I enjoy looking back at my archives and reviewing older photos. Sometimes I see a shot I like more now than at the time I took it. Usually I just enjoy seeing pictures of vacations, special memories and family. But it doesn't take long for me to turn a critical eye to my work, especially what I've shot since late 2010 when I bought my first DSLR. After all, to improve as a photographer, it's important to do some constructive self-criticism. Here's a shot of an owl I took in November 2010, just a week or two after I purchased my Canon T2i (550D). At that time, I was a newbie to photography. It was shot in JPEG because at the time I wasn't confident enough to shoot RAW.
Now let's take a look at the original picture I posted on my blog a year ago. This picture below is the very first photo I ever posted on my blog, actually. It's a different frame but very similar angle.
Looking back, I can see I've learned a lot. First of all, I still like the subject -- the little owl. But the tighter crop makes a big difference. It really accentuates his eye, and in wildlife photography, the eyes play a huge role. (I wish both of his eyes were visible in these shots!) The crop also removes the water bowl and that distracting bright area in the far right of the image. I also made sure to move the owl off to the right to add a little visual interest.
In addition, I made some minor adjustments to contrast and vibrance in Lightroom 3. I didn't even have LR3 at the time I took those photos. It's never too late to go back and see how you can improve a photo as you learn more about processing.
[A very important lesson I learned pretty quickly is that when in doubt about an image, crop tight. Then tighter. Often getting in close to a subject makes a vast improvement over the original image. I read that somewhere and it remains one of the best tips I've learned about photography.]
I included the border and caption for the second image because that's how I originally posted it a year ago. That serves as a reminder of why I stopped doing the borders and captions pretty quickly. They're just too busy and distract from the image.
I've also since added a watermark to my photos. It's not the fanciest, but for now it gets the job done without looking too horrible.
Anyway, if you ever find yourself needing a little boost, go back and look at your archives. Hopefully the progress you've made as a photographer will be quite evident and help you feel better about where you are today and where you can go in the future.