I think that for most artists, of any variety, there comes a time when practicality and reality meets the dream world that we so often live in. We create because we love it, and in doing so, produce works that are meaningful and special to us. I fully believe that the vision of an artist should never be compromised; yet that doesn’t mean that artists must be oblivious to business.
I create because I love to create. Whether it is writing, photography, or filmmaking, I am constantly searching for a new project – something to excite my creative juices. When I started out in photography it didn’t occur to me to make it a career. I did it because I loved it. But at a certain point I realized that I could either continue going to a job that I hated while doing what I loved on the side, or I could change all of that.
I had a specific idea of how my business would be run. I told myself I wouldn’t turn photography into just another job, doing something that I didn’t like for the sake of money. I would have rather gotten a job outside of the photo world to maintain purity of the craft, and that is just what I did for some time while I was trying to grow my business.
My first encounter in the professional world of photography came when I had my first meeting with a gallery. That gallery told me that if I could create a cohesive series around one of the images in my portfolio, I could have a show with them. And so I went on to create a series, or in other words, a set of images that all link together in one form or another. The gallery explained that if they exhibit a series, they are more likely to sell multiple prints during the show.
Creating a series also helps to identify a style within an artist’s work, which can be paramount for creating a recognizable name in the industry. Creating a series creates trust between artist and client, no matter who that client is. It could be that you are creating a commissioned portrait or selling a print; but no matter what the medium of the exchange, you have proved that you can create consistently by creating a series.
This video explains why creating a series can be so important and goes over some tips on how to not only come up with a series, but stick with it as well.
If you have an idea for a series, share it!
If you have already created a series, share that, too!
Here are parts of some other series I’ve worked on over the years…
I created a more narrative storyline in this series that I did called “The Re-Imaging of Ophelia” in which the classic character was put center stage to take hold of her own destiny.
Underwater photography has long fascinated me due to the other-worldliness of it. We cannot exist in this space, and a photograph allows us to linger.
I began working in Photoshop one day to create a dress out of a small, found object, largely inspired by Maggie Taylor’s incredible works. I expanded the idea into a series in which the constructed dresses told something fundamental about the character within.
Photographing skin has always been inspiring to me, and when I pair that with nature it seemed the perfect fit to start a series.
James - I absolutely loved this video. I never thought about how the lighting could be so important. I always thought it was simply the subject matter that made the series. I also like what you said about planning. I too get bored with what I do and want to move on, and the idea of planning out the series is awesome and will help me so much.
Anyway, to answer your question, I am actually working on a series. Your video changed some of the ideas was thinking about… in a good way of course. My idea was placing people into the frame and turning them into the stuff of nature. I have done rock/earth but I’m excited to work on fire, sand, leaves, and whatever I can think of for the future.
Thanks again, your videos always make my monday better 🙂
Carsten - Im doing my first Series about People in descent or lost surreal places. It will find a place in a Book of mine. The Book is about starving, getting lost, and find back to life. Two works: Insomnia and sinn.flut (Devil may care) …
Im trying to find a Visual way to transform the feelings of the words to Images. i am trying to connect the Images with the Text. In the Moment i am feeling more as a pathfinder. Its my 6th approach now, and in the Moment i feel for the first time i am on the right path
Melanie - I am currently working on my first series ever. It is my desire to have my work shown in galleries. While my technique is still needing work having a theme to focus on keeps me grounded and working on those things that I lack. The idea for the series started with the very first self-portrait that I ever took that I wanted to continue but couldn’t because I found myself pregnant with our second child. So I began recruiting young women from my community for models in hopes of knocking down two cans with one stone: a new character for each story and a hope of helping young women feel beautiful in this world that would have them think otherwise. It has been a gratifying experience (one of my models is really interested in photography and has become my assistant and mentee), but I find that I am now having a hard time coming up with images to fit the series and I still have six girls who want to participate!!
