Comparing your work can be one of the healthiest reminders of just how far you've come in your photography even if those early photos are a bit embarrassing. Come share yours!
Inspired by the recent trend on social media to share your physical transformation over the last decade, I thought what better time to be productive and take a look back at just how far I've progressed over the years in photography. Sometimes I feel like I haven't made any progress in my photography and even just looking at photos from a few years ago I can prove myself wrong. It is in my nature to continually push myself and hone my abilities. Thus when it feels like I haven't learned anything new or pushed myself to make the next image better than my last, I start to feel stagnant.
That's the beauty in reflecting back from where you started. If you ever start to question your progress you can always refer back to your old work. Enough rambling, let's take a look at some old photos and please don't laugh. OK, you can laugh.
It was 2009 and I had just discovered what Adobe Lightroom was. A time of very little knowledge and lots of experimenting, I created fun images I thought were interesting. Obviously looking back it can be quite comical and ask, what on earth was I thinking? At the very least I got my horizon line straight and there's quite a few things following the rule of thirds. Keep in mind I picked one of the better images from when I started photography. We all have to start somewhere right?
Our very own Robert Baggs decided to show me up and share one of his comparisons. It's OK, you can just keep laughing at my image from 2009. In all seriousness though, Baggs' first image has some questionable choices. Enlarging the image reveals water drops on the wall that are half smeared and half natural. Also what's going on with that big dark spot to the right of the model?
Alex Cooke decided to join in and make me feel a little bit better after Baggs showed me up. Professionally speaking he probably could have added a bit more of a vignette and really pump up the contrast to max. Also I'd like to see more hair strands throughout the image instead of just the lonely one on the left side. I think we should all thank Cooke for reminding us that just how far we can come in photography.
Shavonne Wong's comparison is a great example of using nearly the same technique in a photo with completely different results. Using a backlight to create flare in portraiture is one of the first techniques you might practice when working in a studio. It's very clear in this comparison how time, hard work, and experience can turn practice into stunning work.
Bill Larkin wrote an article a few years ago about comparing your work to improve. So when I purposed this idea he was the first to offer his comparison shots. It's quite clear Larkin knew a bit more about a camera than I did in 2010. That doesn't take away from the incredible transformation over the years from a passable portrait session to a much more stylized artistic expression. Something to take away from your old photos isn't just better technical skills it's also the changes and development of finding you're own aesthetic.
I actually wrote a more in-depth look into why reviewing your old work is productive. The largest takeaway is that we all started somewhere, whether you picked up your first camera yesterday, last year, or a lifetime ago. One of the things I love the most about photography is the feeling of progress, that I'll take the best photo I've ever taken sometime this year and repeat the process next year. I never want to stop learning or improving in my photography or who I am as a person — there will always be room to improve.
I'd love to see everyone share their before and after photos in the comments. If you haven't been shooting for 10 years just post the oldest photos you've taken so far. Don't be shy!