Why You Should Look Back at Your Old Photographs (and Cringe)

If you haven’t looked back at your old photographs in a long time, this video will explain why it’s something you should do more often.

Cameras sure have come a long way since the birth of photography, and photographers now have a lot of tools to achieve their creative vision. Even smartphones are now equipped with cameras that are getting more powerful, making it possible for virtually everyone to be a photographer. These things have made it possible for most of us to create decent photos today. But how do we know if we’re improving given that most of the technicalities have already been taken care of for us? Canadian photographer Peter McKinnon tells us about one way to find out in his quick video.

“I was a HORRIBLE PHOTOGRAPHER,” McKinnon straight out said on his video’s title, and we know right away that there’s a bit of personal story to tell here. Within the first minute, he tells us the goals of this video which is to poke fun at his past work with a critique and at the same time inspire his viewers to do the same with their own. Go ahead and watch how he does this below:

Before anything else, I have to tip my hat to McKinnon here for doing this and dissecting his old work for all the world to see. It’s not easy to look back and see how crappy your old works actually are. But here, he shows us that it’s a worthwhile exercise to do once in a while, not only for photographers but all kinds of creatives. “Everyone’s a rookie at some point,” he reminds us. This is why looking at our old photographs is one of the ways we can keep our skills in check and see how much we’ve improved.

McKinnon dove headfirst into critiquing the very first photos he took using his Canon Rebel and HP R607 cameras from 13 years ago. That alone kind of gives us an idea of how “bad” he must think his photos were. And it was actually amusing to see him laugh, cringe internally, and really roast himself about these terrible photos.

The fact that he could look at his old photographs and pinpoint what was really bad about them is a sign that he has progressed with his craft — by leaps and bounds. This is something Jamie Windsor also noted in his suggestions on how to avoid falling into the trap of the Dunning-Kruger Effect — a cognitive bias where some people think they’re great at what they do but they’re actually really bad at it.

Try doing this simple walk down memory lane today to see how much you’ve improved and laugh about how you were, at some point, a really terrible photographer like McKinnon was.

Check out Peter McKinnon’s YouTube channel for more of his photography videos.


Screenshot image from the video by Peter McKinnon