One of the great things about digital photography is that memory is cheap. We can take lots and lots of photos without ever having to worry about expensive film. You can buy a big memory card once, and use it over and over again.
As a result, you probably have a big stockpile of photos somewhere. Maybe it’s in some obscure folder on your computer, or maybe it’s on a big external hard drive somewhere.
With all these photos, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When you get back from a long day out on the trails, you might go through all your photos quickly, and grab the really good ones to process and share online. But, in this process you might immediately label a lot of those photos as “bad” — and bury them in that giant stockpile of photos you have hiding somewhere.
Since we’re always adding more and more photos to this stockpile, it’s easy to forget about them and never look through them again.
But, it’s a good idea to browse through all those “rejects” every once in a while. Here are a few reasons why:
#1 – You might have learned new post-processing techniques
Photography is a constant learning process. There’s always something new to learn about the latest post-processing software, and you’re always working to refine your unique vision of the world.
So, when you look through old photos, you might spot one that you previously thought was “un-fixable” or maybe you just didn’t know what to do with it.
For example, the photo above is one of the first shots I ever took with a digital SLR. When I originally shot this photo, I was only thinking about color photographs–and this photo isn’t very interesting in color. The original was also very underexposed, so even if I fixed the exposure in post-processing, the colors would have some very strange looking contrast. But, since then, I’ve really developed an interest in black and white landscape images.
So, when I saw this photo again a few weeks ago, I immediately thought, “hey, this image would look great in black and white and maybe a subtle brown tint!!” I tried it out, and now it’s one of my favorite images.
#2 – You might have new standards about “good photos”
Another thing that constantly changes in photography are your standards for what makes a “good photo.” I think when we first get into photography, it’s easy to concentrate on all the measurable aspects of a photo–is the exposure good? Is it sharp? But, then later on we learn that a “good photo” is much more about composition and capturing an interesting moment.
For example, when I first got into photography, I was obsessed with sharpness. I felt like every aspect of my subject had to be in sharp focus. So, when I first saw the photo above of a Variable Checkerspot butterfly, I immediately rejected it because the top of the butterfly’s wings are a little out of focus. Since then, I’ve become a lot less picky about sharpness and a lot more picky about composition. So, when I saw this photo again a few weeks ago, I changed my mind, and now it’s in my “good photos” collection.
#3 – You might have rushed through a set of photos
If photography is a hobby for you, then chances are that you don’t always have as much time as you’d like for photography. So, sometimes when you take a bunch of photos, you won’t have time to process all the good ones right away. Then, a few days go by, life gets busy, and a few weeks later you totally forget about all those great shots you took at Yellowstone Looking through your old photos will help remind you of those great shots you forgot about.
What did I miss?
If you already look through your old photos every once in a while, what else have you learned from looking at those old shots? Please share with us by leaving a comment below. Thanks!
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.