Consistency in Post Production - Digital Photography School

Consistency in Post Production

I was looking through a session from 2010 last night and was stunned to see that I often made the mistake I now preach against: inconsistency. I wrote last month about the importance of consistency in your abilities before ever trying to establish yourself as a photographer-for-hire. But consistency in post production is also super important. There are two sides to this for you to consider.

1.} Consistency in your editing style across all of your work

It’s important to find your style and stick as closely to that as possible in your public body of work. Why? Because it promotes client confidence in you and helps to in managing client expectations. It is less likely that you will be hired as a photographer if your potential clients can’t look at your work and know what they’re hiring you to do. By all means, experiment experiment experiment! But keep your portfolio of work easy to ‘read’ so there is no confusion about what you have to offer. I can think of a couple different examples of this:

  1. Your images bounce back and forth between bright & poppy and soft & vintage {or other similar extremes}. This will hurt your ability to be visually clear about what you have to offer.
  2. I realized a while back that even though I’d grasped the importance of maintaining the same editing style throughout the session {see below}, my B&W processing was drastically different from session to session. One day, I felt like editing with a coffee tint, the next with a platinum one. While I still have a few different B&W styles I use, I’m careful to always edit weddings with my go-to B&W preset from One Willow Presets. This way, when my wedding work is displayed together, the different weddings will flow together to tell a story of my work in a way that flows visually.

Now, there are always exceptions. There are photographers who make it clear that they offer both, say, ‘urban pop’ and ‘vintage softness’ sessions and make a clear delineation between the two in their public body of work.

2.} Consistency in the editing style across the images of each session

This is the very thing that spurred me on to write this post. That session from 2010 I was looking through. You can see examples of the different editing styles from that session in this post. All of these B&W were from the same session, however I didn’t maintain consistency and use the same process to edit each B&W. This causes a couple different problems:

  1. Confusion when viewing the session. There is a jarring effect on the viewer who has to keep switching between images that don’t flow together to tell a story.
  2. This also causes an inability to display the images together. The different B&Ws from this session can’t be displayed together in a story board or framed near each other on a wall. They could be displayed as if they were each taken at a different time, but if you wanted the images to tell a story, that will be neigh impossible if they don’t match in style.

So you see, it’s important to edit a session in a way that flows with consistency. And it’s not just B&Ws, either! It’s important that you edit your color shots in the same way throughout the entire session and that your B&Ws flow together with those colored ones well. This is an example of that concept in a recent engagement session of mine. You can see that the B&W images have some of the same qualities as the colored shots {flattened highlights, lower contrast, a bit of a haze}. This way, the color and B&W images in your session can all complement each other and tell the same story for your viewers.

So what about YOU – have you been making this mistake?

{further reading}

You can see a video of how I select my post production process for each session here.

The #1 cause of angry emails and client-photographer frustration {If you don’t already know the Psychology for Photographers blog, you really need to check it out NOW! And read this post about maintaining client expectations because it goes hand-in-hand with the concepts I have laid out here.}

 

Read more from our Post Production category.

Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin'photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english". She's addicted to Facebook and can be found answering photography and business questions every day here on her page

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    I am not a professional photographer and I do all my post processing in Picasa, life is simple :D But I do understand that professional photography is a different game.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/04/birds-at-bharatpur-rajasthan-india.html

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu steve slater

    I agree in principal with this article, in particular, if you specialise in one type of photography such as wedding or portrait.
    However if you are trying to appeal to a wider audience then although it is important to be consistent with the quality of post production the style may vary.

    Examples:
    1) Customer wanted highly detailed image of Marbella in winter so I used photorealistic hdr:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-Marbella/G0000_XGzBB7h53I/I0000iCBUexim5PM

    2) Customer wanted true to life nature photo of a Cormorant with wings outstretched so very little post production:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/European-Birds/G0000Z.kIGHHyzNc/I0000hNuKnd8LIB4

  • Jhad

    To answer to the question: Of course.
    I’m not pro either, but I do post-processing almost always. In my case it’s the picture which dictates the way and style of adjustments.

  • Ed B.

    I like this article, thank you. The examples of the differently edited images from the same session are particularly helpful in understanding the point you are making. I do gave a question though. How do you manage to achieve consistent editing styles across sessions? In other words, In changing light from day to day, how do you achieve a consistent look? One day may be bright and sunny with high contrasting light yet the next day may be overcast with little or no shadow and very diffuse light. What do you do in the these different circumstances?

