[I] always like to suggest photographers to revisit their old pictures to see if they can find some good photographs there. Well I was just digging up some old photographs of myself (I felt like having a crack at my old pictures, where I used to work hard at looking cool) when I stumbled upon these 2004 era pictures of Vietnam and Cambodia I took. They were out of sight, victims of my inattention when I was creating my filing system. The best part is, when I took these pictures, I never considered, hoped, dreamed to be a photographer. Here's some insights I gained from the experience so that you can apply it for your own stuff too!
A 10 year old camera that rocks
My camera philosophy is simple: Less is more and every camera is good enough. When I say this, I'm usually talking about modern cameras, and man are they good enough! Imagine my surprise when I found perfectly usable photographs from a 10 year old Sony DSC-P92. A consumer point and shoot with a wooping 5 megapixels. I had to Google it to see what it looked like. It would be unfair to compare it to modern imaging capabilities, but I must say that I am impressed at the technology available at that time in the average camera. Good exposure, good dynamic range, reasonably sharp, etc.
Having Vision on past photographs
The big question is, can you have Vision after so much time has passed (10 years for me!), the answer is YES! It's a simple process really, look at the past photographs and try to relive the moment, and this time look at it with fresh, new eyes. Reliving the moment is to awaken your photographer's heart, to feel what you felt, and then see the photograph with all that you have learned about photography, your sense of composition and all.
When I looked at my old photographs, I immediately put myself back 10 years ago, the smell of Vietnam, how I felt at home…..yes I remember….kebabs with spiders that I didn't have the guts to taste….the nice countryside, the feeling of belonging….yes, yes I remember! After my heart was in Vietnam mode, I simply started editing as if I took the picture today. Selected those I would take today, edit them the way I do today (with Street Presets), still feeling the way I did 10 years ago.
Hints of current photography?
While looking at the photos, I wondered if I could find some hints at how I currently shoot. Many know Bruce Lee, but many do not know that he was a child actor, and when you look at his acting as a child, you can see hints of his adult acting, even his fight moves. I have found this is also true for photography. The street scenes, the documentary aspect, skies, people. I found it interesting that when I got my first DSLR years later, all the stuff I used to shoot from the heart was absent. I think I believed since I had a DSLR I had to shoot what was expected or something……
It's a great exercise in soul searching, you should try it. It tells you you are on the right track. I lost my ways in photography once, so it's good to see a link between what I shoot now and what I shot then. I shot the pictures of Vietnam in a pure way, not knowing anything about leading the eye, contrast, light direction…..I wasn't thinking about anybody else looking at my photos, just me enjoying them. I'm glad I found these pictures because they tell me I'm not lying to myself, what I used to shoot without people looking at my stuff is now what I shoot with people looking at it.
I am not saying your Vision can't change, only your own soul searching can guide you by looking at your past. It's only after you look where you've been that you can know where you are going. Try looking at your ultra old photographs and revisit them. I feel so much more confident in my photography after I did, try it!
My Never delete policy
I have this policy, it's called never delete, and it's all about….never deleting any pictures. I found gold nuggets after gold nuggets after gold nuggets because I never deleted my photos. It's heavy on the hard drive but it's totally worth it. I would have deleted some of these pictures and many more if I didn't have that policy. I can't run the risk of deleting my photos when I know that looking back I might see something I never saw or that Adobe might work a miracle deblurring photos or something.
If there is one side lesson to be drawn from this revisit of old photographs, it's that any camera is good enough. These pictures were made with a Dinosaur of a digital consumer camera and look at the output! I'm blown away by the tones that can be drawn with such old cameras! Nailing your exposure pretty much does the trick.
I really encourage you going back a few years looking at your past work, I do from time to time, but finding forgotten work is even better! It doesn't have to be a whole series like mine, but I know by experience that there is always a picture or two that is forgotten in between folders that might be gold. If you find anything interesting, please feel free to paste a picture in the comments! Be yourself, stay focused an keep on shooting.