In my four most recent articles, I’ve written about the story behind some of my landscape photos. I re-edited each picture specifically for its tutorial, and I’ve now realized that I like all four newer edits more than their respective older versions.
So, I have a recommendation: I think it’s worth going back to your older, favorite photos and re-editing a second copy of them.
Getting a better-looking photo isn’t the only reason why this is a good idea, as I’ll cover in a moment. First, let me show you a before/after of the four images in question (with the “before” being the older edit in each case, and the “after” being my new post-processing):
Some of the differences are more pronounced than others, and you may not always like the “after” better, but I personally prefer like the newer edits each time.
That led me to realize a few big reasons why you should consider going back to re-process your favorite photos, even if you are already happy with how they look:
1. Improving the Look of Your Photo
The most obvious reason to restart your editing process is in hopes that you’ll end up with a better photo at the end of things. It’s not very far-fetched of an idea.
For starters, one of the things that makes it difficult to edit your photo perfectly the first time – and why some photographers spend hours editing a single one of their best photos – is the lack of a clear “end point” that you have initially.
When you’re looking at a flat RAW file with no adjustments whatsoever, envisioning the perfect edited result isn’t easy. It’ll usually take some trial and error, maybe even moving around random sliders to give you an idea of what your options are.
But if you’re starting from scratch again, you can easily flip back and forth from your existing version of the photo to the new one, making it so much easier to reach that “end goal.” It also is unlikely to take nearly as much time as it did originally.
Beyond that, most photographers gradually improve their editing and visualization skills over time. You’ll probably be able to make subtler and more thoughtful edits to the photo with your current skillset, leading to a better result overall.
(If you’re wondering why you can’t just apply the same improvements directly on the older version of the photo, that’s a fair question. Sometimes, you absolutely can. But in many cases, especially if you relied on a lot of local gradients or brushes, there’s just too much processing baked into the first version that may be difficult to undo. Even if it’s not impossible, starting from square one is a smoother way to accomplish the same result.)
On top of that, most post-processing software will update itself to add new tools over time. I edited many of my older photos before Lightroom’s “dehaze” tool existed, and now it’s something that I use pretty frequently.
In short, for more reasons than one, it will be easier to get the best possible result on many photos if you begin with a clean slate – using, of course, your previous version as a reference so you know where you’re going. (You definitely shouldn’t delete your old edits; create a copy any time you’re planning to start anew.)
2. Editing in a More Sustainable Way
I mentioned local edits a moment ago – gradients and especially brush tools – and they’re even more relevant here.
Many of us rely far too much on local adjustments to make changes to a photo. It’s certainly necessary at times, but you’re in trouble if you add dozens upon dozens of overlapping brush tools and gradients to your photos. Suddenly, global adjustments you make could swing large areas of the image into discoloration or improper brightness. The only way to make new edits is to create yet another local adjustment, and the cycle continues.
The better way to edit photos, if possible, is to do large-scale adjustments with your software’s main sliders, and only resort to local editing when there is no other way to get the result you want. That’s where restarting your post-processing comes into play again.
If you did go overboard on local edits the first time around, now’s your chance to fix it. Make a promise not to do any editing that you can’t easily undo, and try to prioritize global edits whenever possible (and if you do need to do local adjustments, prioritize gradients over brushes).
All of this makes for a more sustainable editing process – one that allows you to go back to your photo in the future and shift the direction of its processing without worrying about weird halos or odd colors popping up because of it.
3. Practicing Your Skills
Most of us are spending a lot more time at home right now, and it’s easy for your photography skills to weaken if you’re not careful. Processing your old photos again is a good way to exercise your mental muscles along the way.
It’s also a good time to learn new skills entirely. Earlier this week, Adobe added some new tools to Lightroom, including a local hue adjustment, a new “versions” feature, and presets that vary based on your ISO. I’ve just started to check them out myself, and I’m looking forward to learning more about how they work by testing them on some of my existing work.
This isn’t just practice for its own sake. You’re getting the other benefits as well – a better look to some of your best photos, and a future-proof processing style should you ever decide to edit them a different way.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a bit of a rut, I recommend going back to your existing photos and editing a copy of them from scratch. Not only will you get to practice your photography skills again, but you also could end up with better, more flexible results than before. When you’re dealing with your best photos, any improvement is welcome. Plus, now you have an excuse to share them again on Instagram :)
I hope this article gave you some ideas and inspiration! Let me know below if you’ve got any questions or feedback.