Why You Should Visit Your Photos
The Story of Photos Over Time
As often happens, I sat down at my computer one morning—on the desk, a hot coffee to my left and Harriet, our 16-year-old Maine Coon, looking out an open window to the right—and decided to revisit photos I’d taken. It’s a rabbit hole I look forward to traveling down, every time.
Photos pile up, quickly. I try to download all the pictures from my phone at least once a month and back them up on various hard drives. My photograph-first-question-them-later-if-ever mentality has of course resulted in thousands of pictures.
Those photos are placed digitally, by month, alongside folders of all the other photos, digital and film, that accrue in one’s archive.
Many Photos, Many Purposes
Now, of course, photos serve all kinds of purposes: for me, some are pictures of a walk downtown while others are of snow tires I tried to sell on Facebook marketplace. Your photos will no doubt be a collection of images you took for various reasons and that is what I’m getting at.
Some photos are viewed, used and posted while others, are not. My suggestion to you is to take the time to look over images that you may have overlooked before or never did anything with. There could be lessons to learn from them and at the very least, they could provide you with a memory or escape to when the image was made.
While looking through some of my medium-format film photos taken last winter during a day-trip excursion to small towns, I came across numerous pictures that I’d forgotten about. I never posted them and they were only for my photo fulfillment but they mean something.
Memory Lane and Lessons From Past Pictures
By looking at the images, I was taken back to that cold day when the light was perfect and the roads were sketchy. I wondered what it was that moved me enough to make an image of the scene I made an image at. I wondered why I never did anything with the image. I wondered if I’d stooped a little lower, if the composition would be improved.
So, what I’m doing when I’m revisiting old images, is I’m editing and taking a trip back to when the image was made.
Now this is going to be a personal journey for you and everyone. Maybe you just don’t care about your old images enough to do anything with them. That’s fine.
Notice though, that there’s something to be gained from looking at past pictures. Whenever I study archived images, I’m also trying to find things I’d do differently. As a photographer, editing pictures—old or new—can teach us a lot. As you go through your pictures, you can make suggestions to yourself on how to improve upon your photography the next time you’re out.
It’s easy to become stuck in photographic routines, but, you’d be surprised at how handy those self-suggestions can be when you’re out in the field making pictures.
Sometimes too, it’s just fun looking at pictures and thinking about the conditions of the day and appreciating an image you created.
Photos are a bit of magic in a way because they can change. The picture will be the same but with the passage of time, it can take on different meanings and feelings. You may be at a different place in your photography. Some images can be cringe-worthy while others can be amazing pictures that will stand the test of time in your collection.
Whether you have reasons or not for revisiting past images, it’s a simple activity to do and can be meaningful in different ways.
Blog Note: All of the images I’ve posted here are images that I’ve never posted anywhere. They fall under the category of ‘pictures that I visit from time to time’. I wonder to myself what motivated me to dedicate one of ten frames on my film roll to the subject I photographed. It’s fun revisiting the day but mostly I’m wondering about how I could improve the pictures and how I’d change the composition if I were to be at a similar scene. Whatever I come away with from looking at the images, I feel like I’m a better photographer for doing it.
4 thoughts on “Why You Should Visit Your Photos”
Yes, it can be a very pleasant rabbit hole. Some photobloggers talk about the need to relentlessly cull images that don’t make the cut….I tend to delete only those that a truly awful, or the photos I make in my favourite spot for testing a new lens or gear. Very often I find that an image I did not think much of at first actually has merit when I look again later. More important than culling is filing so I can quickly find an image later.
Really well said Steve, thanks for sharing your comment!
Thanks to the pandemic I finally have time to cull through my Lightroom catalog for passed over images from which something new can be made. Out of habit, I try not to delete images that are not blurry or so severely damaged by over or underexposure that they can’t be saved. This may contribute to a bloated catalog but SSDs are fast enough that I don’t tend to notice.
Whatever the case, that’s for giving me some motivation to spend sometime going back through the last 12 months of photos.
Hi Tobias and thank you for your message, I’m glad you’ve been able to revisit some past pictures as well!