Revisiting your photography archive

Often after returning from a trip or event I spend little time actually looking through images and picking the keepers. There are a number of reasons for this, the primary reason being lack of time. Typically my work flow allows me to process the photographs I require for a project or story and then move on. Generally within a week or so I’m on to a new project and it’s easy to see how one can quickly get “overwhelmed” by the situation.

Cattle in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Cattle in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

At a later date possibly even years later I’ll dive into the archive and reevaluate what’s there. This might be because of a stock photo request or perhaps a magazine or blog story. Often it’s purely because I want to see what I shot on a particular trip and get excited about the excursion again. This revisiting of my work is an important learning tool as well and; it’s good rainy day work!

Carrillo Beach, Samara, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Carrillo Beach, Samara, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

In no particular order here are some of the reasons I revisit older photography in my archives:

  • View photographs with a different eye – I find when the excitement of the shoot is over it’s far easier to objectively look through photographs.
  • Think out of the box – Some images make great black and white photos or duotones, others might work well as collages or backgrounds. Unless you were thinking of these possibilities while shooting you won’t find them without looking for them.
  • Learn from past photography shoots – If I have a photography job coming up it’s important to view my previous similar work and see how I could have done a better job. Many questions can be answered; What shutter speed is the minimum for photographing from a helicopter? How slow a shutter speed can I get away with when shooting live music? How far can I push the ISO and still get usable images for my clients? Did I miss some potential views or angles?
  • Embrace new technology – If shooting RAW images the processors have got much better in the past few years. This is especially true with noise reduction in high ISO photographs. Some images that I wasn’t sure about technically now have great potential (This is the primary reason I don’t discard large numbers of images in the editing process).
  • Catalog properly – I try to catalog images well when I first return from a shoot but typically only the basics get done. At a later date additional captioning and keywording can be done. (Don’t underestimate the importance of this job, as your image collection grows you must be able to find your photos!),
  • Apply newer technology to the catalog – Many of my older images can benefit from applying GPS coordinates in the cataloging process. With applications like Google Earth and Photo Mechanic this is now achievable in a very efficient manner.
  • Look at all the photos – You would think that I would do this regularly but I really don’t have the time. Some weekends I will shoot 2,000 or more images and the realty of the matter is that I pull out perhaps 20 that catch my eye early on. There are more good images in the folder; I just need to spend the time looking for them.
  • And lastly, enjoy the work that you do – It really makes no sense to shoot lots of photographs and not take the time to enjoy them. I’m very guilty of this! Make prints or computer wallpapers, share with your friends online, put photographs on your blog and most importantly, remember why you enjoy photography.

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