Photographers are like squirrels, if squirrels collected photographs. We take, and take, and take photograph after photograph and fill up hard drive after hard drive while only utilizing a tiny fraction of the photographs we’ve taken. What if there were a way to get a second life out of your photographs? What if you could make your photographs work for you? I’d been amassing a huge number of photograph on my computers over the years and those are the questions that ran through my mind. I came up with five different ways I could breathe life into my old photographs and I wanted to share them with you.
1.) Get Creative
I had always considered myself a bit of a minimalist when it came to post processing my images, primarily because I wanted to attempt to capture the world exactly how I saw it… Once I realized that the camera does not see the same way that I do I was, at first, disappointed. Then, once I realized the huge artistic potential, I embraced the way the camera see’s the world and tried to take advantage of it. The cameras limitations became it’s strengths. Getting creative means using all of the tools available to you to realize your vision. This can be as simple as increasing the shadows to create more dramatic light or merging multiple photographs together like in the image above.
2.) Photo Contest
Much like putting your hard-earned cash to work you can make your photographs pay dividends of sorts. You can win cash, gear, and warm fuzzy feelings by winning a few photography contests. There are literally thousands of photography contests available at any given time all over the world. The great thing about the internet is that you don’t even have to live nearby to join a photo contest on the other side of the world, you can do it from your living room while you sit in your underwear sipping hot chocolate and listening to your favorite tunes.
The best place to start is on the Google machine, I like to look for local contest firsts and then branch out to contests that look easy to enter. Local contests make sense because there is a pretty solid chance you’ve got lots of photos taken from local areas just waiting to be judged. Start with free photo contests and work your way up to the paid competitions. Usually the paid competitions are more difficult because most people won’t pay the entry fee unless they think they’ve really got a winning photograph. Free contests are a great way to get started.
If you aren’t sure which photograph to enter you can ask a friend to take a look through your collection and pick out any that look amazeballs. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t win though, there are hundreds of reasons why they wouldn’t choose your photograph that have nothing to do with the quality of your image (maybe they chose a good friend because of their relationship with them). With that being said, if you’ve got a truly amazing photograph this will usually trump any relationship the judge or judges have with other competitors. When we conduct photography contests over at PhotolisticLife.com we use a panel of judges to eliminate bias and I would recommend looking for contests that do the same.
3.) Donate Them
Did you know you could help a cause without having to pony up large amounts of cash? It’s true. You can spend a little money and have one of your images printed and framed and then donate it to a good cause. Look for a local non-profit that looks good to you and ask them when they will be doing another silent auction, you can offer to donate a photograph for it and weasel your onto someone’s wall that way. You’ll also feel pretty good for helping a good cause.
4.) Build A Portfolio
I’d venture to guess that less than 10% of the people reading this have an actual portfolio outside of a 500PX or Flickr Stream. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those, I’ve gotten business from people coming across my Flickr Stream before. A portfolio should be short and sweet with your absolute best images showcasing what you are capable of as a photographer. Creating a portfolio is also a great way to monitor your skill and see yourself grow as a photographer. A portfolio should be constantly evolving with new, better, images replacing older ones.
5.) Print Them
For the love of God, print some photographs and hang them on your wall. I don’t know many photographers who think their work is sub-par. If we like our work so much then why do we rarely if ever print the images and hang them on our walls? It doesn’t make any sense. By printing and hanging your favorite images you’ll be surrounding yourself with inspiration. The room I’m typing this in has about 11 of my photographs around the room and it’s my favorite room in the house. Each photograph has a memory tied to it and I try to take a few moments each day to look at them. On one of my walls I actually change the photos once or twice a year because my tastes change.
One of my favorite things to do with my photographs is share them with people I trust. Send your best photographs from each outing to a trusted friend or relative for feedback. I have two people in this world who I send every photograph that I think is notable to, my mom and my future wife. I’m constantly striving to impress them and pushing myself to take better and better photographs to blow their freaking socks off. Sometimes this push is what motivates me to pick up my camera and go shooting when I’m dog tired and want nothing more than to pass out on my couch.
What do you like to do with your old digital files? Share your ideas in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.