As photographers, we are on a never-ending quest to create something new and unusual. After so many years of taking photos, you more than likely have terabytes of archived raw files or boxes upon boxes of negatives – most of which you haven’t looked at in years. Even those photos that we once chose as our favorites are sometimes buried under a wave of new, exciting images.
At some point, though, we all need to go back to our photographic roots. When you next have the chance, sit down to browse your old images. Go back and take new photos of old subjects. Simply examining the contrast between your new work and the old will prove to be a wonderful learning experience, and you may find that your archives are packed with hidden gems and surprising sources of inspiration.
There are several good reasons to revisit your archives from time to time. For one thing, your archives serve as a record that tracks the progression of your skills. You’ll also have the opportunity to see how your style has evolved over the years. If you’ve been a photographer for many years, you’re quite likely to see some old yet interesting techniques that fell by the wayside for one reason or another. What you find might just be interesting enough for you to give those old techniques a second chance from a new perspective.
More importantly, however, is that as you look at your work with fresh eyes, you may find something special that you never noticed before. Since you’re also more experienced as an editor, you’ll be able to fine-tune some of your early work in ways that would not have been possible in your early years as a photographer.
Our archives aren’t the only things we should be looking at. Consider some of the subjects you photographed in those early years. I know that the temptation is strong to move on and photograph new things, but there is nothing wrong with going back and taking new photos of old things.
Think about this: As the years passed, your skills as a photographer have grown, and your style has changed. You have far more experience with your camera and your editing software, and you probably have new equipment that lets you push boundaries a little further. Most importantly, though, is that you’ve had years of life experiences, which means that you will be looking at those old subjects from an entirely new perspective.
What this means is that when you go back to create new images of old subjects, you won’t simply be creating a slightly improved version of your previous work. Instead, you’ll have a chance to create something entirely new and unique, and something that also calls you back to the beginnings of your career as a photographer.
New knowledge, more experience, better equipment and a fresh perspective – bring all of these things to your early work, and surprising things may happen. In fact, if you find yourself stuck in something of a photographic rut, simply looking at your old work may be just what you need to give you a fresh burst of creativity. After all, sometimes moving forward means looking back on your past.