What is a photo series?
A series is a set of images that interact with each other in order to illustrate a specific subject, convey a message, present a vision, reveal a truth, display a particular aesthetic, etc. Images in a photographic series may be independently different, but they complement each other and help highlight the subject of the series when grouped together.
Choosing your subject matter and intention
Sometimes, all it takes to embark on a photographic series is one picture that echoes another. Whether your series is born a little by chance or whether you choose to plan it, it is this echo resonating from one image to another that must serve your subject matter and your main intention. The subject of a series can be very broad and varied and it can integrate any photographic style, depending on the theme, whether it’s macro photography, architecture, photojournalism, portraiture, food photography, animal photography, sports, etc. The various fields and styles can even be combined with each other to address your subject.
In and of itself, photographing several landscapes and showcasing them one after another is enough to constitute a series, but the more specific your intention is, the more your series will make a strong impact and stand out. You can be more specific with your subject by asking yourself what you want to show in particular, what message you want to convey, what aspect (s) of your subject you want to highlight, etc. This way, for instance, you can transform a simple series of landscapes into a series whose theme is “The Seasons in Etretat, Normandy,” by choosing an identical subject that you shoot every month at the same time to represent the 12 months of the year, in order to show how the weather, the colors of the sky, the sea, the foliage and the flowering, etc., change from one season to the next.
This is just one example among many, and you can narrow down your theme to the smallest framework or, conversely, approach your subject with a broader vision.
Choosing the right form for your series
Once you’ve found your theme, you must next decide which form your series will take. To do this, you can choose other common threads to reinforce your series and to establish a connection between the images. It can be the style, the format, the photographic technique used, the framing, the angle, a specific lighting choice, etc. Repetition from one image to another can be subtle, but it anchors your individual photos in a larger whole and creates more homogeneity. It is also possible not to choose a repetitive approach, but in this case, you will have to be extra careful and be particularly focused on your end theme to give consistency to your series. Lastly, it’s up to you to anticipate the construction of your series from A to Z, to impose certain constraints on yourself if needed, and to leave room for chance.
Connecting your images to each other
Sorting and selecting are crucial steps in the making of a series and should not be overlooked. Even if you’re confident you already know what you’ll do, take the time to first sort your images by putting them next to each other in order to get an overview and to see which ones work best together. You’ll be surprised to find that you will keep images you thought were useless, and discard others, which, through stunning, don’t contribute much to your series. Subject comes before aesthetics, unless the aesthetics themselves are the subject of your series or a key component thereof.
As previously mentioned, the images can be connected in different ways: a detail that echoes another image, colors, texture, framing, a wide shot, then a tight shot, a specific kind of light, etc. You will easily find which photos work well together and which ones don’t. When in doubt, ask friends and family for feedback. Sometimes fresh eyes on a subject can help you see more clearly.
The post-production stage is also very important. Unless you have a flawless photographic technique and have carefully planned all your shots, it is highly likely that you will need to make some adjustments in terms of exposure, contrast, colorimetry and other variables to ensure that your images are homogeneous. The amount of post-production work also depends a lot on how big a part aesthetics play in your series when it comes to reinforcing your subject matter, but either way, this is a crucial step.
Creating a photographic series is an excellent exercise that will improve your craft, sharpen your eye and allow you to approach your images in a different way. The first step is to choose a subject to illustrate while keeping in mind that the images must communicate with each other. After that, you need to clearly define your series in order to maximize its impact and the message you wish to convey, before then choosing the form that best suits your work. Whether you are making a series in the short or long term, don’t forget to combine your images in a way that makes them match as well as possible during the selection process. Lastly, post-production is a final step that should not be skipped if you want to homogenize your series all the way.
By Céline Nebor