Do You Revisit Your Old Photographs?

Going back to photographs I made years ago is something I rarely do.

I’m usually far more interested in editing the ones I made most recently, and looking forward to the images I’ll make next.

But this week I’ve been reconsidering a DSLR, so I’ve revisited some of the photographs I made with my first DLSR in 2014, a Pentax K-x, and various vintage manual lenses.

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What I’ve noticed most is the processing.

Most of them were in black and white, which, as I was reminded of again very recently in my quest for colour, I favour far more than colour.

But five years on, my processing, er, process, has changed a fair bit.

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Back then I think I was shooting JPEG, and aside from the in camera b/w conversion, was doing no further processing.

To my eyes now, those original pictures look bland and washed out, fifty shades of grey rather than strong black and white.

These days, I either set up a more high contrast and moody look in camera, or use Snapseed to process this way afterwards.

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So I thought I’d use my current Snapseed process on a few of these older images and see how they turned out. 

The resultant photographs are in this post.

I don’t plan to revisit old images frequently, but it has been useful to see how photographs made with a certain camera years ago, can be (re)processed using my current preferences and tastes, to give me far more satisfying photos today.

It also means if I decide to get a similar camera again, I know what I can achieve with it.

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How about you? How often do you revisit your old photographs? Do you just look at them, or set about processing them in a different way? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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13 thoughts on “Do You Revisit Your Old Photographs?”

  1. I spend quite a bit of time with my old negatives, and my father’s. My oldest ones are from the mid 1950’s. His are from from the mid 1930’s. I have re-scanned a number of them and made new prints. And with my increasingly reduced mobility I suspect I’ll be doing even more.

    In contrast, my oldest digital pictures were taken in January of 2002, my annual digital output is roughly equal to my film output, and the only time I ever look at them is when someone asks me for a picture of something in particular. Why the difference between film and digital? I’m not sure.

    1. Doug, are there images you’ve rescanned more than once, and if so does the final image look different as your tastes change over the years?

      If you had physical prints of digital images stored in the same way/system as film prints, do you think this would equalise your feelings more? Or would you still value the film prints more?

      1. My earliest scans, ca. 2010, were done by Walgreens. I rescanned a number of them when I was given a CanoScan 8800 and then again when I borrowed a Plustek 8100 and finally bought an Epson V700. All this time I was trying to duplicate the appearance of my darkroom prints from 40 years earlier, with only limited success.The breakthrough came early last year when I started “scanning” my negatives with a digital camera and hit on the idea of turning off all image manipulation by the camera and choosing a film and developer that would also require an absolute minimum of post processing, and no sharpening. I am finally making inkjet prints from those old negatives that I like as much or more than my darkroom prints.

        I’m afraid that after 65 years of working with film I have not been able to warm to digital. I admire good inkjet prints from digital made by others, and have even bought a few, but when I’ve tried to make my own my heart wasn’t really in it. If I did make a print from digital that I liked would I consider redoing it if I thought I had a better idea? Of course I would.

      2. Yeh I haven’t made my own prints or indeed even developed my own film, but I appreciate it’s a completely different process to digital. Even if the outcome might be comparable.

  2. Yes, I definitely spend time with my old photographs, but I rarely re-edit them unless I never got around to spotting them for dust and fibers in the first place (as always with me, we’re talking about film). I’m pretty set in the aesthetic style I prefer. In fact, I typically have an idea of what I’m going for before even making the exposure, and shoot accordingly. So after scanning, it’s usually just cleaning up any dust/fibers, making a couple of curve adjustments, and perhaps applying some very conservative sharpening (depending on the source of the scan — i.e. what lab).

      1. If you’re talking about the process of editing scans, then in some ways, yes, but in others, no. It would be, if there was any consistency with the work performed by consumer labs, or congruity between them. Some (most) labs over-sharpen scans to the point of basically ruining them (Note to labs: Don’t sharpen people’s scans! That’s the very last step that should be done during post-processing, not coming out of the scanner!). Others refuse to make any corrections for density or they’re not willing to put forth the effort to do it right, which is a major problem for me because my negatives are oftentimes purposely dense and need to be scanned with priority on the highlights. Despite really liking the sorts of images that can be generated from dense negatives (yes, I like grain), I’m actually migrating back towards developing my film to “normal” densities simply because most labs don’t know how, or are unwilling, to correctly scan dense negatives, and I end up dealing with scans that have horrifically clipped highlights. Their equipment (typically Noritsu) is more than capable, but in my experience the operators are not. I’m sure some pro labs would do a nice job with dense negatives, but I can’t afford them. And then finally there are other labs who are just so incompetent all around that it doesn’t matter what your negatives look like, the scans are going to be trash. It’s truly sad. Then there’s the whole issue of scans supplied as JPEGs, etcetera, etcetera… We’ve been down this path before. You already know my thoughts on the needlessly expensive and/or exhausting thing that is scanning. So it’s not as streamlined as I would like, or as it should be, but I do my best not to spend too much time staring at a monitor.

