If you've taken photos in your past travels that may not have exactly pleased you, you should take some time after a while to revisit them.
Have you ever gone on a long-awaited trip and ended up disappointed with the photos you took?
In the past years, have you gone to some dream destinations or ticked off some items on your shooting bucket list but ended up disappointed with your output? What you have to understand is that while your photography skills are developing through the years, your post-processing skills should have been as well.
Revisit your old hard drives and review some of the photos that you kept but probably thought weren’t good enough. Go back a decade, a year, or maybe even just a few months back, and try to find some photos that you wish you shot better. This may go against the principle of getting it right on camera, but at this point, you’ve acknowledged that that ship has already sailed.
Sometimes, You Just Weren’t Good Enough for the Photo You Took
It’s probably safe to assume that most photographers, just like the rest of the population, consume a lot of media each day. Whether it is in the newspaper, on the television, or on social media, we see a lot of photographs. These may be very casual interactions with the photos, but one way or another, they build a sort of image library in our heads that can inspire future treatments of our photos. Basically, every day, whether actively or not, we learn different ways to present the images we take. Photography is a constant learning process, and that is a huge manifestation of it.
When you first took that ugly image that you’re trying to give a second chance to, you obviously hadn’t learned as much as you have now. You haven’t been inspired by what inspires you now, and you haven’t had the experiences that have taught you what you know now. This may not be applicable to every single ugly photo in your archives, but one way or another, you’ll be able to find some that can be saved. If you’re lucky enough, you’re even going to find some photos that are going to turn out excellent.
Never Finalize Your Photos on the Same Day They Were Taken
Unless, of course, it’s a time-sensitive job or just a casual snapshot, you should take some time to let the image simmer. Sometimes, it’s also good to be able to identify when you’re overwhelmed by certain factors around the photograph. This can include the shooting experience or even your psychological or physiological state at the time you were evaluating or processing the photo. Personally, I avoid finalizing certain photos on the same day as I shot them, especially if the location took a bit of a hike or a long drive. The mere fact that you’re tired and probably even dehydrated can easily prevent you from seeing the full potential of your photo and worse, can distract you from seeing some distracting clutter in your composition that you might wish to crop out or remove.
As a side note, this is one of the reasons why I still personally prefer Adobe Lightroom’s non-linear workflow. The fact that my raw files are kept intact and cataloged in a way that I can easily access and undo or re-do whatever crap I’ve previously done to the photos allows me to easily go back to my old photos and give them another shot whenever I can find the time. This habit of digging up old photos from their graves could actually help a photographer when they’re stuck in a creative rut.