Creating Series through a Preformed Plan

It’s been awhile since we’ve discussed photo series so I thought it might be good to revisit this topic from a different perspective than what I discussed about a year ago in this post. Instead of taking one location, one subject, one theme on only one day, we’ll explore creating a series over a period of time. When working this way, the theme is the most important part of the equation. This could be something you preplan, or like most series I end up creating, it’s something that unveils itself over time. Today, we’ll discuss the preplanned photo series (we’ll cover the other in another post).

Some find it easiest to develop an idea and work to fulfill that idea. This has only happened to me once but everyone’s creative process is different and you need to go with what works for you. As an example, my From the ‘L’ series was created this way. The idea or theme of the series was to photograph the city from every line of the CTA here in Chicago. Living here for so long it occurred to me that I had only ridden 2 of the 8 lines regularly, and only small portions of those lines. I thought it might be interesting to ride every mile of every line of the CTA and photograph what the city looks like from these different lines.

cta, from the l
From the Brown Line 8735

This was the starting point. The way I composed the shots early on was relatively inconsistent so there were details that yet needed to be worked out and only came to light through getting out there shooting. At first, the images were shot from the back car or front car of the train looking out at the city, like you see above. I like the shot but I began to realize the most effective shots were those that included part of the train I was in, it gave the series greater context.

From the Brown Line 8778

This helped direct the series, and while not all the shots have train doors or windows framing parts of the city, I do think they are the strongest of the series. It’s important to keep in mind the whole story you want to tell. A degree of consistency is important but it can vary to some degree. Whether that’s in how you frame the shots, they’re in color, black and white or both, whether they’re all square or a particular size or orientation. These are all things to think about in creating an effective series. There’s not necessarily a correct answer. What matters is your intent and what you want to convey to the viewers.

cta, green line
From the Green Line 1432

As you can see so far in this post, this series has a bit of everything I discussed. Both color and black and white shots, various orientations, some shots through doors and windows showing context, some not. For this particular series, I felt like the various lines allowed a greater amount of variety in these elements. I left it to the location to dictate what type of framing worked best and to the weather conditions and mood of the shot to determine whether color or black and white worked best. This level of variety isn’t as common in my other series but it felt right for this. My point is, there’s no right or wrong, you just need to know why you’ve made the decisions you have around your project.

Here are a few other shots from the series…

From the Purple Line 4856
cta, yellow line
From the Yellow Line 4248
cta, pink line
From the Pink Line 4890
cta, blue line
From the Blue Line 3911
cta, red line
From the Red Line 4280
cta, orange line
From the Orange Line 1616

We’d love to see a series you’ve created. Please feel free to share a link in the comments section.



0 Responses

  1. I really like the idea of creating a series rather than a singular "hero shot." The series gives the creator a little more flexibility in telling a story and seeing a subjects from a (bunch of) different angle(s).

    I've dedicated my personal website/blog ( to series; let me know what you think!

    1. I agree, Eric! I think the "hero" shot can be useful and have its own place but when trying to tell a story or convey a deeper idea the series is more useful. Really like your "The Peanut in Acros" series!

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