Revisit Your Photo Archives and Learn From Your Mistakes

Revisit Your Photo Archives and Learn From Your Mistakes

I’ve saved raw files for every shoot I’ve done since I’ve started. While I rarely revisit old shoots, there are good reasons that I should do just that more often.

Sometimes, I find some hidden gems in old files, things that I may have passed up the first time around for one reason or another. But here are some things that have helped me realize how important it is to rework your old files.

New Skills

For the shot at the top of the post, my original edit looked in 2008 looked like this:

My take on the featured photo with what I knew in 2008.

Yikes. Ten years later, it’s safe to say that I’m much better at post-processing than I was before. Beyond the skills with Photoshop, restraint is something that’s developed over time as well. While I’ll still make the mistake of using the odd filter here and there, it’s less often than when I started. Ditto for vignetting that does not, in fact, make every photo better.

New Tech, New Approaches

Twelve years ago, I was using a cheap 4:3 aspect ratio monitor of questionable origin and low resolution. Color correction wasn’t something that as a new-ish photographer I thought about. Photoshop was at version CS2 and I hadn’t heard of a company called Nik Software.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m using a high-end iMac and a Dell Ultrasharp Monitor (which, when you buy it new, even ships with the results of the color correction in the box). It’s much easier to get the colors looking as I saw them and to process a raw file with Adobe’s Creative Cloud and the new version of the Nik Collection.

A Humbling Experience

Then there are other times where you realize that you blew an opportunity, and it’s humbling. I was part of a photography group in Miami when I first started shooting, and they held an event in 2007 where aspiring models could pair up with new photographers for shoots. One of the people to come in front of my lens was Stacy Ann Fequiere of "America’s Next Top Model" fame. Of course, this was before she was on the show and on her way to stardom.

There were so many mistakes I made on this shoot with Stacy Ann Fequiere that I don't even know where to begin, but looking back at it is a learning experience 11 years later.

I took a grand total of 20 photos, and in most of them, I’ve awkwardly cut off a part of somebody’s body, or I’ve left out the bags for the Alien Bees. And I was still shooting JPEG only. Looking back on the experience is a good reminder not to do any of these things on future shoots. This shoot is destined to become a lesson I use for future students, since undershooting, awkward cropping, and random objects in the frame are all common afflictions of new shooters.

In the course of my video work for a newspaper, I also cut off Casey Weston of "The Voice" when she was just 15 years old in a newspaper-sponsored “Idol” contest, so I’m clearly on a roll with future reality show contestants. I should have just let her continue to sing.

Have you taken a look at your old files recently? What have you learned from a trip down memory lane?

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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1 Comment

This is a great idea. I have created new collections in Lightroom for the early years of my digital photography which I am going through the first year image by image whilst sat on the sofa watching the footie!.

Rick MCEvoy ABIPP -