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How to Create a Photo Series: Learn How Live at ShutterFest 2018

(Editor’s note: The following article is part of a class Photofocus authors will be teaching–sponsored by Skylum, makers of Luminar–at ShutterFest April 3-4, 2018. Each day we will post helpful tips and tricks plus share some of our behind the scenes videos. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter or check back here. Remember to also follow Skylum!)

Creating a photo series isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Norman Rockwell—an American author, painter, and illustrator—is famous for creating a series of paintings reflecting American culture. One glance and you can tell a Rockwell painting. Here’s how photographers can make a photo series and have a little fun doing it.

Create a Concept or Adopt from an Existing One

For the past few years, I’ve focused on Sports Portraits. I even recorded a class for LinkedIn Learning—Portrait Photography: Sports Portraits. I used harsh light and developed the images with my own gritty preset. I’ve shot all types of sports: Lacrosse, Baseball, Wrestling, Soccer, Football… the list goes on.

That got me thinking. What if I kept my sports style—harsh light, dirty faces, taped up hands, gritty look—but changed up what people perceive as sports? Let’s face it, most would be more impressed to hear you won a Bronze Medal in the Olympics for gymnastics rather than taking home the top Gold Medal in Kijoring—skiing while being pulled by a horse or dog (or multiple dogs). Honestly, each sport has its own degree of difficulty and a Gold Medal is a Gold Medal. So I brainstormed with my team and we listed all types of activities. Soon we had a list: Marching Band, Chess, Ballet, Ping Pong and several others. We shot with the same harsh light and processed the images with the same gritty look. We had a lot of fun with it and a new photo series was born.

Stay Consistent, Don’t Get Bored

The key to a good series is to stay consistent and don’t get bored! Use the same lighting setup and develop the images the same way. Fellow Photofocus Author Levi Sim adopted the “Steve Jobs Style Portrait” and made it his own. He would set up a station—a simple white background and a one light beauty dish—at major photography conferences and photograph anyone and everyone… for free! People were standing in long lines just to have a portrait made by Levi. I must confess, I told Levi to put the series to rest. Why? Because I was bored seeing it. I’m glad he didn’t get bored because the series is still a huge hit. I admit I was wrong. His long series taught me that even though I may be bored, people are excited because it’s new to them. As long as people want it, keep the series going.

Start With a Preset, Change it and Save it as Your Own

For the Chess series, I chose Luminar from Skylum as my editing tool. I instantly fell in love with their “Dramatic Look” and “Grunge” presets. After about 20 minutes of adding additional filters and experimenting, I saved the settings as a new preset. I applied my new preset to several images from the series and images from a different shoot to make sure they looked the same. To save even more time, I used Luminar’s batch-processing feature. This gives me the ability to schedule several subjects at the same time or throughout the day. I simply shoot, apply the preset and have a finished image before the subjects leave!

“Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” -Norman Rockwell

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a photo series to show others things they may not have noticed themselves.

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