Can An Image Look Better 6 Years Later?

Anyone can become a better technician at whatever they do, by sheer volume and practice (this setting does this, that button does that, I press this to get X, I turn this knob to get Y)...obvious, right?

But does a photographer's ability to SEE actually improve over time? As in, can they look back at work they created in the past, work that they thought - at the time - was just the thing, and now see things they never noticed before?

I would argue yes!

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This is an image from 2012 that I absolutely loved when I shot it. I still do.

But now when I see it with fresh eyes, and another almost 7 years of experience under my belt, I realized a few things...

  1. The building wasn't perfectly straight. It's close, but the wall didn't quite make a right angle from the ground.

  2. While the angular shadow is something I wanted, I missed the fact that the hot spot on the ground was drawing the eye away from what I wanted to actually be looking at...the bride!

  3. The "sub-plot" in this image is the story of of the worn and weathered building she's in, yet I completely drowned it out and didn't give it the attention it needed.

With a few minor adjustments in my crop and dodge and burn tools, I changed it to this:

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I'm still proud of the original image, but I am happy to say the renewed version is a much better representation of what I wanted to say.

Experience matters, but not just from the technical perspective, but from an angle of artistic growth. Being able to shoot simply takes practice. Being able to see takes time.

When I shot this wedding, I had already been a professional photographer for almost 11 years - nothing to sniff at. While the first version of the image is by no means “wrong” from a technical sense, aesthetically, I can see now the little details that you only realize when looking back and realizing how much more trained my eye has become.

(Side note - I have to also say that with time and experience also comes confidence to share one’s growth. Would I have had the gumption to post this transparently 10 years ago - a time period at which I would have already had a respectable 7 years under my belt? Probably not! )

For easier reference, here are the Before and After images next to each other. It’s subtle, but you can definitely see the extra “polished” feel of the more recent iteration.

How about you? What’s one hobby or skill you’ve had for most of your life, but look back and realize how much more refined you have become in more recent years? Leave a comment and share!