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? These are the questions that haunt me every day.
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.
And on a more micro level it shows how much you care about the little details. 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
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, 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 8 final photos, you select 1 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.
Basically, consistency in mood and style during a shoot matters. You can't start off the shoot going for a certain style and switch half way. It ruins the continuity and flow.
Consistency During Retouching
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 then 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 70's, 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
Having a consistent style and body of work let's 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 over-saturated 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 has changed. You went expecting one thing, but ended up getting something completely different.
This is something that comes with time, something I'm still always improving as well. I know this. But I am conscious of it and because of that, I think of how every shoot will come together and fit my style.
And that's what is important. To always take consistency into consideration.
Just always keep in mind 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.