      2. I know film has many charms, but I’m very happy to not be involved in the scanning of negatives in any way now, whether doing it myself or relying on other people to do it!

        Completely like you I try not to spend too much time on screens…

  3. Oh yes, I most defiantly look back.. but never in anger 🙂

    When I get time to make some prints, I have a handful of ‘good’ negatives that I can call upon to quench my thirst for some prints. These negs are usually ‘flat’ – the way I expose. This enables me to play around with old-timey techniques at my disposal in the darkroom.

    I do have a few images that I made when I first tried out that whole ‘digital’ malarkey you kids are into these days. There are a few interesting files saved on a hard-drive somewhere. Sadly I’ve one great image that is a digital file and I know it’s there, but I will never be able to craft in into something that I can hold in my hand. I will never be able to revisit that image. So, sometimes I look back in sadness because of images I will never be able to work on. And take them to their logical conclusion, the print.

    1. Anton, why can’t you revisit that digital image and make a print from it? Obviously you can’t do it in the same way as a print from a negative, but wouldn’t any print offer you any kind of satisfaction?

      1. Hiya Dan,
        Finally have some time to reply to your question…

        To be totally honest, I’ve never really done the actual exercise of making a print from of a digital file. I’ve had prints made by companies offering that service. However when it comes to printing from a digital file myself, I’ve yet to try…. But…

        The one hurdle I see is that I have no physical negative to work from. Yes, I can do a inkjet (have to get a setup to do that) transparency (or get someone to do that for me) So, that is an option, I concede.

        However, when thinking about that option, it leads to the major hurdle using this method (and why I prefer film over a digital file) It all comes down (IMHO) how the the image is captured by the medium. Now it may come across as a tad esoteric, but the grains of silver (on film) is actually transform by the photons hitting them. Whereas, a digital sensor makes an interpretation of the light values of a given scene (and stored in binary – ones and zeros) Software then takes that string of code and reforms the image for us to view after-the-fact.

        As a side note, I’ve never really come to terms with digital compression. It reminds me of paint-by-numbers when viewed closely. And here’s the rub. To make crisp wet print, you need to view the blown up image to focus and get a sharp print. And here’s where grain is vital. One uses a grain enlarger to focus on the actual grains under the enlarger, and not focus on the actual enlarged image (as counter-intuitive as that sounds)

        So, long story short (I know – too late 😦 ) I need the grain to make wet prints. So, it is with sadness that I realise I will have no grain to focus on when revisiting those old digital files.

        Of course Dan, I am speaking from the position of making prints myself. Having prints my by ‘outside’ services is an option I do use, from film negs or digital files.

        Hope all good down your way mate
        Keep up the work with the interesting question
        A

      2. I get where you’re coming from Anton, the whole physical, chemical, magical aspect of film.

        It reminds me of when I first had a computer that could import a CD and it turned the original files into mp3s. Then later you could buy and download mp3 or aac files for an album, without having the physical CD (yes I know this is digital in itself but it’s still more tangible than an mp3 on an iPod) and the case and packaging.

        Buying a new album and leafing through the booklet for the first time whilst listening to the music was more special and intimate than just downloading the music.

        Ultimately the music is the same, just like a photograph is a photograph, regardless of the camera that made it.

        Yet these physical, tangible surrounding elements make a difference to how we connect with and feel about a medium.

        And this is me getting nostalgic about CDs, let alone cassettes (first bought in my childhood) and vinyl (experienced in my childhood via my parents).

        Compare also inserting an SD card into a digital camera versus opening a box of film and loading the canister in a camera. There is no comparison.

        Even though I don’t shoot film anymore, this was a very enjoyable part of it that is absent with digital.

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