It’s nothing to say that as time goes on better techniques arise for processing our images. The question i raise is when should those techniques be used for processing older images? I’ve heard answers both ways on this. Some say it is better to leave the image processed the first time because that image is most represented by what was actually happening at the moment of capture and reflects on how the photographer was feeling. On the other side some say that taking the original and processing it again now with better techniques and better knowledge makes a better photograph, mostly because we focus on what the image is, not what we want to be there. I bring this up because I ran into this very scenario with my own images.
The image above I took back in September 2009 at the Reno Air Races, not very long ago. This is one of favorite aviation images because it looks like a portrait of the plane and pilot as it is going by at 200mph. It just says a lot. Well at the time i thought that this image was perfect. Over time i started to like it less and less. Everything from the color, to the mood, to the feeling it has. It just wasn’t what i remembered it to be when i took the image. Now something to keep in mind, when I originally processed this image i was using an M65 Dell Notebook, Eye one Color display for profiling, Capture Nx2, and photoshop. That was my system for processing all my RAW images back then. Then being just 2 years ago. Now as my knowledge has increased and my tools have gotten better I have chosen to reprocess the image from the original RAW file.
Two days ago I reprocessed the original RAW image this time it was on two 21UX Cintiqs, Dell 3500 Tower, Color Monkey Photo display profiled, and in ACR. You can see the difference, it’s obvious. This is not due to a product being bad that i previously used! This is due to a better knowledge base of processing RAW images and a better work flow to make those changes. One of the most crucial things that is important to remember is the color display profile. These profiles can literally make or break an image. If you have a bad profile and you process an image and send it to a photo editor or anyone that has a displayed profile it will fall apart. The profile i used to use wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad at the time there are just better profiles now. Profiling displays continuously change improving on preexisting formulas. Now my displays show a more accurate color space and the visual difference on those old images is amazing. The last big difference i wanted to point out was the first image i didn’t remove the color cast, the new one i did. The difference is staggering. The clouds look white and the plane looks blue again. That small change in processing the image can make all the difference.
I leave it to you whether it is better to reprocess an old image or not. Keep in mind once you start reprocessing old images you’re going to notice that a lot of images in your gallery might be better off redoing. It’s time consuming and can be painful but if it means a better product for buyers it might just be worth it. The answer resides totally in the image itself and whether you believe it is the best image it can be or could it be better?
Images captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 70-300 Vr, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film