  • http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/ Alexx
  • http://www.silverliningphotosbykim.com Kim

    I am totally guilty of this and I recognize it all the time, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal…I often tell my clients that I like experimenting with different looks because it’s fun, and I leave the door open to make changes at their request. I don’t at all mind if someone says they don’t like the washed out and want the colors brighter, I’m happy to go back and make the change.

  • http://www.stillimageimpressions.com Brandi

    This is a great posting. I can definitely see where this would be important! I have been editing to the style of picture and providing a wide variety of dated coloring schemes too. I really need to choose what I want to do! Thank you for your advice! I would certainly love information on building SEO!

  • http://luckymalone.com McCall Burau

    Do you have any tricks to maintain consistency in colors and tone when you are taking pictures over a whole day and your lighting has changed, for example cloudy to sunny light? I often find that an optimized cloudy light image will have different color and tone than the optimized sunny light image, for both b&w and color.

  • Mathias

    Fortunately this exact thing is one of the few things I actually have been doing correctly. Sometimes it decreases the impact of the images taken, but the overall performance is better, I think.

  • Fred

    I would be careful with homemade products like One Willow presets. I tried them and they didn’t work consistently enough so that the desired effect – consistency throughout a whole session – turned into the opposite. I use VSCO now for that very reason.

    Furthermore I think it depends on what look you want for your pictures. A washed-out sepia look (what you call coffee for some reason) won’t work for street photography. As long as you don’t change your style with every other picture it’s about the photographer (not the tools) to produce a cohesive result.

  • http://www.katiefoolery.com Katie

    At the moment, I’m only taking photos for myself (and my blog), but I’ve definitely begun to embrace the concept of a consistent post-production style. I was browsing through my archives the other day and came across a post from just a few months ago that made me laugh: pretty much every processing style I knew at the time was in there! Cross-process, a muted, pastel-type style, cross-process B&W, plain B&W… it was all there. I know I was experimenting at the time, but now I can look back and see that a story is more evident when the colours are more matched.

    Now, I would choose a single colour style and a single B&W style and stick to those for any given set of photos. It can be a challenge, but that’s part of the fun!

  • http://www.marcabr.net Alani

    this site is very nice. regards.http://www.marcabr.net

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sundseth/ Doug Sundseth

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have different styles in your “book”. But if you do, I think you need to keep photos of a particular style together and explicitly discuss with your client ahead of time which style you will be editing to for that shoot.

    Additionally, the style you’ll be editing to should also inform your discussion with your client about clothing. Clothing that will work well with a desaturated vintage look won’t necessarily work at all for a look where the vibrance and clarity have been pushed in post.

  • http://photogea.wordpress.com keith

    i am an amateur photographer and i work with a Nikon D5100 most of my editing takes place on my ipad using luminance and Photoshop express. currently i haven’t focused mainly on one style of photography or editing so if you have a look at my website you will find a very broad spectrum of photos and styles.

    also i’m a lot like Jhad in the fact that most of my photos give me the inspiration on how the look better.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/superdewa/7035475903/in/photostream/ deirdre

    Great article, thank you, and thank you for those links, too. I have done a few shots but have not “gone” pro precisely because I get so nervous about getting these kinds of things wrong. My processing is all over the place, which is fine for now, because I shoot just for myself, and I’m learning, but I am wanting to take things further, and the way you talk through this helps a lot. I’ve subscribed to your youtube channel and will be watching more of your videos as I have time.

  • http://www.samueldocker.co.uk Sam Docker

    Couldn’t agree more! You can’t be everything to everyone, some people may not like your style, but you have to believe in your vision and stick to it.

  • http://smilesfamilyphotography.com Stephanie

    Hi Elizabeth, I’ve been following your blog and posts here for some time. I have learned much from you, thank you. I am an aspiring mom-tographer. I recently had a critique that offered the same advice (consistent post production) and was hesitant about it because I love to edit to the mood of the photo. Some photos and families just seem to have a nicer feel with different editing but perhaps I will do for my own personal photos and fun… Its always nice to have the same info echoed from many sources to confirm that I’m getting good feedback. I can see how fluidity of your style offers an easier way to manage expectations as well as offers a better flow and look when your work is viewed together as well as when a client displays. I can especially see the reason if they are a reoccurring client. As always I am thankful for your incite and willingness to share your experience and expertise. :) Thank you. ~Steph

  • Shaina

    I am a pro and… just blah blah blah. You’re not talking about a “mistake,” you’re talking about a personal style and your own standards for YOUR work. To each his own.

