Creating Photo Series – Recurring Themes

There are a few ways to create a photo series. We’ve discussed the one-subject/one-day method (I need a better phrase to explain that!), and we’ve talked about creating a series based on a preformed plan. Today we’ll discuss my most common means of creating a series – recurring themes.

Don’t get me wrong, the first two methods have themes involved, you kinda need that for a group of images to be considered a series. There are just a number of ways to get to understanding what the theme is.

What works best for me is to occasionally go through my work and see common threads from one location or day of shooting to the next. Most recently I was working on a presentation about this very topic and realized I have this tendency to photograph locations both inside and outside and come up with images that have a similar feel from both areas. I don’t do this consciously, not yet, but it is a pattern. Once I recognize the pattern the series becomes a bit more like the preformed plan type of series. It’s in my mind, so I start looking for similar shots and make it a more intentional practice. But until I see the pattern emerge, it’s entirely intuitive.

Here are some images so you can understand, visually, what I mean.

Another series I’ve created similarly is my Cloudscrapers series. The first image below was the first shot for this series, though I had no idea it’d turn into anything when I made this.

I knew I liked it but it didn’t fit with anything I was currently doing or anything that was in my portfolio or on my website. So I simply created a folder with outliers that I felt had some future potential.

It was over a year later when I made this next image.

When I saw the clouds reflecting in the building it immediately reminded me of the first image. Now I knew I was onto something. I needed at least two images to make what felt like a solid connection and pattern before I could make sense of things. Of course, I could have run with the first image and immediately gone out looking for similar shots but it just wasn’t clicking yet (pun not intended but why not, lol).

Now that I have these two images that fit together, I have this series in mind. When I’m out shooting for other purposes…another building, teaching a workshop, etc. this is in the back of my mind. When conditions present themselves – fluffy clouds, glassy buildings – I start looking for ways to create new images to fit with this ongoing series. These next two were created during our Boston and Miami workshops.

Hopefully, sharing these few approaches to creating photo series has helped you look at your work in a new way. There is no right or wrong way to create a series, we all go about it in our own way. The important thing is moving toward intent in your images, whether through a single shot or a body of work.



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