It’s not a single picture here and there. It’s not an image or two, it’s about leaving a trail which tells a story. It’s a body of work which speaks to the subject and the photographer’s vision. Many are ongoing. They get better with time. The total body of work is more important than any individual image. That’s a photographic series. If you have never tackled one, read on for the benefits of working in a photographic series.
I read an interview with Annie Leibovitz which highlighted the view of someone who understands the benefits of working this way. Of all the celebrities she has photographed, she was asked which was her favorite image or images. Her answer was that none of them were her favorite, but that the most important thing was the body of work she has built over time and continues to build. She understands building a body of work, and the series being more important than any individual image.
What are the benefits of working in a photographic series? What is in it for the photographer?
(1) More unique images. More exposure to one subject or one series increases your chance of getting unique images of that subject. In the images on this post I have used wildlife images, but this principle applies to any subject. With repeated exposure to the same subject you are going to be able to create more unique images than if you only shoot that subject once. It took time to get a shot of a winking koala.
(2) Shooting a series forces you to find different ways to capture your subject. Shooting a series is not about building a large collection of similar images. It is about focusing on a subject and producing a diverse range of images. Producing different images is where your development as a photographer comes from – as you find new, different, unique ways to shoot your subject. You get the chance to experiment with different lenses, different lighting, different angles, and different exposures.
(3) You develop a greater affinity with your subject – and a greater affinity helps you to produce better images. Again, this applies to different subjects. If you are shooting images of a toddler, getting to know the child and making images of them over time allows you to develop an affinity with the child and to produce varied images. In the example is a flying fox image. This shoot location is near my home (details here) and after repeated visits in different wind conditions, I learned to better predict where they would fly, allowing me to capture stronger images. I’ve also come to know, that if I visit this area in early summer, there is a good chance of seeing baby flying foxes clinging to their mothers chests in mid air. A greater affinity with the subject lets you shoot better images. What do you have an affinity for? Where does your interest lie?
(4) Different shoots, different lighting, different images. Shooting in a series will produce variety in your work as each shoot will be in different lighting conditions (unless you choose to keep the light the same in a studio setting). I have shot an extensive range of images of grey headed flying foxes, and the lighting conditions have a significant impact on the style of image produced on any given day. In this example with the sunlight behind the subject, it highlights the wing structure and the veins.
(5) Shooting in a series allows you to select only your very best work to display. It gives a depth to your collection, and gives you options to select only your very best work to display. That leads to a high quality portfolio, not a mediocre collection of many subjects. It allows you to develop and display a photographic style.
Thanks for reading the benefits of working in a photographic series. If you have never tackled one, take up the challenge!