  • http://www.carinyatesphotography.com carin

    I am so guilty of doing this. I do various styles of editing using lightroom and Photoshop 5 and I find that it confuses the clients when they are ordering prints and canvases and I end up finding a series they like and having to re-edit them all in the same feel. However I also like showing the preview site for them to see all the styles with their images so they can let me know what they like. The issue is all the extra work on my end…and all professional photographers know it is the post production which can rack up our hours and time (which is money)
    Thanks~carin

  • Laurent

    I disagree.

    If you cannot handle a variety of style it is your personal style.

    Personally I would find it borring doing the same post processing forever.

    Consistency in an entire album, fine; in all your work… never .

    Good luck!

  • Yvette

    I completely disagree with all due respect… variety is a plus and demonstrates creativity. I appreciate a photography website that showcases variety. “To each his own.” This is 2013.

  • Brittini

    I agree with everything you said and I am currently having the hardest time deciding what style I like best! Matte or high contrast? Bold color or muted vintage. The problem is… not all photos look great with the same editing style… just when I think Ive picked a style I end up hating it on the next shoot I do. :(

Some older comments

  • Brittini

    July 19, 2013 03:11 pm

    I agree with everything you said and I am currently having the hardest time deciding what style I like best! Matte or high contrast? Bold color or muted vintage. The problem is... not all photos look great with the same editing style... just when I think Ive picked a style I end up hating it on the next shoot I do. :(

  • Yvette

    July 11, 2013 08:11 am

    I completely disagree with all due respect... variety is a plus and demonstrates creativity. I appreciate a photography website that showcases variety. "To each his own." This is 2013.

  • Laurent

    October 11, 2012 10:16 pm

    I disagree.

    If you cannot handle a variety of style it is your personal style.

    Personally I would find it borring doing the same post processing forever.

    Consistency in an entire album, fine; in all your work... never .

    Good luck!

  • carin

    May 27, 2012 11:28 pm

    I am so guilty of doing this. I do various styles of editing using lightroom and Photoshop 5 and I find that it confuses the clients when they are ordering prints and canvases and I end up finding a series they like and having to re-edit them all in the same feel. However I also like showing the preview site for them to see all the styles with their images so they can let me know what they like. The issue is all the extra work on my end...and all professional photographers know it is the post production which can rack up our hours and time (which is money)
    Thanks~carin

  • Shaina

    May 2, 2012 11:47 am

    I am a pro and... just blah blah blah. You're not talking about a "mistake," you're talking about a personal style and your own standards for YOUR work. To each his own.

  • Stephanie

    April 27, 2012 01:59 pm

    Hi Elizabeth, I've been following your blog and posts here for some time. I have learned much from you, thank you. I am an aspiring mom-tographer. I recently had a critique that offered the same advice (consistent post production) and was hesitant about it because I love to edit to the mood of the photo. Some photos and families just seem to have a nicer feel with different editing but perhaps I will do for my own personal photos and fun... Its always nice to have the same info echoed from many sources to confirm that I'm getting good feedback. I can see how fluidity of your style offers an easier way to manage expectations as well as offers a better flow and look when your work is viewed together as well as when a client displays. I can especially see the reason if they are a reoccurring client. As always I am thankful for your incite and willingness to share your experience and expertise. :) Thank you. ~Steph

  • Sam Docker

    April 24, 2012 06:49 pm

    Couldn't agree more! You can't be everything to everyone, some people may not like your style, but you have to believe in your vision and stick to it.

  • deirdre

    April 23, 2012 09:37 am

    Great article, thank you, and thank you for those links, too. I have done a few shots but have not "gone" pro precisely because I get so nervous about getting these kinds of things wrong. My processing is all over the place, which is fine for now, because I shoot just for myself, and I'm learning, but I am wanting to take things further, and the way you talk through this helps a lot. I've subscribed to your youtube channel and will be watching more of your videos as I have time.

  • keith

    April 19, 2012 03:33 pm

    i am an amateur photographer and i work with a Nikon D5100 most of my editing takes place on my ipad using luminance and Photoshop express. currently i haven't focused mainly on one style of photography or editing so if you have a look at my website you will find a very broad spectrum of photos and styles.

    also i'm a lot like Jhad in the fact that most of my photos give me the inspiration on how the look better.

