I've nearly finished going through my archives in search of old images which I'd originally dismissed.
As I've said elsewhere, even strong images tend to fade over time, both due to familiarity, and as one develops or improves. But occasionally, I'll come across an old reject which, with a fresh look, away from context - and usually with a different edit - I like much better second-time around.
Out of tens of thousands, only two or three of these I've since dusted off, tidied up, and put up in my galleries. But dozens got close - and were then rejected again.
The photo below is from a series of portraits of musicians (initially all 3- or 4-star rated I expect) but I thought this particular one could be worth another look - was it really only average? Yes. I really wanted it to work - a simple, outdoor shot like this would go well on my website. And there's nothing really wrong with it - and technically and aesthetically it's fine, but something about it's just a bit empty, boring, flat:
No matter how revised or polished a photo is, if it's not working, it's not working. You can do wonders in post-production, but there has to be something in the original which can't be created later, which has nothing to do with adjustments or photoshop.
It's important to be brutally honest and unforgiving when judging an image, but often, subjectivity gets in the way. Usually it's the lengths you knew you'd gone to to achieve the shot - you were so invested in it that it becomes personal.
I think it's about changing your role once you've put the camera down and when you're going through the work on the computer. You have to become an editor - a different set of skills - because as a photographer you can't be objective. And as an editor, this image isn't good enough. Next!