative years as a landscape photographer. We pulled off to the side of the road right near Mile Marker 13, famously depicted in the movie, Forrest Gump.

When I first edited this photo back then, I didn’t have a fraction of the editing knowledge that I do now. On top of that, I had totally different sensibilities around what I thought was visually appealing. When I look at the 2008 version today, I cringe a because of how overly baked I let me photo get. But at the same time, I look at it fondly because I see where I came from and where I am now. With that said, I want to make an important point here: I do not feel that one version is better than the other. One photo represents the photographer I was and the other represents the photographer I am.

This exercise of reviewing your own journey as a photographer is instrumental to facilitate your growth. I’m personally happy to see a rather significant difference between then and now with this photo. I feel that, while the 2014 Version stylization is certainly apparent, it is much more subtle than the 2008 Version. Additionally, I opted to replace the sky with one that adds more substance to the background, further illustrating an evolution of technique applied. I had also learned to identify and remove distracting elements in the 2014 version that were otherwise left in frame with the 2008 version.

To further illustrate my own evolution, I re-edited another old favorite taken on the same trip at the famed Horseshoe Bend, near Page, AZ. When reviewing the freshly re-processed 2014 version and the original 2008 version, I realized that I have become more sparing with the crispiness of the Clarity slider and have learned to appreciate contrasting warm tones against cool ones more. Mind you, I still very much like the older 2008 version. I simply feel that this new 2014 version better represents the photographer that I am today. Knowing this makes me feel more confident that I am on the right path for growth and evolution. It also makes me really eager to wonder what the 2020 version of me will think of the 2014 version.

I hope this post inspires you to go back through your own archives with a fresh set of eyes. Find images that you had worked on and honestly ask yourself whether you would do anything differently today. Just remember that these older images represent where you were as a photographer, which is such a critical component to knowing where you are now and where you want to go.

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