What's my favorite part of photography? Well, every part is generally a favorite, but one of the things I get to enjoy every once in a while is revisiting old spirits.
What do I mean by "old spirits?" Well, after you've done enough photo shoots, you eventually hit that point of making a decision to start scrapping old material and deciding what is worthy of keeping for the long haul, because it's just not necessary to keep five different exposures of that same flower. I don't care how beautiful it is.
Of course, I've had digital and photographical purges in the past of old spirits and good times with friends (a.k.a. "evidence"), but having to suck it up and purge my work?? Oh, what a feeling. Maybe I could just buy another external hard drive or two so I can keep those 3,500 photos of my lunch that I intended to one day post to Facebook or Instagram. But that's hogwash.
Yesterday, I had a bit of a sinking feeling as I began to purge old stuff and send it to the recycle bin. However, as I got into a rhythm and continued on, I discovered something amazing. An epiphany.
MOST OF THESE PHOTOS ARE CRAP.
I'm not sure if that was a relief, or if I felt a bit embarrassed. This mixture of emotion came from a few things I was told when I first started doing photography seriously, with the intent of shooting people in the face (with my camera) for money. I had received a lot of advice from people who had already been doing photography, such as "don't lowball your price and screw the market for the rest of us" and "use RAW, stop being such a baby," but the advice I received that stuck with me the most was "don't charge people until you're absolutely ready." That statement means to not undercharge for half-assed work, and never settle for less than your best. Rather than charging $50 bucks for a mediocre photo shoot or framed print of a flower, wait until the work and skill-level are better before blowing the minds of others with your work.
With that being said, I heaved a sigh of relief as I realized that these were shots I had taken out of experimentation and, worst-case scenario, because it was a gig with no cash exchange to be had (unless beer is considered currency). However, I came across some old Photoshop masterpieces (see: "sarcasm") that were completely blown out with a hue of some god-awful tertiary color, screaming "I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP." With this product in front of me, I decided to take these old prints and sharpen them up, making them presentable.
Some prints were meant to have a more grungy and hard-edged look, with others being a bit more balanced and subtle. There's a small level of vignette that I love to use to enhance the photos, as well as some "warming" and sharpening. The portraits needed complete facial enhancement because of the heavy shadows from the canyon we were shooting in, but it was just enough to lessen the harshness of the shadows and even out the skin tone.
As it stands, there were some that were completely unsalvageable, even before I decided to open them in Photoshop or Lightroom. Some were WAY too blurry, too dark, too grainy, and just flat-out crap in terms of composition and subject matter. It happens. However, it felt pretty good that, after seeing these photos in their old formats for so long, they still had potential to look as awesome as I saw them in my mind's eye. In terms of being "old ghosts," they finally have a second chance for a bit of salvation.