  • Doug Sundseth

    April 17, 2012 12:32 am

    I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to have different styles in your "book". But if you do, I think you need to keep photos of a particular style together and explicitly discuss with your client ahead of time which style you will be editing to for that shoot.

    Additionally, the style you'll be editing to should also inform your discussion with your client about clothing. Clothing that will work well with a desaturated vintage look won't necessarily work at all for a look where the vibrance and clarity have been pushed in post.

  • Alani

    April 16, 2012 06:01 pm

    this site is very nice. regards.http://www.marcabr.net

  • Katie

    April 15, 2012 12:53 pm

    At the moment, I'm only taking photos for myself (and my blog), but I've definitely begun to embrace the concept of a consistent post-production style. I was browsing through my archives the other day and came across a post from just a few months ago that made me laugh: pretty much every processing style I knew at the time was in there! Cross-process, a muted, pastel-type style, cross-process B&W, plain B&W... it was all there. I know I was experimenting at the time, but now I can look back and see that a story is more evident when the colours are more matched.

    Now, I would choose a single colour style and a single B&W style and stick to those for any given set of photos. It can be a challenge, but that's part of the fun!

  • Fred

    April 13, 2012 10:31 pm

    I would be careful with homemade products like One Willow presets. I tried them and they didn't work consistently enough so that the desired effect - consistency throughout a whole session - turned into the opposite. I use VSCO now for that very reason.

    Furthermore I think it depends on what look you want for your pictures. A washed-out sepia look (what you call coffee for some reason) won't work for street photography. As long as you don't change your style with every other picture it's about the photographer (not the tools) to produce a cohesive result.

  • Mathias

    April 13, 2012 07:43 pm

    Fortunately this exact thing is one of the few things I actually have been doing correctly. Sometimes it decreases the impact of the images taken, but the overall performance is better, I think.

  • McCall Burau

    April 13, 2012 01:07 pm

    Do you have any tricks to maintain consistency in colors and tone when you are taking pictures over a whole day and your lighting has changed, for example cloudy to sunny light? I often find that an optimized cloudy light image will have different color and tone than the optimized sunny light image, for both b&w and color.

  • Brandi

    April 13, 2012 05:17 am

    This is a great posting. I can definitely see where this would be important! I have been editing to the style of picture and providing a wide variety of dated coloring schemes too. I really need to choose what I want to do! Thank you for your advice! I would certainly love information on building SEO!

  • Kim

    April 13, 2012 04:30 am

    I am totally guilty of this and I recognize it all the time, but I don't think it's a huge deal...I often tell my clients that I like experimenting with different looks because it's fun, and I leave the door open to make changes at their request. I don't at all mind if someone says they don't like the washed out and want the colors brighter, I'm happy to go back and make the change.

  • Alexx

    April 13, 2012 03:37 am

    Great post. Thank you.

    http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/

  • Ed B.

    April 13, 2012 02:04 am

    I like this article, thank you. The examples of the differently edited images from the same session are particularly helpful in understanding the point you are making. I do gave a question though. How do you manage to achieve consistent editing styles across sessions? In other words, In changing light from day to day, how do you achieve a consistent look? One day may be bright and sunny with high contrasting light yet the next day may be overcast with little or no shadow and very diffuse light. What do you do in the these different circumstances?

  • Jhad

    April 13, 2012 01:54 am

    To answer to the question: Of course.
    I'm not pro either, but I do post-processing almost always. In my case it's the picture which dictates the way and style of adjustments.

  • steve slater

    April 13, 2012 01:11 am

    I agree in principal with this article, in particular, if you specialise in one type of photography such as wedding or portrait.
    However if you are trying to appeal to a wider audience then although it is important to be consistent with the quality of post production the style may vary.

    Examples:
    1) Customer wanted highly detailed image of Marbella in winter so I used photorealistic hdr:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-Marbella/G0000_XGzBB7h53I/I0000iCBUexim5PM

    2) Customer wanted true to life nature photo of a Cormorant with wings outstretched so very little post production:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/European-Birds/G0000Z.kIGHHyzNc/I0000hNuKnd8LIB4

  • Mridula

    April 13, 2012 12:19 am

    I am not a professional photographer and I do all my post processing in Picasa, life is simple :D But I do understand that professional photography is a different game.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/04/birds-at-bharatpur-rajasthan-india.html

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