I like to think that a bad photo is really just a good photo in disguise. Too many times we gloss over photos that we’ve taken and think less of them. Either because we didn’t get it right on the first shot, or we see another photo that’s much more promising to work with. While it’s not wrong to want to work on the best photos you’ve taken first, it’s also important to go back and look at older photos you’ve taken after a period of time to see if you might’ve missed something you initially didn’t see.

I typically like to wait either a couple of weeks or a few months to look back at old photos, as this length of time really allows old photos to “ferment” and gives you a completely refreshed way of looking at them. Take for example the photo below:

Identifying a potentially good photo

As you can tell, there’s nothing particularly inspiring about this photo. It’s crooked, bland in color, and doesn’t really offer anything particularly inspiring. Essentially, it’s a photo that you would skip over or maybe even just delete. Yet, when I revisited this photo something struck out to me, and it was the geometrical shape of the windows in relation to each other. I felt that there was something there, so I decided to work with it more.

How to enhance the good qualities of the bad photo

When looking at the aforementioned photograph, one of the main things that I wanted to focus was the geometric pattern on the windows. Namely, how each individual window had, what I felt, its own unique story to share. Each item within it shared something about the people that lived behind the glass pane and I felt that was something I could further bring to life with a little bit of help.

Here, you can get a better idea as to how the items behind the window are telling a story. But it isn’t enough, the crop is still off and the colors are hardly evoking any story whatsoever. This is where your sense of judgment then comes in.

Know when to stop editing your final photograph

The main thing that I wanted to fix in the previous photo, after cropping out the details I didn’t want to focus on, was straightening it out. This isn’t entirely difficult at all with the level of capabilities that software offers now. Next, the main thing I wanted to capture was the mood of each window object through accentuation of colors. Essentially, the best way to evoke the individuality of each window was to bring out the colors that each separate window pane had.

And here, you can see that there is more vitality to the photo. It isn’t just something that is grey-scaled by the default camera setting. There’s rich color, depth, and more importantly, there’s story. The important thing to remember, however, is that you’re trying to catch the essence of the photo. You’re not trying to flex your digital capabilities. Photo editing isn’t about showing off what you can do on a computer, it’s about capturing the true emotion being conveyed by the photograph that you’ve taken. Which brings me to my next point:

Compare the before and after

As I mentioned before, you don’t want to completely destroy the original concept of the photo. A lot of changes were made to the original photo to make it function and make it feel like a piece of photograph that’s conveying something. However, all of these changes were made to convey the original concept within the very first photo. The idea of storytelling through windowpane objects. That’s something that has remained consistent throughout each change that I implemented through the editing process. And that’s something that you want to keep in mind, always, when approaching old photos that you think have something more to offer.