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what's the hardest thing for a photographer to learn? {photography tips}

Today, in honor of #mlmanualmonday, I wanted to turn my attention to the age old question: What's the hardest thing a photographer has to learn? 

Is the hardest thing learning how to use a camera? Meh...it is hard, don't get me wrong. Especially when you're first learning the exposure triangle (don't worry, Wednesday is the next post in the "take better photos of your kids" series. Be patient, my friends. Have you been practicing shutter speed?). Trying to balance Shutter Speed and Aperture, along with ISO is a pain in the rear. Shooting in manual mode is the only way you're going to learn, so rip off the bandaid.

I digress.

Is the hardest thing to learn composition? Composition tends to come naturally to me, because I have a degree in Interior Design (NCIDQ qualified, even!). So composition isn't that tough to me. And it's something you can be taught: rule of thirds, framing, balance. It's all textbook.

Is the hardest thing to learn how to use a flash? Nah. Same thing - it's textbook.

What about getting candid shots with a toddler? OK, so this is pretty damn hard. But again, if you like kids and know how to talk to them, you can get the shots you want. You just need to know what they like, how they roll, what pushes their buttons and what to avoid. You can get perfect photos of toddlers, as long as you aren't trying to get the perfect photo!

Ok, so what IS the hardest thing for a photographer to learn?

Learning your style. Learning your brand.

Seriously, it's frustrating as hell. There's an amazing husband/wife photography team (Amy and Jordan Demos) who pride themselves in brand consistency. Take a look at a sample of their work. Doesn't it look beautiful? It's curated well, all the colors, tonal range work together. The pinkish hues are beautiful and airy and light.

Ugh, aren't those photos beautiful together? Yes, of course each photo by itself is beautiful, but put together, they all have the slightly overexposed, illuminated, pinkish hue. Gorgeous. 

Take another example from Bethadilly Photography:

Again, the pinkish tones, the slightly overexposed look. So pretty. 

So why wasn't I getting it? I was noticing a difference from photo to photo. Each one was different. What gives?!

Then I figured it out. I was a new photographer, having fun "playing" with all the new "gadgets". In Lightroom (the photo-editing software that I use) has fun presets that you can use, like "vintage" and "cross-processing". And I was having fun with how each one looked. I thought it was important to match the look with the mood. But what happened? My photos were all over the place, no specific brand identity.

Until I figured out that it's not about how "different" you are or how "unique" each of your photos are. Yes, it matters that you have a "unique" style, but that style needs to be consistent. That's the key: CONSISTENCY.

Without consistency, your photos get lost. Without consistency, you have no brand identity.

Let me ask you this: If you're a makeup fiend like me, do you go into Sephora often? If you do, do you walk into the store, expecting the black-and-white striped bags each time? YES. What if you walked in next week and the bag was bright pink? What if the person behind you got a bag that was bright yellow? Ugh, how weird is that?! You can't even imagine it....it's too weird. 

Or let's say you're a J. Crew person. Ever notice how the store's look is very calming, neutral, a lot of beige. Are the outfits bright fuscia and orange? No! It wouldn't match the feel of the brand. The interior design complements the aesthetics of the clothing. 

This is the same thing with photography: brand consistency is important! I struggled with this for a while. But I've been playing more and more with my brand. And it's starting to come together. What I found my biggest culprit was a smattering of color ranges...nothing had a consistent feel. So I'm finding that my photography style is a bit more raw than the light, pinkish, and airy tones of today's popular photographers. But you have a sense of what my style is, and it comes from brand consistency. This is the way you gain trust. 

Notice how all the images above work together...not against each other. Finally. I'm happy. :-)