Creating a Photo Project with the Same Look
Thinking of photography in the context of a series or project can be a great way to improve. It gives you a theme and vision to focus on, and then teaches you how to bring that vision to reality.
Afterwards, when you’re out shooting photography without any project in mind, it still helps you learn to be more effective in capturing your personal vision with each shot.
A serious project should take years, not days, but you don’t have to let that intimidate you. Working on smaller, easier projects can be valuable too.
There are many different types of photo projects you can do too. They don’t have to fit into anything ever done before, either, so it’s all up to you. The most important thing is that the photos are cohesive in some way. It’s not like single images where it’s all about that one photo. The photos in a series or project should feel like they all go together.
In a previous post, I went over picking something that symbolizes a place for you and then capturing this in a mix of photos that help give your personal feelings of that symbol and place. In my personal example, I chose the narrow alleys of Tokyo, Japan. For this post, I will go over a different type of project series where you attempt to capture a theme by using the exact same subject and look. This is an easier project to do because once you’ve chosen what you’ll capture and how you want it to look, there’s not much else to it.
My personal example for creating this type of project will be Train Window Portraits, a candid portrait series using India’s barred train windows as the frame for the people. I shot this a couple of years ago for fun while staying in New Delhi for a few days. While it was very easy to complete, it ended up being helpful for more difficult projects I took on later. For beginners, starting with simple projects like this can be a great way to grow.
5 Steps to Train Window Portraits
(and other photo projects with the same look & subject)
Step 1: Think of what you want to capture
This can be anything, as long as it’s specific. You want the finished project to be a series of photos that look the same, but are different at the same time.
For example, the first time I was in India, the trains really grabbed my attention. I especially loved the open barred windows of the trains’ popular Sleeper Class. I liked how the unique windows framed the people inside them too. They’re authentically India and provide a frame that can be captured over and over, but with different subjects inside the windows.
So while I was staying by the train station in New Delhi, I decided to go to the station every day for an hour and shoot a series of candid portraits using the train windows. When captured in a series of photos, you get the same look with the same barred window frame, only with a variety of people inside. So they all go together by being the same, while still being different enough.
There are an endless number of ideas for picking your own subject. It could be park benches, bus stops, doors, apartment windows, and the list goes on. Just pick something that you’ll have the opportunity to capture many of, almost identically.
Step 2: Plan it out
With a series like this, it’s especially important that the composition, style and look all go together. So it’s best to completely plan it out so you don’t have photos that disrupt the flow and specific look of the series.
Use the Same Lens
For instance, you will want to shoot the series with the same lens and focal length. Even if it’s framed the same, a wide-angle lens will give a completely different perspective and feeling versus a telephoto lens. So once you decide the look you want, then choose the lens that goes with this look. For the Train Window Portraits, I wanted more of a portrait look so I chose my 85mm lens. If you’re choosing more of a scene like a bus stop or store front, then you’ll probably want to choose a wider angle.
After choosing the lens, decide on the distance you’ll shoot from and the style of composition you’ll use to give them all the same look. If you want, you can take different practice shots first until you find the look you like best and then plan it out from there.
Step 3: Time to Capture
So now that you know what you’ll capture and how you’ll do it, the next step is to go capture it. For the Train Window Portraits, I went to the New Delhi train station and walked along the different train platforms looking for interesting characters inside the barred windows. I tried to make sure I was always at a similar distance from the window and that I focused straight ahead towards the window when I made the shot.
From there, all it took was time and constantly observing the different windows. The photography part was simple.
Depending on the subject, a project like this can be done over time if you like too. It doesn’t always have to be your focus, just as long as you know how to capture it in the same way when you do decide to work on it. Or whenever you come across the subject.
Step 4: Editing
When it comes to editing, there’s two main parts. There’s the actual post-processing and then there’s the selecting and organizing for the final series. The post-processing should be the easier part. After you’ve come up with the style and look for the photos, you can just save this edit as a pre-set and apply it to all the photos. Personally, I prefer Lightroom, but there are other programs.
Then all you should have to do are minor adjustments to give them the same look and feel. Cropping can be important too if you weren’t at the exact same distance and angle for every shot. I wanted them to flow together like the people are the only thing changing.
The most time consuming part of editing is actually the selection process. After removing the bad photos, the photos that weren’t captured like the rest and any other obvious omissions, then the hard part comes. Selecting the ones for the final project. The fact they will all look similar can make it more difficult to pick which ones you like best too.
The first thing I look for are any shots that look too similar when it comes to the subject. While you’re going for the same look, you still want enough variety to the images to keep some interest. So after finding any people who looked the same or window scenes that looked too similar, I removed the ones I didn’t like as much.
After narrowing them down this far, then it just comes down to going through them and picking your favorites that go with your vision for the final project. If you’re having any trouble, you can always ask other people’s opinions too.
Step 5: Finish
Now that you have all the photos for the final project selected, you just have to choose the final order. For the Train Window project, I tried to give as much change from subject to subject, while keeping some feeling of flow.
After that, you’re done! You can add an intro or explanation of the project too, if you’d like. Then post it, print it, or just keep it on your computer for your own enjoyment. No matter what, it’s always a good feeling to finish a photo project, no matter how small or simple it is.
One other nice thing about this style of photo project is how it looks when displayed side by side or in a grid format. This really showcases the identical style and look of the photos.
Creating & Learning at the Same Time
And be sure to check out my 33 Street Photos from India
Have any of you worked on a similar type of photo series or project? Tell me about it in the comments below!