Anyways, you can view images from the series here http://www.mmhewittphotography.com/portraits-in-a-nightgown/ and read up on the stories behind the images on my blog http://www.mmhewittphotography.com/blog
Margherita Introna - How funny… I just shared my latest image on your wall that is the start of a series for me and is very much inspired by your sewer series <3 I don’t have a fancy sewer, but have realised I can use a strip of wall outside the house in a similar way and have a number of images that I have planned for this space. I am thrilled to have “found” this space that provides the perfect lighting and conditions for simple and easy access that I can create almost anytime I want… Creating in a series is a wonderful way to focus the attention and in itself can provide inspiration on which to build.
Blog with further details: http://www.margheritaintrona.com/#!Healing-Powers/c20iz/4B278547-9005-4792-9BE5-6226230D6225
Jen Sulak - thankful for you, and appreciating the small moments of life….every moment is precious.
Marta - Hello! 🙂
It’s my first comment but I just want to express my huge appreciation for your wonderful work and for your videos and themes that you choose to talk about.
I am not a artist, but I did help to produce some photos as a model lately.
You really are an amazing artist and above all, a great person who share everything with an open heart. And I just felt I needed to say this to you.
Thank you so much. You are beautiful.
Greetings from Portugal 🙂
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - An compatriot from Portugal! Marta, Brooke is undoubtedly a fantastic person
Ben Perrott - Hi Brooke, absolutely !
I’ve not been doing “fine art photography” for very long, The closest I’ve ever got to doing a series is two photographs, it is indeed hard my photographs next to each other all but a few look completely different.. sometimes photographs I do with the same concept and meaning look completely different, but that’s because I’ve not actually set out to create a series initially.. it’s quite ironic because I’ve been thinking I should really create a series ! definitely a good idea !
Jen Sulak - I am STARTING to work on a series…inspired by my trip over to the World’s fair…..i was really enjoying the red/white aspects of the scenery – and in sept. i’ll be staying in a lighthouse that is also red/white. so i figured i would continue to work on the concept while i’m there. Here is the beginning.
we’ll see what happens! either way, i’m excited to TRY and keep exploring. Great things happen with great people & collaborations.
robin spalding - i made a picture in PA with marsha modeling a (her)suitcase to say goodbye as i moved crosscountry. fast forward tO me being in missouri and i found a suitcase and was like duh im on this incredible journey why didnt i think to do it as a series?! lol. so im working on that. so glad my husband let me stop a few times on the side of the road on our drive to CA(i woulda stopped more but then i would prob still be on the road lol) also on again off again i am doing series on infertility struggles. then thers my eater series which i adore.
Eva - Your timing is most excellent. I just started my first series; when I stared it I didn’t know it was going to be a series. I have a box of healing mud that I’ve had for years and thought I should use it up so I asked a friend if he would get covered in mud for me with a few live snails in a very public walk path on a cold rainy morning. He said give me 20 minutes. And so it begun, and will end when I run out of healing mud. Happy creating Brooke.
Andrea Gore - I would say cohesive is not a super strong point for me. I think my butterfly like attention span may be the contributing factor in the past to my lack of commitment to a series. 🙂 I have two series going right now and so far I am winning! 🙂 I am currently obsessed with the moon, sparkles and ideas of what the soul would would look like. Loved the video. Happy Monday to you <3
Elisabeth on Earth - This is sooooo great. I love the series you’ve shared. Rather unexpectedly, I’ve found that I’m really drawn to doing collections. Here are a couple; a third in the works (series of ghosts for Autumn). 🙂
Dryad (tree spirit) series:
Tied to the Moon series:
Diogo Costta - This is exactly what I was searching for! I’m currently doing a series called Efflorescence and I couldnt tell if I was in the right path. I’d love to have a feedback from you about my series.
