Magic Monday: Learning from the past

A false alarm occurred this week.  In my futile attempts to organize my files, I somehow trashed all the pictures on my external hard drive.

Thankfully, nearly everything I have is backed up online on smugmug, and everything was still “virtually” present,  only lying in the trash bin on the computer.

Since dragging and dropping 500 Gigs back in place is not an instantaneous command, I decided to filter through my images to pick and choose what I really wanted to save.

Through the drudgery of the task, something interesting occurred.  I found myself looking at images that were long forgotten.

Such as…

My first practice images with actions!

Oh heavens!  Oh my! Oh my!  If they weren’t so embarrassing  I would post them here for you to see how completely awful they looked! I had no idea how to change the opacity and everything looked so overly edited and icky.

Actions can be a great tool for enhancing some of my images, but only when used in moderation.  To steal an analogy from Jasmine Star, I think they should be used like salt:  to enhance the flavor already there, but too much of it will make you sick.

Stumbling upon my older images showcasing my editing journey caused me to give a thorough reconsideration of the images on my website.  There were plenty of images on there that were not to my preference of editing.  I spent the weekend RE-editing many images.  This is a large task, and it made me extremely grateful that I had saved originals of everything.

Interesting to note that in most cases I abandoned the “action” look for the original clean image with basic Lightroom edits. Yep, that super easy and fast edit, over the look that took much longer since I would play around with a million of the options.

I realized that in only a matter of 2 years, my “actioned” photoshopped images had already dated themselves!  I thought the look I had chosen was so cool at the time, and now fast forward and I am re-editing everything!

Contrast that with the images that I did not “creatively edit” and I am still pleased to look at them.

There’s something to be said for timelessness.

Sometimes its hard to evaluate ourselves until we are able to look backwards.

What have I learned?

1.  Finding your own style is a journey.

I can tell you exactly which photographer(s) I was trying to imitate in my editing, posing, or locations, in those earlier images.  Even though I thought I liked all those things at the time, in reality, I just didn’t know my own self yet.  Sometimes you have to try a bunch of things till you find who you are.  And really, that’s completely okay! Because when you truly find yourself, you do things intentionally from your own tuition and desire, not out of insecurity and expectancy.

And honestly, finding your style is always a journey.  I feel I know myself so much better now than I did a few years ago, but there is still so much ahead!  I don’t think there is ever an “arrival”.  That’s part of the fun anyway…to constantly be seeking to be better, to innovate, to create.  I do think our progress is much faster or at least purposeful and directed when we stop following and instead start pursuing our true selves.

2.  Be Selective

I didn’t just re-edit images on my website, but I removed a few.

This is hard.  After watching so many of Zach Arias’s website critiques I finally did a more thorough clean up of what was truly in my portfolio.  I forced myself to remove good images that were:

-not my style

-not unique enough

-not “wow” enough

-already had the same subject or shoot featured too much

Portfolios really should only feature the BEST work you have… I’ve always been one to fill it too full with images that are probably a bit subpar, but with the nagging justification that it shows “more variety”.  Its a constant battle for me to truly follow the “less is more” approach.

And really, “Less IS More” completely in a portfolio.

hmmm.  I could still probably even take one more round of cuts to the galleries… I never said it wasn’t hard!

3.  Recognize Progress

It’s easy for me to look at some of my older work and cringe at all the flaws, but a better approach, is to use it as a fabulous measuring device to see how far I’ve come!  And definitely remember to laugh… because seriously, sometimes I can only say,

“What was I thinking?!?!”

(please note the above image was never used! …this is the type of scary thing that happens when I play in photoshop and wonder what it will look like to remove the railing on the sidewalk… )

some things are best left forever in the trash bin 🙂

avatarBrooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah. She is a proud new mother to a perfect baby boy. During the day she uses her BM and MM in Music Composition to write silly songs to make small people smile and laugh. During the nights and select mornings Brooke teaches private photography lessons as well as monthly photography classes in Logan, Utah. During the weekend she dreams up crazy and fun photo shoots for her fabulous subjects. Brooke welcomes comments, questions, new friendships, new clients, and new coats and hats for her growing collection.

9 Responses

  1. I hear you loud and clear! I have a few sessions I can’t bring myself to dig through because I know 80% of the pics are photochopped. Why do we always think more is better!?

    Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m laughing at the last picture. But I’m positive you will get a few WOWs if you put it in your portfolio. (just maybe the wrong kind of wow.) 😉

    Thanks for taking the time to educate us! Love you thoughts.


  2. i feel the same way concerning my editing these days. my last session i edited ONLY in lightroom and i’m so proud of myself! 🙂

    p.s. that last picture IS pretty cool. 🙂

  3. I totally agree .. my first edits are SO BAD that it is funny, heck my first practice shoots for friends were so bad that it kind of isn’t funny — mainly because they love them and display them in their home but I’m kind of embarrased by them. Oh well, you’ve got to start somewhere right?! One thing about editing … sometimes it feels like my pictures aren’t “cool” enough simply becuase I DON’T apply all the hyped and colorful actions. I really like my pictures to look clean and timeless, yet obviously with some non-distracting enhancement from photoshop. I definetly need to look into lightroom someday because I have a feeling it will save me a ton of time automating my simple editing anyway.

  4. Hey Marcie,…you want to know something interesting? Sometimes I think its only “photographers” that think actioned out images are “cool”. When I have chosen to do trendy editing in the past, I always put the clean image in the mix for clients to choose from. Guess which ones they ALWAYS chose? The clean ones. Every single time. You’d think that would have taught me something 🙂 Who are we trying to impress? Our clients or other photographers?

  5. Thanks for this post, Brooke. Just a few weeks ago I was starting to feel down about my photography and that maybe I’m not good enough to be a pro. That same day I decided to cull down my collection so that I could move my photos off our borrowed computer and back to my repaired one. Just like you, I went through everything deciding what to keep, and not long into it I was feeling so much better because I could see so much improvement in just a few months of practice. So I may not yet be where I want to be as a photographer, but I learned how quickly I have improved and I learned to compare myself to me, and not compare myself too harshly to others (just like you have written before.) Thank you for all of your encouraging advise.

  6. I love what you have to say. I’m still trying to “find myself” and it’s a fun and sometimes frustrating journey. Thanks for the great post.

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