Revisiting the past – through forgotten photos

Megan Snider

Posted November 21, 2012 in: How To  Ideas  Photo Trips 

When I received my first digital camera in 2007—a Canon PowerShot A460, a cute little guy—I knew nothing about photography. I’d grown up under my mother’s watchful eye (and lens), so I was used to posing for photos—but never taking them. That camera was a college graduation present, unveiled just before I went to Italy with my family, so I had no time to adjust to the new point-and-shoot. Not that I really needed to.

Photo by Megan SniderI was recently thinking about that Italian vacation, the photos I took—and where they were. In an era pre-Flickr, Shutterfly and the iPhone for me, my photos were all burned to CDs and removed from my old laptop. By some miracle, I found the two CDs with my Italian images and started looking through them this week. What an eye-opener.

In the years since that vacation, I’ve upgraded to a “big girl” camera, joined the Calvert Photography Club, met countless photographers and learned tons amount about style, composition and the technical aspects of getting a winning shot. Though I have much still to learn, where I am now is a wide leap from where I was in June 2007.

More than understanding exposure and shutter speed, I’ve learned about what makes a photo . . . nice. I’ve developed a personal style and love playing around with vintage filters. My Photoshop skills have increased tremendously—but more than that, I’ve learned how to take a better photo while I’m actually taking the photo. Everything I didn’t know in 2007.

Photo by Megan SniderAs I was clicking through the pictures, I kept thinking, “Man, if only I’d had my Rebel.” Looking at the gorgeous scenes of Venice, Rome and Florence made me wistful for what I could have captured had I been interested in photography beforehand. But then I realized, hey—as Guy always says? The best camera is the one you had with you.

And since I can’t re-create that trip and the magic of my first time traveling abroad, I decided to fake it.

Opening the pictures I thought had potential, I made my way through the shots armed with my new knowledge and taste. The Calvert Photography Club has definitely sharpened my critical eye. I cropped out power lines I’d never noticed—along with the clipped masts of ships, the stray arm of someone just off-screen. I fixed the white balance in many, darkened the “blacks” with the levels to make them pop, cloned out unattractive signs in the backgrounds of portraits. I leveled the horizons – something I never, ever noticed until club members began pointing them out in critiques.

But beyond the technical quirks, I thought about what makes a compelling photo to me now. I love vignettes, drawing the eye to action, the serenity of a simple landscape. I’m drawn to paths and bridges and walkways. I love epic mountains, peaceful water, laughing people. Those were the pictures I singled out from the 500 I took on that Italian trip.

Photo by Megan SniderOnly five hundred photos—in a week and a half. Makes me laugh. On a just four-day trip to London in 2009, I took almost 1,200. And in California this year? About 1,600.

After playing with my old photos for an hour or two, I couldn’t believe the results. What I’d considered basic, “blah” point-and-shoot shots from my vacation had morphed into something else entirely. Though far from an expert, I was impressed with how much I’d been able to change them. Without setting foot in busy, bustling and fume-clogged Fiumicino Airport in Rome, I’d “revisited” a beloved place—and emerged with fresh images.

Though, you know, I’m totally cool with a wealthy benefactor sending me back to Italy—this time with my Rebel. It’s no problem.

About Megan Snider - Megan Snider is an amateur photographer from Waldorf, Md., who started taking photos after receiving a point-and-shoot camera just days before she left on an Italian vacation. Growing up in front of the lens, she now shares her passion for photography with her mother, Lisa, who is never without her Canon.


Great article Megan - I love the idea of revisiting photos from the past.

Comment from Guy on November 21, 2012

Great article!

Comment from Guy Stephens on November 21, 2012

Awesome writeup Megan. It can be so rewarding to go back to shots from years ago and not only revisit the memory, but apply the new editing and critiquing skills we pick up and maybe find a few "gems" of photos we missed or that have potential. That's something I try to do a couple times a year but rarely make time for....your results are great and I hope it's inspiring for others to do the same. Would love to see what else people find in their archives.

Comment from Jeff S on November 21, 2012

Nice job Megan, with both the article and the photos.

Comment from Lisa Snider on November 21, 2012

Great article, Meagan! "In the old days" we used to file away our snapshots in shoe boxes, which eventually ended up on the closet shelf or wherever, rarely to be seen again. Shoe boxes have been replaced by hard-drives, CDs, DVDs, etc, but the result is often the same . . . the images are forgotten as we concentrate on more recent images. I take a ton of photos on my trips. I usually delete very few shots, because I've learned that, as you've pointed out, we can revisit those images later & salvage some of the questionable ones. Digital software (& our skills using it) are improving all the time. Now it's sometimes possible to "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". Our challenge is to go back and review those old images.

Comment from Jim Rogers on November 21, 2012

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