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How-To: Photo Series and Compelling Storytelling

Learn how to build a photo series in 5 steps and then test your new skills on a Zooppa Project.

Today, our Client Operations Coordinator, Colin is taking over the Zooppa blog to share with you how to create a photo series from start to finish! Take it away, Colin!

What exactly is a Photo Series?

It’s a way for an image-maker to narrate a story with a collection of cohesive and consistent images. Photo series can cover a range of subject matters and themes; they can even appear in various formats from commercial or personal projects to digital (e.g. social media or portfolio) or physical and tangible (gallery or magazine). The ultimate goal is to create and curate a select group of connected images that allows the image-maker to have authorship on how the photographic world is digested by an audience.

“In visual storytelling, images are ordered in a specific way, either chronologically or as a series, with the aim of ‘infecting’ the viewer’s vision and mind”

Here are some basic attributes of a photo series: 

  • Contains at least 2 or more images.
  • Selected images follow a similar theme 
  • Consistent editing style and processing technique 

Now how does one actually create a photo series from start to finish?

1. Plan & Research

Explore different Ideas for your Photo series
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I’ll admit that I still struggle with the pre-production phase. I love the freedom while researching and mood boarding, but sometimes I end up going down a rabbit hole and usually lose track of what I am actually trying to accomplish. A tip that I am learning to implement into my workflow, is to take that rabbit hole as my cue to move on to the next step or go back and clarify what I am actually trying to accomplish. 

Here are some questions that help me stay on track:

  • What is the story, subject, emotion or event I am trying to focus on?
  • Has someone else done something similar? What can I do differently? 
    • How can I add my own unique flavor to this series? 
  • What are the VIPs (Very Important Photos) I need to capture?

2. Settle on a Photo Series Theme

Pick a theme for your Photo Series

Once you have a good base to work from, sum up the photo series into a concise theme that you can easily refer to during the process. Hopefully, you were saving all of your mood board ideas from the Plan and Research phase above. Gather all of your saved ideas and save them in a format that eases your stress. This can look different for each photographer, but be sure to experiment to see which method makes the most sense for you. 

Some places to start in no particular order or vote of endorsement: Pinterest boards, Google Slides or Powerpoint (My personal favorite), a folder on your desktop, a PDF doc, or a physical collage board. Feel free to leave a comment on your favorite method or program to save your mood boards.

3. Set Parameters and Restrictions

Set guidelines for your photoseries
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Before you grab your camera and head out to create some content, create a highlight list of do’s and don’ts. This can be in the form of a printed shot list or a quick reminder on your phone. Are you only creating black and white images, cropping to 1 x 1, or only creating medium close-up portraits? The goal here is to help you set parameters around what sort of images you will be creating during the production process.

4. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Framing, squinting and taking the perfect photo. Not much here to add that hasn’t been said other than continue to iterate on the images as you create them in the field. Strive to strike a balance between a variety of angles, frames, and emotions during your photo session(s). No two photographers’ eyes are the same so ensure you jump into your zone or your crouching swan position to capture your idea.

5. Organizing your Photo Series

Telling your story through your photo series
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

My favorite part of the process usually involves a full cup of room temperature water (Ada: what a weirdo), my favorite tunes or a Zooppa Desk Dance Spotify playlist, and a fresh batch of images to digest. Select and edit, edit and select. Depending on your overall goal and pre-production decisions, the post-production process can make or break your photo series. You have the power to resize, retouch, or even make the decision that you need to capture more images. 

In addition, this is where your favorite post-production tools come into play: Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture 1, or even the Darkroom. Whatever your tool of choice, ensure you’re using it to get one step closer to articulating your photo series intention.

Your Turn!

Have you started a photo series/project already? Send it over, we love checking out and sharing new photo work! 

Don’t have any photo series ideas and looking for a place to start? Put your skills to the test with Quaker Steak and Lube Experience, our latest Open Project and earn a chance to win some cash prizes. There’s $12k up for grabs!

Want more creative tips? Check out our filmmaker resources section.

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