What is a photo series (and why should you make one)?

First published:
September 9, 2022
February 14, 2024

What is a photo series (and why should you make one)?

First published:
September 9, 2022
February 14, 2024

Discover the benefits of taking photos as part of a series, and learn how it can improve both your photography skills and your well-being

A photo series is a set of images based on a common theme or subject. It is one of the most straightforward (and popular) ways for photographers to work with their photos.

A series of themed images can be as small or as broad as you like, from a simple triptych (set of three images) to a multi-year project spanning hundreds or thousands of photos, there’s no set rule on what a photo series should contain or how it should look. A photo series might also resemble a photo essay, usually associated with photography accompanied by text and a story with a beginning to end (but it doesn’t need to be). In contrast, a photo series may resemble a set of photos without a specific end. Still, again, it doesn’t need to be; a photo series can be anything you want it to be. But as a general rule of thumb, it’s good to think of a series, as each photo has a link. Many photographers work in series throughout their careers, over time amassing many varied bodies of work.

Here are some of the main reasons too why working in series is such a good idea, especially if you’re relatively new to photography and looking for inspiration:

1 Working in series gives you direction

Taking images and thinking of them as part of a series gives you a sense of purpose when out shooting; if you’ve got a particular topic or theme in mind, you’ll find it a lot easier to gather those images and work with them, rather than wondering around aimlessly taking pictures.

If you’re unsure where to start with your photo series or looking for inspiration, think about what you love about photography and gather ideas. For the project I’m currently working on, I had always loved the sea and knew I wanted to do something with my photography based on the coast, and this is how my series Coastal Northevolved.

My 'Coastal North' series which I've been working on for a couple of years. Working on a photo series can be for as long (or short) as you like, and you can dip in and out of it as and when you please.

2 You can excel in a particular area of your photography

The more you shoot the same subject, the better you’ll become at photographing it - it’s as simple as that. It applies to anything, be it a landscape project, a portrait project, or an architecture series. When I first began my Coastal North series, I hadn’t taken many seascapes at all, and it was all new to me; and when I look back at my first images - they are nowhere near as strong as some of the later images (I still like them though!).

A screenshot from my Lightroom Catalog for my series, I've thousands of images that I've taken for this, but those I'll include in the final series will be just a small fraction of those

3 It gives you a project to lift you up and be passionate about

In other guides on Focus, we've discussed the link between mental well-being and photography. And working in series incorporates this; having a photo series that you’re invested in and makes you happy will galvanise you to get out there and work on your project. And especially on days when you’re not feeling your best, taking time out to shoot images for your series, knowing it’s an essential and meaningful body of work, can take your thoughts away from what’s troubling you and concentrate on what’s in front of you.

For me, nothing makes me more content than being by the sea - so creating a photo project about the coast ticked all the boxes for something would be beneficial to my well-being

4 You can explore the many sides of your photography talent

Working in a series means concentrating on one project and subject for some time and then putting your energy into something completely different later. With this, you’ll learn many things about your photography, how you like to work, and what makes you tick. You might find that you enjoy working on one series more than another and want to explore that particular avenue further or go back to what you did beforehand. And over time, you’ll have accumulated a significant and varied portfolio of work that will be engaging for your viewers.

Working in series means you can try your hand at many different subjects and genres but with a focused outlook. Here are some of my different photo series on display in my store

5 There are loads of things you can do with a photo series

Having a body of work in the form of a photo series opens up many options regarding how you can showcase and sell your images compared to standalone shots.For example, a popular way of displaying images in a series is in the form of a gallery exhibition, and having a body of work that you’re confident with could provide you with that leap of faith to display your images in a public setting like that, which could give a massive boost to your credibility as a photographer.

You could also publish a book on the series, which would add considerable value to the work and give you a product from your images that can be sold and enjoyed.Newspapers, magazines and other publishers are more inclined to publish photo series than standalone shots. And you’re much more likely to get your work seen by an editor if it is a series rather than a single image.

Creating a photo book of your series is a natural (and very impressive) way to showcase your work. Image editing suites like Adobe Lightroom make it very easy for you to put together your images in a book layout which you can then have produced with a specialist printer
Further reading:

Learn more about how to pitch your photography to a publisher with our guide.
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