Why Consistency Is Crucial to Being a Successful Photographer

Why Consistency Is Crucial to Being a Successful Photographer

One thing I am always thinking about is consistency. This goes for every aspect of shooting. Does this fit my style? Do these photos flow together? Am I editing these photos exactly the same every time? Consistency is an important part of photography you might not be considering.

Why Is Consistency Important?

Well, a lot of reasons. Consistency keeps people involved in your work. On a macro level, having a consistent style keeps people coming back for what they like from you. When someone goes to a Michael Bay movie, they're expecting a spectacle of action and explosions. If you go to a movie thinking you're going to get Transformers and you end up getting La La Land, you might be a little mad, because you feel duped. That's why people are scared to go to M. Night Shyamalan movies: they never know if they're going to get Unbreakable or Avatar: The Last Airbender.

On a more micro level, it shows how much you care about the little details, such as making sure each photo in a series has the same feel or color adjustments or even just making sure you don't edit out a pimple in one photo and not the other. Consistency is a huge portion of photography that no one talks about.

Consistency During Photo Selection

Each photo belongs in this series. They all fit the same mood and style.

Model: Taylor Banner

Have you ever seen a movie where a character out of nowhere does something that makes no sense? For me, it was during Suicide Squad, where they have these wild introductions for all the characters involved, but right before their helicopter takes off, Katana just hops on with no previous mention of her. Don't little issues like that just take you out of the moment?

Well, think about putting together a photo album for a client, specifically where you're trying to tell a story, like at a wedding. All the photos have to flow together. You start with the detail shots of the venue. Some photos of the ring, the bride getting ready, and then, all of a sudden, there's a photo of the fish during the reception, then it's the first time the groom is seeing the bride in her dress and he's crying. Is it just me, or does that fish not belong there? You see what I mean?

Maybe that's a little too severe, so let's try again. You're shooting a fashion editorial. You need to create a certain look and feel in a very limited amount of photos. Let's say in the eight final photos, you select one where the model is clearly joking around and making a silly face. This photo doesn't match any of the other photos. That one is going to take you out of the moment, and that will ruin the experience and overall feeling you were going for.

What I'm trying to say is consistency in mood and style during a shoot matters. You can't start off the shoot going for a certain style and switch halfway. It ruins the continuity and flow.

Consistency During Retouching

Model: Ritta K. - MUA: Jessie Lynn

This one is more cut and dry. When you're retouching your images, you want to make sure they all have the same look as each other. If each photo is supposed to be part of the series, they should all have the same brightness, contrast, color tones, and blemish removal. You can't take a pimple off on one photo and keep it on in the next. You also can't make one photo look like it was shot on film and the very next one look more natural with little color change, especially if it is part of a series.

When you're watching a film that is meant to look like it's in the 70s, you won't see the film go from that warm vintage look to the Batman dark and blue look, then go to Sin City black and white. That will take you out of the moment, and the director/color production team know that. There's no natural flow to it, and that's very important. Obviously, movies like Back to the Future can switch styles to change the look and feel during the movie as they go back and forth through time, because each decade feels different.

Consistency in Style

Two smiling beauty photos focused on hair with similar color grading. Different shoots, similar moods and styles.

Model (Left): Claire VanBeber - Model (Right): Katie N. - MUA: Jessie Lynn

Having a consistent style and body of work lets you tell your clients: "this is what I do; this is what you will get from working with me." When looking at a photographer's portfolio, seeing a bunch of portraits with different styles or techniques may make clients wonder which photographer they will be getting for their shoot. Are you getting the photographer who shoots gritty black and whites? Or the one who shoots oversaturated headshots? Depends on the phase the moon is in.

But really. It's kind of like going to a restaurant. The first time you go, it's a Mexican-themed hibachi place. The next, it's a sit-down steak place. Even though the restaurant has the same name, the menu and food have changed. You went expecting one thing, but ended up getting something completely different.

And don't take this as me telling you not to take a job or shoot something because it doesn't fit your style. But that doesn't mean you should put the artistic nudes next to the wedding photos. They are two separate styles with two separate audiences. You don't want one style to detract from another. You need to be thinking of this when building a portfolio. 

And That's What Is Important. Always Take Consistency Into Consideration.

Just always keep in mind this question: does this make sense? Does this make sense for me to shoot for my portfolio? Does this add to the story, or does it take away from it? Do all these photos have the same level of retouching to them? This is just to raise the question to you. If you look at your portfolio, do you see the same level of quality, style, and feel in your work? If not, what can you do to fix that?

The more you keep those questions in the back of your mind, the more you'll be able to keep yourself on track to being consistent with your work! And that is a beneficial tool that separates amateurs and professionals.

Model in header is Agnes A. with makeup by Jessie Lynn

David Justice's picture

David Justice is a commercial beauty photographer in New York City.

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Can you explain why?

You disagree that there should be consistency among photos in the same project / shoot / event / whatever? Would you be pleased with wedding photos that jumped from high contrast high saturation to sepia to grainy black and white to vintage washed out film-filter look, and on and on? Doubt many people would.

Even beyond photos in the same shoot, having a consistent visual style is pretty key as a photographer. It's how people know what they'll be getting when they hire you. It's how you stand a chance of someone looking at a picture and saying "that looks like [name]'s work."

The only thing I disagree with is the M. Night Shyamalan example. All of his works have a clear and consistent vision and themes - people were simply hesitant to see them for a while because he made a streak of terrible movies.

Directors like the Coens can jump from zany comedy (Raising Arizona) to black comedy crime (Fargo) to period gangster (Miller's Crossing) to western (True Grit) to black and white noir (Man Who Wasn't There) etc etc, and yet all of their films are undeniably and distinctively Coen films.

When I saw the title I thought of operational consistency.
Things like the client knowing you will always deliver reliably. The fact that you have set policies and processes.

For a client, the knowledge that when they hire a photographer that they will get what they want/need at a time and price they they want.

Stylistically and PP level consistency is a given.
They don't hire me for avant grade fashion when they know my style is more mainstream. Conversely, why would someone expecting staid fashion images hire me if all my book is stuffed with images from raves?