Do you remember the days before the magic of Instagram, Photoshop and Lightroom? I do, and I have the photos to prove them. Looking through old Facebook albums of vacations past has hit me with a wave of nostalgia and an urge to re-edit all those photos I took before I knew how to use all our the photo editing programs we use today.
If looking at your own old misaligned, overly saturated vacation photos isn't enough to convince you to re-edit them, then maybe the following reasons will:
1. It gives you a chance to correct past mistakes
I went on a grand East Coast backpacking trip around seven years ago, when I was in my early twenties. Back then, I had no idea about the different elements of a photograph like saturation, contrast, highlights and temperature. I didn’t know that I could isolate certain parts of the photo to enhance them.
The good news is that photography mistakes are always fixable, even if they happen to be seven years old. I find it oddly therapeutic, being able to correct and modify photos from my youth. It’s almost like being able to hop into a time machine and teach your past self how to take better photos.
2. It’s a great way to refresh yourself with photography basics
Seeing all the photography mistakes you’ve made in the past is a great way to refresh yourself with the basics. After a few years of taking photos for a living, you start to shoot on auto-pilot. You don’t stop to think about why you're choosing certain settings and compositions. Going through photos from when you were starting out will force you to be critical of your own work, nitpicking all the things that you did wrong, and in the process rehashing all of the practice and experience that got you to where you are today.
3. It’s a source of renewable content
Old photos are a great source of content for your social media accounts. #WayBackWednesday, #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday were conceived for a reason. If you ever find yourself at a loss for something to post, now is the time to go through all your old photos and re-edit them to make sure they fit with your current style.
4. It helps your portfolio look consistent
A quick scroll through my Instagram feed will reveal the different preferences for color and treatment I had over the past few years. One minute i was obsessed with low contrast, cold photographs, the next I would go for high contrast, warm photos with green shadows. The advent of different photo editing programs and apps have fostered an environment where photographers are forced to come up with a “signature” look. Consistency matters, now more than ever and it’s important to be able to showcase a set of photographs that adhere to a look and style that is uniquely you.
That being said, it’s not like you can just discard photographs you’ve taken in the past, especially if they were shot in special locations or have important subjects in them. The quickest way to fix this is to apply your current presets to past photographs so that you can include them in your portfolio without them sticking out like a sore thumb.
5. It helps you get organised
Be honest, when was the last time you checked your hard drives from five years ago? If you’re anything like me, your answer would probably be “five years ago”. Setting out on a mission to re-edit and rescue your old photos gives you a great reason to back up and organise your old files by copying them into an online storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox, and maybe even print some images you had forgotten about. You might find some images you can sell to stock libraries, or be able to turn them into artwork or compile them for an exhibition.