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Insights & Thoughts

3 Keys To Achieve Consistency In Your Images

By Anthony Thurston on January 26th 2015

One of the key things that all photographers should strive for is consistency in your work; be it weddings, sports, boudoir, landscapes, whatever. Achieving consistency in your work, which is an important piece to finding your style, all starts with the basics.

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If you can’t consistently produce well exposed and composed images, then how can you expect to consistently produce images that will be recognizable and attributed to you? I do want to point out that I am not talking about finding your style, that is a whole other beast.

To achieve consistency, there are three things that you need to do, beyond basic exposure/composition.

1.  Study Your Own Work Regularly

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Do you want to improve your images? How can you expect to do that if you do not know what you did ‘wrong’ in your current images? Taking the time to study your own work is key to being able to understand how you shoot, and how to consistently get results that you will be happy with.

Things you should be looking for in your imagery are:

  • Exposure (do you like it brighter, darker, etc?)
  • Composition (what compositions speak to you and your style?)
  • Colors (what colors catch your attention? How do the colors effect the image’s feeling?)

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Beyond those things, you should also be looking for things you missed in the image, things that you could have changed before you took the shot. Is a hair out of place? Is that garbage in the background picked up? If you can train yourself to spot, and look for these things in your previous images, you will get better at noticing them before you take your next image – which will allow for less time *fixing* your images in post and allow for more time to develop your style.

2. A Quality Monitor & Calibration Device

This may seem out of place, but how can you expect your images to be viewed consistently if you are not using a properly calibrated screen? The first, and really important, thing is that you have a monitor that can be calibrated and that uses IPS technology – in addition to having a wide gamut of color.

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I recommend getting the best monitor you can afford. If you are like me and the budget is limited, but not super limited – then something like this $600 Dell is a great option. Asus also makes some great editing monitors in the $400 range.

Once you have a good monitor, which honestly is not super expensive – you can get a ‘good enough’ editing monitor for around $200-300. You need to make sure that the images you are producing on it will come out consistently, and come out consistently looking as you intended.

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For example, if you have your monitor set too bright, then all of you images could come out looking too dark on other people’s screens or when you print them. If you monitor is skewed warmer, then all of your images may come out looking odd because you set your WB based on an incorrect rendering of the image.

I recommend the X-Rite I1 Display Pro series if you are serious about your calibration needs. But in reality, even the basic $80 calibrators will do wonders for having your images turn out consistently after post-production.

3. Shoot For Yourself When You Aren’t Shooting For Client

Photography skills are like a muscle, if you are constantly working it out, it will grow and get stronger. If you are lazy, and hardly ever use it, then it will atrophy and become useless.

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If you want to be more consistent in your images, you need to be constantly shooting. Let’s be real, many of us are not as busy with clients as we would like to be, so if we are not busy working out that photography muscle with client work, then we need to be out shooting for ourselves.

I have found that I really enjoy outdoor macro photography. So I will often go out to my local refuges when I am bored and just shoot things that I come across on the walking trails, be that newts or cool fungus formations on fallen logs. The point is that I am working out my photography muscle, practicing composition, seeing how changing my vantage point or perspective affects how the light and shadow hit my subject.

[REWIND: REVIEW | FUJI FUJINON XF 60MM F/2.4 R MACRO LENS]

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While I am not going to be doing macro nature work for clients anytime soon, spending the time thinking about how to photograph these images helps when it comes time to decide how to shoot my client images.

In Conclusion

Some of these things may seem a bit obvious, but the fact is that we sometimes need reminders about even the most obvious of things. So I challenge each of you to improve on the consistency of your work, find one of the areas above that you can grow in and focus on doing better at that in the coming weeks.

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You will see improvement in your consistency, and you will see an improvement in your work and how it is perceived by others. Who can turn that down?

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Scott Pacaldo

    as a serious amateur I feel more inclined to save up my money for a calibration tool or if budget permits a calibrated monitor/laptop than on gears. currently I’m still using a notebook though not excellent, still does the job for me. when editing, I always set my brightness to the normal middle range and only lower it whenever I’m reading articles/browsing/non-editing stuff. I did try printing my photos and oddly enough it looks the same from the one I edited. I also think that doing the color IQ test at xrite helps. I do it every time I have a new set of photos to edit. http://www.xrite.com/ph_toolframe.aspx?action=coloriq

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  2. Edwin Tai

    Great article and reminders for growing photographers. A good monitor and calibration device is crucial in my opinion, and more important is to study your own images. By studying your own images and compare with good ones you know what are your strong points and what you are lag behind and can be improved. I am a firm believer of Practice makes Perfect.

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  3. Jason Boa

    Great article

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  4. Duc Hong

    thanks for the great article, got some nice tips from you

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  5. Tosh Cuellar

    More great info, one thing I tell people all the time is “shoot for yourself”, friends, family, aspiring photographers and even other professionals who find themselves in a rut, probably the best piece of advice i’ve ever recieved.

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  6. Daniel Lee

    Great article! A 1440p screen can make a huge difference and really help if you want to print or experiment with stuff like color grading. I wasn’t too bothered by my 22″ TN panel, that was untill I tried a 27″ IPS display at uni to edit my photos and I couldn’t go back. I got the Asus PB278Q (it’s an amazing monitor which I highly recommend) and a Datacolor Spyder4Pro which have really helped me with my consistency and processing.

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  7. Brandon Dewey

    Great Tips!

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  8. Michael Burnham

    Great article and list of ways to hone in on your own consistency. When you shoot for yourself (and clients) develop your own set of consistent image editing presets that are tailored to your own lens-camera-stooting style combination. It will save time in workflow and increase consistency as well.

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  9. John Cavan

    I’m not sure I would lump the calibration and monitor together because before wide gamut IPS monitors photographers were producing and printing stellar images. So while I think added information is good, unless you’re delivering your image to a display with similar capability (very unlikely) then I don’t see it as critical as the calibration devices when it comes to consistent output.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Calibration is not just about what the image looks like after your are sending out to be seen. Its about how it looks while you are editing it. Like I mentioned in the post, if your screen is off then it may be too bright/dark or have a weird color shift because you processed an incorrect rendering of the image.

      I do agree with you in a sense. But still feel like my point is valid.

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    • John Cavan

      @Anthony – I totally agree that you need to be calibrated, it’s the wide gamut that I think is less necessary to getting consistency of quality in your output. Useful, absolutely, but if your budget causes you to need to choose, I would choose the calibration device over the monitor.

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  10. Rieshawn Williams

    Great article as usual!

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  11. Ashton Pal

    This is a good list for hobbyists and professionals alike especially the third point about shooting for yourself. It can be hard to find time to go out and shoot when you’re busy editing or working with other clients, but it’s good to take a break once and a while. Practice makes perfect and the more you shoot, the more you learn. I rather make mistakes when I’m shooting for myself then figuring out what I did wrong than actually making those mistakes on a paid job. Monitor calibration is good too. My old monitor wasn’t calibrated right and the brightness was turned up all the way. It lead to my pictures showing up completely different on other monitors than it did on mine.

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  12. Kim Farrelly

    Funny how it all adds up to make a photo ‘work’, the list seams endless at times. I guess the more you get out and shoot the easier it adds up. I shoot almost everyday but there are times where I force myself to leave it all at home too.

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  13. Basit Zargar

    Awesome!!!

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