Your Photography From 2009 Versus 2019

Your Photography From 2009 Versus 2019

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.

Comparisons 

2009 Florida vs 2018 Norway

Florida vs Norway

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?

Robert Baggs's 2009 vs 2018 Portrait Work

Robert Baggs's 2009 vs 2018 Portrait Work

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 old photo of a seascape lighthouse

How Not to Apply a Vignette

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 incredible 2009 vs 2018 comparison

Comparing The Same Technique Years Apart

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's photo showing how you find your style over time

How You Find Your Style Over Time

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. 

Conclusion

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!

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29 Comments

Mark Guinn's picture

Ok, I'll play... I finally bought my first "real" camera (you know, one that you can't make calls on) in January 2017 as a Christmas/birthday present for myself. The first image is from one of my first outings. I couldn't find the very first pics, but I remember there was A LOT of experimentation with angles and color subjects with black and white backgrounds. In this pic, I'm wincing at the blown out sky and the blurriness that looks like I was walking past the church when I clicked the shutter.

2 years later, I'm nowhere close to where I want to be in terms of photographic talent but at least I can see some forward movement.

Thanks for the article, sometimes it's nice to look back and see how far you've come.

Alex Armitage's picture

Crazy what less than a year can really do huh? What are you goals for this year?

Mark Guinn's picture

This year, the goal is to capture a scene as epic as your "Road to the Heavens." 😉Other than that, I just want to keep fueling the photography obsession by learning as much as I can.

Alex Armitage's picture

That photos was 90% luck, 5% having a camera, 5% skill haha. Hope you find your road this year! I'd love to get another myself.

Owain Shaw's picture

I'll need to dig out my stacks of CD-Rs (I was a student and external hard drives were expensive back then) to check on stuff from that era ... although I think specifically 2009 I was shooting on medium format film more than digital. Anyway, I like this version of the 10 Year Challenge for Photographers.

Alex Armitage's picture

You better find em! Also might be a good time to put everything on a hard drive if you care about archiving that old stuff.

Owain Shaw's picture

I did go through the stacks, as expected there's next to nothing from 2009 because I was shooting film pretty much exclusively that year. I did do a sift through about a year ago to copy anything I really wanted to keep (which wasn't much) on to my hard drive, but so much of my earlier work is not relevant any more that it wouldn't be a huge loss if it ceased to exist. This goes for my film stuff as well.

In the spirit of playing the game though, I can do you some stuff from 2006 - some of my earliest digital photographs - when I used to photograph motorsport and think I was special for photographing through the long grass ... there isn't really much to directly compare them with because I also stopped photographing motorsport that same year, eventually started photographing theatre until about 2014 ... so I have actually found a theatre photograph from that era. Now I just do personal work and documentary stuff. Here's something from an ongoing project on rural depopulation in Spain.

Alex Armitage's picture

Love it! Thanks for sharing. Also surprised that digital shot is that clean

Owain Shaw's picture

The first two are from my 20D (which is currently touring Argentina with some friends I lent it to) and the second one is from its highest native ISO of 1600. It actually looks pretty decent considering - although the 20D was of course a really good camera for its day. It was shot in production, and the company later tried recreating it when the cast changed - apparenetly it took them ages to get that shot, and this was the only frame I took of that moment because I was shooting in production and they instructed me to not take many. A little bit of pressure sometimes helps you to focus ...

Alex Armitage's picture

My first camera was the 50D. I still have it sitting around here somewhere...

Owain Shaw's picture

A cousin of my 20D then. I kept the 20D for years after getting a 5Dii just in case I ever needed a backup but it ended up just living on a shelf, so when some friends were looking at buying a camera before leaving on a trip that would eventually take them back to their native Argentina, I decided to give it away. I did a lot of work with that camera but I wasn't using it by that point whereas I hope they still are.

Alex Armitage's picture

I always kept it as a backup to my 6D but haven't used it much since. Couldn't justify selling it for barely anything and decided I'd rather just keep it or let someone learn photography with it.

Owain Shaw's picture

There's still a lot those old cameras could do for someone starting out. Peter McKinnon did a video on someone using a 350D/Rebel XT, which is the same vintage as my 20D,for all their instagram product photography output. If you find someone who's looking to learn, they could do far worse than an old 50D and a 50/1.8 or something.

Alex Armitage's picture

Yeah I keep it around for that exact reason. it still gets some occasional use!

Holger Genenger's picture

Three generations of Lumix: GH1, GH4, GH5 and a big change in topics...

Jeena Paradies's picture

But to be honest, back then I didn't do photography, I just had a compact camera I got from my dad and I had no idea how to use it so all my pictures had a blue tone to them.

Ryan Burleson's picture

My natural light photos right out of camera improved the most as it was a big goal. My next goal is to try some other modes besides manual all the time, I find it crazy that I’ve never used anything other than manual. My move from slower f4 lenses on crop sensors to full frame with 1.4 to 2.8 on all my lenses taught me I had weak dof skills and focusing issues all along.

Andrew Lodge's picture

I started in September 2017 with the Canon rebel t6 (1300d) which I still use because money is tight. Both images were taken with the kit lens.

Alex Armitage's picture

What type of photography have you found yourself enjoying the most?

Andrew Lodge's picture

Portraits, landscape, and urban landscape.

Alex Armitage's picture

I shot all kinds of stuff in the past. Whatever I felt was fun at the time.

Wyatt Ryan's picture

I had a little Kodak point and shoot with the ability to post to everything to social media around 2009, put it away after skiing season, and never really picked a camera up again until 2013. Come 2016, and I get into film photography by accidentally enrolling in a B&W Photography course that I thought was just digital converted. I've come a long way since 2009, and I've come even further since I started shooting film again (July 2018).

Alex Armitage's picture

Contemplating making a goal to learn to shoot film this year. I have no clue what I'm doing though.

dierk topp's picture

Alex,
looking at about 60 years of taking photographs as an amateur I see some progress of course a great curve of learning, but I also see a change of the sort of images, that I take. With more knowledge and better gear much more is possible, that has not been possible decades ago. And with the evolving gear and technique many possibilities get/got lost! :-( For example the Polaroid 55 film.
Here are some examples of portraits during that time

2002
2009
2015
and my very first portrait 1968

Alex Armitage's picture

Wow! What a history. Thank you for sharing.

dierk topp's picture

thanks Alex!
the last and the first image are my wife - before and many years after we got married
I had a hard time to select 4 images out of 5.000 portraits for this post :-)

Alex Armitage's picture

Do you ever still shoot film?

dierk topp's picture

I restarted last spring, got a Hasselblad 903 SWC, and started using my old Horizon 202 again, then I bought a 6x12 Pinhole (big problems with the vignetting) and therefor I have now a 6x17 pinhole with round filmplane. Besides that I got a Fotoman 6x17 (I really can see you start smiling!! :-) ) and finally a Hasselbad 500 C/B ....

Tomorrow I go on a trip with the two 6x17, tons of film, and some great lenses for my Sony A7 cameras (normal and IR converted) :-)))

Lübeck/Gernany with the 6x17 Fotoman

Alex Armitage's picture

The only things I know about film are from some of the youtubers who shoot film. That's about it! Haha. I don't really even know where to begin with it.