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?