How to Recycle Old Car Photos
Give your old forgotten photos a new lease on life! From forgotten trash to Instagram gold in like 15-200 not-so-easy steps or something.
It’s been two years since you shot those embarrassing photos of your friend’s Golf GTI at sunset... You remember them fondly because it was a simpler time of run-and-gun photography, a time before the burden of flashes and contracts. You spent most of your weekends either prowling the streets for a glimpse of a 911 or scouting Facebook for car meets. It was a time before you took photography too seriously and god do we kind of miss it...
But the photos haven’t aged well. If you’re anything like me, your exposure was wack, you tried some goofy light-painting trick you saw on IG or you left the headlights off and some trash on the ground because you were just too excited to be out there shooting cars in the first place. But the angle isn’t terrible… You nervously shot 500 photos of the same car, so there has to be one good one in there, right? You shot in raw, so you’ve got that going for you. And maybe the exposure isn’t THAT terrible after all. Fuck it, let’s recycle that shit!
Recycling old photos is a hobby within itself. Since those GTI photos, you’ve got years of time behind the camera under your belt and your photoshop skills have elevated. You’re not quite Oskar Bakke or Tim Wallace yet, but you dabble with the pen tool from time to time and have cleaned more reflections than you care to admit. So why not fire up photoshop and head back in time to dig up those old photos? Some might be salvageable!
With that in mind, it helps to have a goal; something to practice to help sharpen your skills for the future. To help give you some structure, here is a list of some new techniques you might want to try out!
1. Cut it out
There are many handfuls of companies (all in Bangladesh for some reason) that offer clipping services and background removal for ultra-cheap, as low as $1 per photo. If you’re feeling inspired, send your photos to one of these companies, ask for the background removed and a shadow added and you’ll receive it within 24 hours. Find a new background and get knee deep in some midnight photoshopping for some pretty fun results.
2. Photoshop’s new sky replacement tool
This one is slightly dishonest, but fuck it, you’re a dishonest person. That’s why you’re going to share this photo on IG as if it was taken this morning. The new sky replacement tool in Photoshop is as smart as it is simple, a few clicks and your photo has an entirely new sky! When playing with this, think about matching your original photo’s light direction, intensity and quality. It can easily be overdone, just try to hold yourself back. Also, I recommend using your own photos of skies to replace with, it feels a little less like lying that way…
3. Try your current editing style
Times have changed and so have you… Your editing style is vastly different than it was back then and you’ve got a bag full of new editing presets you’ve collected. Dig in! Try ‘em all, see what sticks. Save the old edit and go back and forth to see how you’ve grown. You'll learn a lot about yourself and your growth as a photographer and hopefully you'll inspire yourself to keep evolving.
4. Spend more time and chase a vision
We all kinda shot from the hip when we first started learning Photoshop. There was never really a clear vision, it was just a mess of tricks and tips we tried to copy from other photographers that (and let’s be honest here) didn’t quite pan out. But my how we’ve grown… Think long-term. Envision a final product and use your years of skill-building to go step by step until you get there.
5. Look for New Angles
Chances are you shot a bunch of shit you didn’t think was useful (I know I did). Don’t just go back through the photos you liked back then, go through them all and keep your mind open to using the angles you didn’t like back then.
6. Black and White
There is a whole new world of photography outside of the realm of color… Black and white is tough, it forces you to abandon the idea of using color to define your style and instead focus solely on using light to emphasize your subject. Telling the story of the perfect sunset or a fantastic landscape becomes much trickier, but it is a great way of reminding yourself what’s important in photography: storytelling. Find a photo with some naturally strong contrasts in the light and play with it until you’ve told the story you want to tell. Then take what you’ve learned out in the field and try shooting specifically in black and white.
7. Share your work
So you’ve found a new handful of photos to edit and suddenly you aren’t so bored… Congrats! Remember to take pride in your work and share it with the world. Who doesn’t love a good before and after? You’ve come a hell of a long way and you’ve still got a long way to go, but celebrate the moment and flex on the gram a bit. Do it for the likes!