About six weeks ago I began a process that I had put off for too long: I started updating my website. This is something that has been in the works for several years, but previously I’d always had a “good reason” for delaying the project. Having run out of excuses, I finally got underway. The experience has been quite enlightening, reminding me of a few well-established principles and teaching me one or two new ones as well. I thought I’d take this opportunity to relate what I’ve learned.
1. Personal standards change over time. I knew that I had too many images on my site, and some reduction was necessary. But as I reviewed each gallery, I was struck by how many images seemed…well, uninspired. I’m sure I thought they were pretty good at one time, but now…not so much. This is another reminder that one’s body of work is dynamic, as is one’s self-evaluative set of standards. As a result, it’s probably worth conducting a review of your images every year or two (at least).
2. Postprocessing tools and digital darkroom skills improve over time. I’ve long been aware of this point, but the past few weeks have really reinforced it for me. I have access to better software than I had in the past—better RAW conversion tools; better, more robust editing tools in Photoshop; better third party programs; better add-ons. I also have better editing techniques and workflow that I’ve developed over the years.
Part of the process of this website redevelopment—and the most time consuming aspect—has been reprocessing old images and the changes, in at least some cases, have been dramatic. All of the images accompanying this post have been reworked in the past few weeks and are the product of better digital darkroom technique, new tools or both. If you have some old images lying around, it may be worth checking to see if (comparatively) newfound capabilities are capable of breathing new life into them.
3. Image clutter can be alleviated by culling nearly identical photos. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a tendency to retain virtually every image I think is at least pretty good even if they appear virtually indistinguishable from other shots. My website was rife with this problem—four, five, six or more images of the same basic scene with only tiny, essentially irrelevant distinctions in composition or lighting. This tendency was a function of an inability—or unwillingness—on my part to simply make a choice when it was time to upload the images to the site in the first place. Well, I’m making those decisions now.
The point is, not only is there nothing wrong with culling photographs, doing so can actually help improve your photography by essentially forcing you to raise your personal standards.
4. Periodic reassessment of your image database can unearth some diamonds in the rough. I didn’t expect this to happen, but during the process of dramatically reducing the number of images on my website—and at this point I would estimate that I’ve cut the number of gallery images by roughly 50%–I came across a few photographs that I’d overlooked previously that I thought were worth a second look. I have, in fact, added a very small number of images to the site that weren’t there previously.
5. Taking the time to view your body of work, as it’s played out over the course of many years, can be a rewarding and revealing process and is yet another reason to review your images on a periodic basis.
Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday. To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog: Lightscapes Nature Photography.