Top Tips for Taking Consistent Photographs
We all follow those amazingly consistent Instagram accounts. You know the ones. You don’t even have to look at the account name, you just see the image and know who took it in one glance. We all want to be that person!
As a private photo editor, one of the biggest challenges my clients come to me with is their desire to become more consistent in their photography. Consistency in your photography is the key to carving out a unique style. It is also the best way to create credibility when marketing to potential clients. I pride myself on that fact that unlike other private editors, I am more than happy to provide advice and guidance to any of my clients looking to improve their photography and gain consistency across their portfolio. I used to be a professional photographer so I know just how hard it can be to find your visual voice in an oversaturated marketed. And I absolutely thrive when I see my photographers improve and grow.
So here are my top four tricks to help you on your journey towards photographic consistency.
1) Pick the right time of day to shoot and try to stick with it.
A couple of years ago I went on a photography retreat hosted by the crazy talented Beth Kirby (@local_milk). She is definitely one of those aforementioned photographers on Instagram; you just know her work when you see it. During my portfolio review she said something to me that has stuck until this day, “I love your subject and compositions, but are you really chasing the light?” I sat there a bit puzzled before she continued, “I am up at dawn for all of my images. I don’t care how tired I am, I am out of bed and pulling my husband along as my assistant. I only shoot at pink hour. That is how I get my look. You need to stop shooting at all hours and please stop shooting at midday!”
She was absolutely right. Light is the most important element when photographing. It has the power to bend, shape and manipulate a single moment. Of course,I knew this already, but I was lazy. Who wants to get up at dawn? Or go out at dinner time? But Beth’s comments were a wake-up call. I started to push myself and the results were incredible. A subject that looks dull during the day can be magically transformed during sunset.
Since that retreat I have made a concerted effort to only shoot during golden hour. It isn’t always possible, but since I made this change, my portfolio has become both better and a lot more consistent.
Pick a time of day to shoot, preferably sunrise or sunset, and try to stick with it.
2) Manually set your white balance and leave it
Auto WB. Who doesn’t love it?
I don’t. That’s who! Now don’t get me wrong, Auto WB can be a wonderful tool, but when shooting professionally, it can derail your quest for consistency.
Have you ever shot a series of images and found that a few just won’t behave when you try to fix the WB in Lightroom? That is most likely because your Auto WB has really whacked out on those images. It has read the light completely wrong and it can be very hard to bring that picture back in line with the rest.
I actively encourage all of my clients to get to know the custom kelvin setting and to find settings that work for them for the variety of situations they are shooting in (outdoor, indoor, flash, etc.).
When you shoot using the custom kelvin setting you are 100% in control. Sure, you may end up with some extra blue or yellow tones straight out of camera, but trust me, it will be a million times easier to edit consistently when everything has been shot at the same Kelvin – often with a single click of the Lightroom “sync” button.
I find that a Kelvin setting anywhere between 5000-6000 for outdoor shots is best. Go cooler for indoor images shot under tungsten, but warmer for those flash images. It will take some trial and error to finds your preferences, but I promise that it will be a massive step towards your consistency journey. And will speed up your editing workflow.
3) Limit the number of lenses (AND focal lengths) you use
Photographers and their gear! When you are a pro you need a lot of it, right? Ummm, no. My motto is to keep it simple! Just because you are a pro, doesn’t mean you need all the gear. The reason is that each lens will capture an image differently both in terms of perspective and color. And it is always noticeable. Limit your lens choices to shoot more consistently. An added bonus is that it will save your back not having to lug all that gear around.
I would even argue that you go one step further; don’t just limit your lenses, limit the number of focal lengths you use. It is for this very reason that I actively encourage all of my photographers to consider shooting exclusively with just 1 or 2 prime lenses. Not only can it help with consistency, the quality of a prime lens will always, always, always be better than a zoom lens.
At the moment I only shoot using a 35mm and a 50mm and I don’t really have any plans to change that. A lot of the most successful wedding photographers out there are only shooting with two, maybe three lenses and all are using primes. I have found that photographers who keep their gear limited and only shoot prime have the most consistent images of the highest quality.
4) Edit consistently
This is the toughest part to master. If you are anything like me, then you are constantly on Instagram seeing all of these amazing photographs. You think you like one style, but then see another and think that is the direction you want to go. As hard as it may be, you need to pick an editing style that works with your photos and stick with it.
When I was trying to decide on my own style, I took a long, hard look at my images and thought about what editing finish would work best with them. I like colorful images with a subtle pop. I also tend to shoot during golden hour, so my images are naturally quite warm. In the end, I found my work really lent itself to the Mastin Labs Kodak Portra 400 preset. Sure, I absolutely love the looks of Fuji400H and Ektar100, but neither worked well with my images.
In my last post I talked about things to consider before purchasing another preset. When it comes to editing well and creating a unique style, the hard work happens in camera. Editing is there to simply enhance your work. So think about what you like shooting and the colors you tend to produce, then think about what finish will really enhance them. Then either create or buy a preset that works for you.
Once you’ve decided on that style, try to stick to it for a period to build up consistent images. It will be hard! We spend all day consuming gorgeous images on Instgram, but I challenge you to stay in your lane for a period. I think you will be amazed with the results.
And obviously a shameless plug, but hiring a private photo editor is a great way to help you along your consistency journey. I have helped all of my clients to tweak, improve and ensure that their edits are the same each and every time. Their overall portfolios are looking sharper and more consistent with each wedding. They are starting to charge more and they are thriving.
I hope you found this article helpful.
As ever, I'm cheering you on!