Thank you so much for your tips.
daniel - I actually am doing a series with cassette tape, thank you, for every promoting passion video you’ve uploaded it’s areally great tool to feel inspired and keep looking forward to make a living out of it.
here’s the link. http://danielcely.com/cassette/
Claude - Hi Brooke,
I have so many series in my head, but get stuck on doing them.
I now tried to set the bar lower and do a series about basket hoops with my fathers old Rolleicord (medium format).
I want to try and show them in an unspectacular way, without players in the photograph.
Last week I set out for the first shot and it feels so good to at least have begun a series that’s been stuck in my head.
“Bigger” series, as in photographs with conceptual background and clothing somehow seem to intimidating to start.
Love your series with the dark background and the one colour concept.
Thanks for this video. You keep being inspirational for me.
Sven n Kenn - thank you Brooke for this information…especially about how you might just chuck a series as you lose interest or inspiration…but also the valuable information on developing a series…I do love this series but if ind the image with the blue dress lady as having a very different look than the other images….it may be because I am viewing it on such a small scale….love you sharing this with us…just want to know are you doing the ice bucket challenge since the gauntlet has been thrown at your feet…and will we be able to see that ?…could be an inspiration for a whole new series . Namaste
Libertad Leal - Loved this video Brooke, such great advice and tips! Specially the color scheme comment, so obvious but something I’ve been overlooking. Thank you!
I really struggle with consistency in my photography, it’s like a very mixed salad for me, but just recently I had an idea for a series that I am super excited about. I remembered when you talked about the importance of a series on the Creative Live class but I simply could not come up with anything then. Then on a day when I was very frustrated and contemplating quitting photography I started thinking about other things I love in life and I immediately thought about one of my absolute favorite books. It’s written by my favorite author, Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and it’s called Strange Pilgrims (Doce Cuentos Peregrinos is the original Spanish title). It’s a compilation of 12 short stories that “touches on the themes of dislocation and the strangeness of life in a foreign land” which is something I am familiar with being an immigrant and all. The cool thing about them is that true to his “magical realism” style of writing these stories are so much more than immigrant stories because there are elements of of magic and delicious insanity in all of them. It occurred to me that it would be fascinating to create a photo for each story. And even though I have no idea how I am going to pull off the magical component to the stories I am delirious with excitement at the prospect of doing this series. And now that I think about it I see a lot of magical realism in your art, maybe that is why I love it so much. I highly recommend the book by the way. I have not read the English translation but I think you would enjoy the stories. Specially “I Sell My Dreams”, “The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow” and “I Only Came To Use The Phone”. So.Very.Creepy. 🙂
Ellie Victoria Gale - Thank you for sharing this Brooke, I’ve been thinking about working on a second series as I worked on a small series at university but after leaving and being thrown into the big wide world I had no idea where to carry on as my style has changed quite a lot. It’s great hearing what elements are important to include into a series and what to think about before planning one because to he honest, it’s quite daunting to think about it! Your latest work has been incredibly inspirational, knowing its possible to create beautiful images out of nothing. I’m in love with rich colours, and your latest images really stand out to me with the pop of colour.
I’m in the process of planning a floral series with female subjects as I love the delicacy between females and flowers, and the bright colours you can include in each image. I’m not sure if this photo would ever make the series but it was from this shoot that I got my inspiration from: https://flic.kr/p/nBDUwj
I look forward to watching your next video 🙂
Kimberly A Edwards - You can see mine by clicking on my name. =-D
Sarah Allegra - Lovely video, as always, Brooke! My biggest and most consuming series (in every sense of the word) is my DreamWorld series: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artosthebear/sets/72157632166436035 It sets out to document the creatures and beings who populate the world we visit in sleep.
Sally - Brooke, I do not pick up my camera without thinking of you…. every single time (which is almost every single day- I do alot of deleting!!) You have changed the way I look at something- I love it and, at the same time, get SO frustrated. Sometimes my brain just doesn’t want to open up its creative side. Doing a series is on my agenda. Plus, it will give me a sense of direction and purpose. I’ll let you know how I do. If nothing else, you will get a good chuckle!! :)!
