It’s a good idea to look back. Ten years ago I was looking at my photography idols and wondering what it’d be like to be doing this for a decade. Now I’m here, and I love that I can look back at 10 years’ of work. As I do, I’m impressed by one thing, and it’s the thing I’ve been telling clients for a decade.

Photographs unlock the power of memory

Scott Bourne calls us the high priests of memory protection. I believe that. And we always tell clients that they’ll treasure these pictures for generations and all the things they experienced in that time of their lives will come back when they look at the pictures. That’s what they are buying when they hire us for portraits: A reminder that lasts a lifetime.

The lens looks both ways, and so does the frame

We know that when we make a picture, our own situation and view of things affect the way the picture looks. It has the stamp of our lives on it as much as the subject’s. The thing that impresses me as I look back at pictures I made a decade ago is that my memories come flooding back, too. I remember the day I made the picture. I remember the things I learned that day. I remember using those lessons on the next several shoots, including the self-portrait of my wife and me. I remember the camera and the lens and the lighting, and all the tools I was learning to use at that time.

Your clients will enjoy seeing the picture in the frame and remembering the people they were, and you’ll enjoy seeing everything that went into getting that picture into the frame.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @f/7.1, 1/60s, ISO 400.

Remember your own joy

Most importantly, I see that I did a good job then, and I see that I can still do a good job, now. I don’t think you need to spend a lot of time dwelling on the stuff you did last month. You should learn from it, of course. But you should look back now and again at the work you did a long time ago and see how far you’ve come. You should look back and remember the joy you’ve had making portraits and making memory markers for your clients. This reminiscence can reinvigorate your work now.

Look back, then go out and get after it.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.