What Happens When A Photographer Revisits Their Work 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!
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...
The building wasn't perfectly straight. It's close, but the wall didn't quite make a right angle from the ground.
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!
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:
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.
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.
And just for fun, I took a look at some other images that I thought could use another looksy…it’s fascinating to me, as a creative, to pull old images out of the archives - images that, when I took them, took my breath away and I thought “This!…This is the stuff!” - and see things I never noticed before.
The image on the left is one that I shot in my old studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The worn red brick would give, I thought, an “edgy” reddish filter effect, one that I showed off for years. Now when I look back I think “why did I like that?” haha.
The image on the right is more of a posing change rather than a stylistic one. Aesthetically, I love the image’s lighting and angle and background as much now as I did then. This wedding took place at the Governor’s Club in 2009, and when I nailed this image, it became a display in my studio, it went on the cover of one of my marketing pieces, and was a key image in my portfolio.
Now, being much more astute with posing and having more command of what to do with my clients’ hands, I look back and cringe at how I did not ever think to have her tuck her elbow behind her hip “red carpet style”. So, I decided to Photoshop it instead (no! not a substitute for good posing in camera, but once I realized it, I could not un-see it, so for me, it was fun to see how it would have looked had I done it right the first time).
This final image is yet another one that has always made me smile. The original, however, was taken around 2011 or 2012, when the sort of “dirty-edge grunge style” thing was very “in”. Just another reminder of why I try now not to follow the hot trends in editing, and just go now for a clean, classic, color-correct edit. (For those photographers who are into that washed out, white-sky, pale skin, no-detail-in-the-whites kind of thing, I squint to think of how dated they might look in 10 years). Hey…I was guilty of it too, as you can clearly see by my desperate need to re-edit this photo of my own! #NoJudgement! :D
So, 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?
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