If you found your way here, you are most definitely also interested in knowing how to build a photography series. It might be difficult to see the narrative in the photography series as a whole. You can either start shooting your series with a shallow plan or edit the series you already shot with these tips.
What is a photography 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.
What should I keep in mind and what are the things to look for when building a series? This is one of the hardest things to do, even for a photographer who can already distinguish which images are valuable to the series. There’s something I remember a lecturer asked us once:
Are your images strong by themselves or do they only work being a part of the series?
This is to see more clearly if an image is just a filler as I call it. A filler is an image that only brings value to the series and is rarely standing out as an independent piece when you take it out. This way you can see how that particular image works with the rest of the series and if it indeed is the backbone of your body of work.
Sometimes you have to tell a story with fewer images and so it is important to know that each of them brings more value on their own to the overall series. You should be able to read your images in series but also independently; this way you can pick the key pieces easier.
Therefore, your edit might vary depending on if you’re applying for an exhibition, an open call for a publication, or a photo festival.
How to Build a Photography Series
Photography art projects are constructed of well-thought series. The final images should communicate a story, something you want to tell your audience. You should start with all the images at hand, if you can – print them out in low resolution and go through them. Play a bit with how they work together and separately.
- What is the narrative I want to tell?
- What do I consider relevant to my theme?
However, if there is a required amount of images as for example for an open call, take it into account when you want to build the photo series. Build the series with the needed requirements.
Connecting your images to each other
Sorting and selecting your images are crucial steps in the editing of the 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 might want to keep images you thought were not the strongest and on the other hand discard the ones you thought to be stunning. They just 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.
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.
With editing a body of work which you want to apply with, consider the amount of max. 10 images to be sufficient enough. Building the series for the whole portfolio will differ because there’s more than one series. Here we’re discussing only the editing of the series which are separated from the portfolio.
Doing this to all of your series you want to add to your portfolio, you can then add them all together. Remember to clearly add information on different series so the viewer understands they are separate.
One crucial thing to remember when editing photos, is killing some of your work to let the rest of your work shine. The series might be a bulk of snaps with no true narrative to follow. But to evolve from that is to see the whole picture is built out of multiple small pieces.
Ask your friends to edit with you
This is something I strongly advise you to do, maybe even before the primary edit. Either ask people you know or people you’d like to know if they can go through your images and point out the strong ones. If you don’t have creative people in your circle, find them online.
You will find out more about your series and will be able to better know what they convey.
If I would ask my mother to edit the series I’ve made of her, she’d edit them all out. So make sure to yourself who is your audience and find like-minded people to discuss it with. This way you can build a strong narrative in your photography projects.
Find themes that are similar
Before you learn to distinguish the strong images in your work, you can see how other photographers have done it.
So find inspirational artists that you follow. The ones that most likely either have the same methodology or the same theme as you. But they can also be totally different from your own style of creating work.
Use these photographers as guides to take your direction in your work; study them and see how they have come to where they are at the moment.
However, I don’t mean any kind of copying, just to see ie. how many images one has or what is the composition or content in the final series. That will give you a feel of knowing how to build the final selection and how others have done it.
Answer the questions required
If you are applying to a specific competition or an open call, go through the requirements closely. It is usually written in the description, what it is they are looking for. It might be a specific theme or requirements about age/professionalism or gender. You will notice your work might not be suitable for every open call or competition, but you will find the ones that suit you the best.
Now that you’ve learned how to edit your series, you can start building your portfolio.
Great sites to check
Some sites you can follow for inspiration
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