“I just watched my first few videos. My god, that was such a cringefest,” my boyfriend told me the other day. It made me think of all those trips down the memory lane which regularly make me feel embarrassed with myself. Some of them include looking back at my old photos. Oh boy, that never fails to make me cringe! If you’ve ever felt the same about your old work, I’m here to remind you why it’s good if you feel this way. And I’m gonna share some of my old photos with you so we can all laugh together.
Interestingly enough, both my boyfriend and I had the same feeling about our old work around the same time. He was merely reflecting at his early videos when he was still new to all this “YouTube content creating” thing. He started only four months before, yet he could already feel that his new videos were much better than the old ones. And that’s great!
I, on the other hand, looked back at my old work for different reasons. I paid for Flickr Pro recently and got some handy benefits. One of them included a gift code for a free photo book at Chatbooks and I decided to use it simply out of curiosity. I opted for urban exploration photos, so I started browsing my photostream for 30 images that would fit the concept. Naturally, this led me all the way to the earliest photos I posted to the platform. And oh man, they made me wanna cringe so badly! I mean, look at these:
Not to mention my mad Photoshop skills. I guess selective coloring was all the rage around 2009, and oh my gosh, it’s so ugly:
I have to admit, I wish I had that level of self-esteem today, in any aspect of my life. But it’s normal to have very high self-esteem while your level of knowledge and skills is still pretty low. I didn’t just make this up, it’s science, folks!
But why is it good if your old photos make you cringe?
I mentioned above that it’s great to feel embarrassed when looking at your old work. But why? How on Earth can this feeling be good? Well, here are some of my thoughts about it.
1. It means you’ve made a progress
First and foremost, looking at your old photos and thinking “damn, this is bad” means that your skills have improved. It means that you’re better at composition, use of light, story, editing… Or perhaps you’ve improved in all of these aspects.
Personally, I feel that my composition is better in more recent photos, and I have immensely improved my editing skills (fortunately). I’m far from being a Photoshop master, but my photos are so much better today when it comes to the editing job.
2. It helps you learn
If your old work makes you cringe, it means that you can easily spot the mistakes you made. And when you do, you can compare the old photos to your more recent work. Your new images may contain the same mistakes, but they could be more difficult to notice. So, it’s good to reflect on your old photos from time to time so you don’t make the same mistakes again.
3. It makes you kinder to other photographers
Have you ever seen a newbie’s work and thought how terrible it was, wondering why they’d even shared it? Admit it, you’ve been there. I know I have, and I think that’s perfectly normal. Some experienced photographers even leave horrible, arrogant comments to newbies’ work, but I sure hope you guys are not among them.
However, if you look back at your old work and it gives you that weird, unpleasant feeling in your stomach – you will remember that feeling very well. The next time you see a newbie proudly sharing their photos, your first thought might be how bad they are. But, it will instantly be interrupted by the memory of your own terrible photos you used to take and share. And then, instead of thinking “Why would you wanna share this?” you will think something like: “Go for it, just shoot! You’ll get there!” And you’ll agree, it’s a much kinder and healthier thought.
4. A healthy dose of nostalgia
When I first started taking photos, I was like a kid who just opened a huge box of toys she’d never seen before. Everything was interesting and I found everything photogenic: from lemons I would eat while having flu to my own hair.
I also had a lot more free time, and I used most of it to take photos. I miss having so much free time, and I miss that feeling of discovering something new every single day. So when I look back at my old photos, no matter how crappy they are – they make me feel happy while cringing at them. :)
The bottom line
It’s not pleasant to look at your old work and realize how lousy it is. But please, don’t ever see this as a bad thing! Cringing at your old photos means you have improved, it brings back memories, it helps you learn and it can even make you kinder to others. So, embrace your embarrassing beginnings, even look back at them from time to time, and be proud of yourself and with where you are now.