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Time to Reshoot Your Old Photos

Time to Reshoot Your Old Photos

If you have not done so recently, now is a great time to see how much you’ve improved as a photographer. One of the best ways to see how you have grown is to recreate your old images.

It can be difficult to see how much you have improved as a photographer. With every image, you get better, even if that leveling up happens in small incremental steps. The way you stage and style — when not collaborating with a stylist — the way you shape light, the choices you make about aperture and focal length, all these improvements can happen without fully appreciating how far you have come.

When recreating your old photos, set some ground rules. Recently, I decided to recreate some of my old photos. The rules I set were simple. The results were dramatic. Adapt my rules for your genre of photography.

Recreate the Composition as Closely as Possible

This is the easiest place to both begin and end. You may not have the same camera equipment or props, but you can recreate the general composition rule you followed and the approximate placement of the props and hero. Also, recreate the directionality of the light, as much as possible. The results can be surprisingly dramatic when all you are left with is how you modify the light and the choices you make about the lens you use and the aperture.

Recreate the Propping as Much as Possible

When you are just starting out, you use whatever it is you have on-hand to prop your photography. You may still have those items, or they may have been rehomed. It is always fun to reuse those old props or a mix of the old and new. When you pair this rule with using the same composition as the old image, you will see how you have grown as a stylist. You also get to see with greater certainty the effects your lighting and lens choices have on your photography. You will also get a really good idea of the choices you make in post-production have evolved.

Make Something That Is the Same but Different

This rule is a little more difficult to explain. But the gist is, recreate everything as much as possible to the original, then make one change big change, and one small change. The big change can be in the form of swapping out a prop that contributes to the story. The minor change can be a small shift in camera angle. The goal is to capture the feeling/story you were trying to capture the first time but did not quite achieve. You are giving it a little zhuzh.

When I was recreating my old images, one of the things I became extra mindful about was how quickly I now come to decisions. I also noticed how quickly I reach the desired result. These are also improvements. I have kept the raw file of every single digital image I have captured.

As an example, the original chicken soup image, there were over 50 captures before I got something with which I was the tiniest amount satisfied. When I look back at those old files, you can tell that every change I made between shots was based on a hope and a prayer that it would work out. The updated version was captured in eight, with very mindful and intentional changes made between each capture.

What other rules would help you see how you’ve improved? What are some other things you do to quantify how you’ve grown as a photographer?

Jules Sherred's picture

Based in Duncan, BC, Jules Sherred works as a food photographer, writer, journalist, and outspoken advocate for disability and trans rights. He is also an instructor, has his work featured in art shows, and is an accredited food photographer. His cookbook CRIP UP THE KITCHEN is due to be published by TouchWood Editions in Spring 2023.

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As wildlife photographers, we almost can't help but to recreate the "same" photos year after year. I mean, we go to the same place at the same time of year, year after year, to photograph the same species .....

Montana prairies for the Whitetail Deer rut (breeding season) every November.

The Rocky Mountains for the Bighorn Sheep rut every autumn.

Colorado for the Elk rut every September.

Eastern deciduous forests for Warblers every spring.

Nebraska every spring for the Sandhill Crane staging.

California every December for waterfowl on their wintering grounds.

The Pacific Coast every January for breeding Elephant Seals.

Etc., etc., etc.

So over the years we can look back at our old photos, and compare them to our newer work, to see how much the images have changed. The changes come from a few factors - improved skills, improved gear, and changes in our tastes and aesthetic preferences, or "artistic vision", if you will.

People in the US really are spoilt for choice when it comes to wildlife and/or landscape photography.

If I want to reshoot monkeys in the wild, it's going to cost me thousands of dollars and at least 15 hours non-stop flying each way to my nearest destination. :-(

Regarding artistic vision and skill - It's sometimes embarrassing how much we've changed over the years, which makes reshoots even more valuable.

If I wanted to shoot Monkeys in the wild, it would also cost me thousands of dollars and many hours of flying! LOL

Where is it that you live? What wild animal species do you have in your country that you can photograph without spending thousands, and that are within a couple day's driving distance?

I live in New Zealand. Not a huge amount of wildlife here except for small birds and a few tiny lizards.

I saw a kiwi (our national bird and nickname for ourselves) in the wild on the weekend. Drove 100km (1.5 hours) to the wildlife reserve to make this happen. That was one for the bucket list!

So mostly, I shoot cormorants, herons and try to shoot swamp harriers. I also shoot a few birds that are only found in NZ (the swamp harrier, bellbirds, tui, etc) but don't have much budget for that.

When I shot wild macaques, that was in Hong Kong (+15hrs flying). The pandemic delayed my trip to Malaysia to shoot Orangutan, Proboscis Monkeys and Wagglers Vipers in the wild then on to Vietnam for Red-shanked Douc. Perhaps Feb/March next year for that one. Pre-pandemic that would've been a cheap trip, about $2000 for 8 days of hard slog.

Almost forgot: A couple of days driving is almost the length of the country :-)
It's often cheaper to "holiday" overseas than anywhere within the country that requires flying and road trips here are hard work due to the roads.

Reshooting old pictures can also be inspiring because you can't help but notice how far you've come and the way you've improved your skills. I used to do this on purpose, recreating some of the old pictures and then combining them and the new ones in smartshow 3d slideshows and making videos of 'How it started Vs. How it's going' type. It also helps a lot when you feel like you've stuck. Really a great thing to do.

Also the improved gear can help if you print large.

I'm trying to redo some 8mp shots now that my main cameras are 42mp. AI resizing only goes so far.

That is a great point about printing large.

Several years ago, I had a client order two prints in 48" by 32". They were going to be displayed in an 10 foot wide hallway, so viewing distance would be close. I knew the image quality would not be acceptable at that size and viewing distance, so I had to tell them that the largest size I could offer was 40" by 27". Killed me to have to say that, and I was very frustrated with my gear because it cost me a good sale.

Some people mistakenly think that the larger an image is, the further away it is viewed from. This is a bunch of malarky, as many many many very large prints are permanently hung in smallish rooms, where they are viewed from 3 to 10 feet away. And of course, when the images feature a wild animal or bird as the subject, people walk right up to them to see the fine detail at very close range. Hence the great usefulness and versatility that 30, 40, and 50 megapixel sensors give us.

Yes, this! I'm sorry I can't upvote you more than once!

Such generalisations about viewing distance work for billboards, but I too have seen people investigate prints up close. Perhaps the viewing distance crowd prints architectural / landscape only?