Photo Sketches for Photography

Photo Sketches for Photography

For certain genres of photography, it’s a good idea to have a very specific idea of what you want your photo to look like. Sometimes you need to focus on composition, other times on facial expressions, and even other times on the overall feeling of the photo. To get as close as possible to your idea, you can “sketch” the photograph. When is sketching your photo useful and how do you do it?

Are you more of a planner and don’t enjoy improvising? Me neither, and that’s why I’m sharing how I plan for photoshoots.

Types of Photography

Creating sketches and drafts for visualization purposes isn’t suitable for every genre of photography. Sketches are beneficial when you can influence much of the scene: still lifes, advertising, fashion photography, portraits, and architecture. 

On the contrary, sketching loses its meaning in reportage or documentary photography. For these genres, you can list the points you want to capture or what the photograph should express. 

For photo sketching, we are more interested in the visual references of the photo. 

Get inspired 

Pinterest, with its incredible database of images and photos and the algorithm for searching through them, can be an endless source of photography inspiration.

Enter your keywords into the search bar and click the image that best fits your concept. Pinterest’s algorithm then finds a variety of similar photos that you can easily pin to your boards.

I recommend creating a separate board for each project. This gives you a much better overview of your projects.

Photo Sketches, potrait mood
Photographs with the vibe we want to capture.
Photo Sketches, portrait 1
Photo Sketches, portrait 2

The result

Photo sketches using a mobile device

Are you planning a photoshoot, scouting out a location, or just happen to stumble upon an interesting idea you want to use? Take a “rough draft” with your phone. You can also include other plans and goals in the draft.

A phone is also very handy for architecture photography.

First, go through the building with your phone and take pictures of what you will later shoot with your camera. This is also useful for commercial assignments because you can go through these drafts with the client, allowing them to better visualize the result.

Photo Sketches, architecture preview
Sketch using a mobile phone.
Photo Sketches, architecture final
Final photograph

Classic sketch, or idea notebook

Everyone engaged in creative endeavors often gets ideas out of the blue. It’s a good idea to jot them down immediately or, for us photographers, sketch them out. But it’s easier said than done.

Photo Sketches, notes
At the beginning of any large projects, take notes and record observations and ideas. These are notes for yourself that you write in a way you can understand.

Sketches also come into play for free-form creations when you can’t find similar inspirational photographs that meet your requirements. That’s where it pays off to have sketches of a visual representation of how the photograph should look.

Photo Sketches, sketch
You don’t have to be able to draw; all that matters is that you understand your design.
Photo Sketches, power
The resulting photograph based on the sketch.

Mix and match 

As you can guess, there’s no exact recipe for how photo sketching should work. It’s good to try out various forms of sketching to find out what works best for you. This can even be a combination of the methods discussed in this article. Knowing what you want to photograph and having a visual reference is one way to achieve the final photograph according to your plan. Eliminate randomness and focus on the desired outcome.