Looking Back to Find Buried Treasure in Your Archives

Assorted items, abandoned church basement in rural North Dakota near the town of Rugby

As we wind down the last days of 2016, there are going to be a lot of “Best of…” articles and threads published, including, I’m sure, some of my very own. As a photographer, we get asked for portfolios a lot. We’re constantly dealing in “bodies of work” so a lot of our time is spent pondering and actually preparing this body of work for that space or this set of images for submission over here. It’s a daily grind and we don’t seem to mind it, it’s just how the work gets done, right? But, sometimes, there’s something that can be missed in all of that. We’re always packaging things it can be easy to miss individual shots and sometimes little gems, why, they can fall through the cracks of our workflow.

We have a connection to some of our images. Maybe we remember what the place smelled like, or how the flowers looked or whatever. This connection, while it can be a good thing, yes, it can also be a blocker for our own objectivity. What I mean by that is that sometimes, by allowing yourself space and time, by allowing yourself to “forget” the events behind making a particular image, you can look at your images with a fresh set of eyes. Maybe you see things you didn’t see before, maybe you can go back on a stream of images and pull out some you had initially passed over. A lot of times, when I do this, I find myself whacking myself on my head. “What was I thinking?” I ask myself. “Why did I pass over this one in favor of that one?” It happens, I would guess, even to the best of photographers. Our emotions or the joy of the shoot can get in the way and cloud our objectivity. We are at are best sometimes when editing after the immediacy of the shoot has been forgotten a bit. I think this is just how the process works. Editing, at it’s best, can require some space. It’s hard, probably impossible, to have a truly objective eye but that space can sometimes lend a hand to helping here.

By doing some of these year end type “exercises” (for lack of a better word) we sometimes force ourselves to look back and edit again with a fresh set of eyes. Edit anew really perhaps by looking at what we shot or maybe by making additional decisions about post processing. It all comes into play and can all be taken up again now, at the end of the year, with a fresh set of eyes.

So, if you’re having a wonderful holiday season or, heck, even if you’re not, I would encourage you to sip some eggnog or hot cocoa, enjoy a quiet night or two by a warm fire, spend some quality time with the family and friends, all of that is good, but also don’t neglect your images. This is a great time to look back on 2016 and take stock of how you did photographically. See what worked, note what didn’t, even look over your raw files again, with a fresh set of eyes. You might find some hidden gems in there. At the very least, you will probably walk away with a fresh appreciation for what you did already shoot and edit as part of your 2016 processing. Looking anew, giving it one more once over can’t hurt, right?

I wish you the warmest of holiday seasons and hope you find your share of wonderful hidden gems in your own processing.

Until next time…

PS This one from Dakota, it’s the church kitchen, shot on long exposure with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens set at 24mm f/14 approximately 30 second exposure.

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