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The Key to Consistency? Do ONE Thing Better Today

Published: 16/11/2019

Kelly, from Paterson, NJ writes:

“My inconsistency is driving me crazy! I think I do the same thing at every shoot but I keep getting inconsistent results--great some days and trash the next. How do I get my photography to a high-level and keep it there?”

Thanks for writing in, Kelly. One of the common concerns that my coaching clients identify as holding them back is a lack of consistency in their photography. Like you, Kelly, they say they have a great shoot every now and then (and they give me sample photos to prove it) but they’re not quite sure what stops them from knocking it out of the park on most days. One of the things that I share with them is to start looking at their concerns in a different way. It’s my belief that the key to consistently staying at a high-level--let’s call it sustained excellence--comes from the discipline of trying to get to a series of small wins, then going after some big eureka moment when everything clicks, time after time. These short-term accomplishments are driven by achievable behaviors that lead to entrenched habits, rather than focusing on long-term goals (or wishes).

My wife has competed in numerous marathons and I marvel at her discipline and focus to achieve that remarkable accomplishment. One of the things she does in her months-long preparation is to follow a training regimen developed by her favorite marathon training guru, where a tiny bit more distance or intensity is added with each workout. I think the same type of thinking can be applied to our photography by focusing on the mantra of: Do ONE thing better today.

It can be anything. Perhaps, it might be experimenting with different ways to bounce off-camera flash; or spending extra time thinking through a better composition in a “hero shot” room; or trying to capture most rooms in the next house you're going to shoot with a focal length of no more than 24mm; or setting aside an uninterrupted 30-minutes every night or two to go online, trying to find new editing techniques or to watch/re-watch tutorials that you haven’t viewed since you bought them.

This process of establishing a habit and achieving small wins, works! Why? Dr. Mark Tobin, a sports psychologist and executive coach, offers these three reasons which I found in one of his blog posts:

  1. “An accumulation of success experiences breeds confidence. By doing one thing better each day, you consistently experience–and expect–success. Each day builds upon the last.
  2. Setting a goal to improve every day creates focus. How many times have you wound up at the end of a day wondering what you truly accomplished? By committing to daily improvement you organize your thoughts, energy, and effort.
  3. Continuous improvement becomes a habit, not a cliché. When you commit to daily improvement, you inherently look for and welcome development opportunities. You eagerly accept feedback rather than dreading it and reacting defensively.”

So, what do you think? For those in our community who’ve been successful at shooting real estate for a while, what’s contributed to achieving consistency in your photography?

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

6 comments on “The Key to Consistency? Do ONE Thing Better Today”

  1. You probably are doing the same thing and it may be the Seasons that are screwing you up. Winter sun, different color, lower in the horizon, the time of the day isn't the same. Summer, noon = sun overhead, winter, noon = sun low in the south. Glare is worse in the winter. So you may not have to change so much as adjust for the seasons. In the winter the sun (where I am) is never overhead, worse shadows, reflections, etc. Take an umbrella with you to act as a sun shade. Yes, I always have a small black umbrella and a 2 foot square black and white foam board, either to shade or throw a little light forward. Doesn't take up much space in the trunk.

  2. Consistent outcome is done with raw brackets and good editing either by yourself our better yet outsourcing. If you have low ambient lighting one bounced raw flash works wonders. Trying to do something new every day is not being consistent. You need the total dynamic range of darkness and light captured in 5 to 7 raw brackets. Use the same batch editing and custom actions for every image. It is so much easier to demand your editor to do this for you.

  3. Hi Kelly,
    try to know more about the inconsistency in your work. Look back on the series of images you made, show and discuss your work with friends, clients, colleagues.
    Identify the factors that are driving the variability in your work. Is it a technical quality issue ( exposure, focus, light balance), camera standpoint, the lens focal length ?
    Or is it a difference in photographic style generating a different feeling.

  4. Let me state the obvious: Our subject matter is inconsistent. Some are dark and shadowy, some are light, some are neutral, and some are loud as hell. Our daylight is inconsistent. In short, we show up to a different situation every time we go out.

    What does that mean then? It requires that YOU overpower what you're confronted with. When a building is on fire, a fireman doesn't just stand there and say "oh crap, this thing is toast". Nope, he squirts water all over it.

    Way back in the olden days when I shot weddings, we showed up to situations with full sun right at our lens often. Some guys would take the whole party off to hide in the shade and do ALL of the pictures there. Instead, I chose to bring a light that could out-shine the sun, which meant I could shoot anywhere I felt like shooting, full oncoming sun, with the sun, in shade, in the dark, and everything in-between. By the time I switched to shooting homes, I already had a full set of skills for dealing with unusual light and color.

    Think of it in terms of ratios. YOU/environment. At 50/50, you are at least equal to your environment. At 70/30 you've imposed your will on the environment. At 100/0, you are over-flashing it. At 0/100, it's controlling you. Somewhere within that is the magic ratio for the style you will eventually create to be a repeatable daily workflow.

  5. In my view there are two kinds of consistency that we want to achieve as commercial photographers.

    A) Technical consistency. Making sure that every shot we take is properly in focus, and that the files contain sufficient DR to ensure the post processing software has the resource necessary to create a good deliverable file.
    B) Aesthetic consistency. Composition, visual interest, whatever you want to call it. Making sure the images are visually appealing.

    Without knowing which you are struggling with its impossible to make suggestions.

  6. My consistency went up quite a bit when I really started to pay attention to the shape and position of my histogram while editing. When I first started in this business, I would have one of the first images open in the background or on a different monitor to flip back and forth, and even then would adjust exposure on some of the images before delivery to try to get them consistent.

    Now I can pretty much tell that the images will look great together just by glancing at and editing to the histogram values.

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