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - I began to appreciate this art and I am starting in this area thanks to you and your work. 🙂 But I still have to learn a lot and I never thought in terms of series. I will simply create what my mind feel and imagine. But without thinking about it, unintentionally, I created two images that I can say that is a series. However, I’m also starting a work for an exhibition about the seven deadly sins, I and a friend. He, as a designer draw and I as a portrait photographer. But in the meantime I decided to change, and I will make it as fine art. And that will be a big challenge for me! 🙂 And therefore, this project can also be thought as a series, right? I posted yesterday, and today, the two works I mentioned before, and it’s about the strength that we need, to walk on our path of life. <3 You can see here:
mariadolgopolova - Thank you very much for this interesting video, Brooke!
When I fist began taking pictures I created a series of pictures that showed a character in different rooms: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mariam_pic/sets/72157626945206076/
And I also did the series of pictures for the experimental film ‘The case of Dr Block’, portraying the main character of the film. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mariam_pic/sets/72157632450945822/
What I like about the series is that it can show the character in progress and strongly evoke emotions in the viewer.
Holly - I have been working on a series of black dogs in low key. Two more dogs to go!
Andreea Iancu - I’ve recently started a series as well, simply entitled Fairytales, with the intent to inspire myself from different stories or just elements of a story and illustrate them by photographing beautiful women. The reason I started it is because this is the type of approach to photography that has always appealed to me most so I thought.. why not make it a series? I’ve done only 3 official parts until now, but I plan it to be a long-time series. 🙂
Here are the first 3 parts:
Ailene - Thank again Brooke for an inspirational video. I hadn’t considered creating a series but now it seems like something I just *have* to do!
Christina Ramsey - I have been doing a 52 week project with my kids. I am currently on week 19. I have to say doing this project has really challenged my creativity and helped me push myself more by learning new techniques. I have 100% been inspired to dive into Fine Art photography from watching your class on Creative Live. I really appreciate your wonderful soul and inspiration. I post all of my work on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/c.ramseyphotography.
Brooke Shaden: Creating a Series | Michael Pannier - […] “I think that for most artists, of any variety, there comes a time when practicality and reality meets the dream world that we so often live in. We create because we love it, and in doing so, produce works that are meaningful and special to us. I fully believe that the vision of an artist should never be compromised; yet that doesn’t mean that artists must be oblivious to business.” For more from Brook on Creating a Series […]
Anne - Hi Brooke,
I am working on a series entitled “Ladies of the Lake,” taking inspiration from the Arthurian legends. In these photographs each subject emerges from the water bearing a bouquet of flowers. So far I have shot images using four different dresses, each one evoking a different mood. This series feels like something I was born to create.
Here is my gallery: http://www.poeticimageryfineartphotography.com/gallery/
Thank you for the on-going inspiration!
Carmen - I am required to produce a number of series each semester for school. My head is full of concepts, but I find it challenging to produce what I see in my head. Could be due to difficulty in finding locations, props etc. Another huge issue is I have limited time to produce a series of say 12-16 photos in one semester (which is about 4-5 months). I find I end up only truly loving 2-3 out of my submission because of the time constraint. Think I need to learn how to plan better and do less on the fly!
Great video and amazing series!!!!
Pauline LP - Hello Brooke,
I’ve just read your article and it helps me a lot !
I’ve finished a very long serie two months ago. It contains 500 images, I wanted to stop it before I get bored.
This is my serie called “Journal” : http://www.flickr.com/photos/97487781@N06
I don’t know if you’ll have time to take a look at it, but it would be very nice to have your opinion.
Right now I have some ideas for new photographs, but in my head I see no link between them. I think I’ll just do them and then maybe the link will be more obvious.
Finally, thanks you for all your articles. Yours pictures are so beautiful !!
Pauline (From France 😉 )