The Power of Sketching Your Photographic Ideas

My approach to photography has gone through an evolution over the past 6 months and I'm finally to the point where I feel like it's all coming together.

In March 2011 I took a workshop with John Paul Caponigro in Death Valley called Illuminating Creativity. This was a life changing workshop for me. This wasn't your typical photography workshop where they take you to great photographic spots and turn you loose. John Paul would take us to such places and tell us to go ahead and take the "Postcard Shot" but then we were expected to start taking the real photographs. John Paul spent a lot of time talking about creativity and how to improve our creative thought and how to make it into a process.  There were a lot of techniques discussed and I've been using many of them but the one I wanted to talk about in this post is the power of sketching.

After the workshop I purchased several artist sketchbooks and put them in my car, next to my bed, on my desk at work. Whenever I would have an idea for a photograph I would write a quick sketch in the sketchbook. Often the act of sketching it would trigger additional ideas and I would find myself filling several pages in the book. A few weeks later I would go back and read through the sketchbook and would always have additional ideas pop into my head. Often these new ideas would be completely unrelated to any of the ideas in the sketchbook. Soon I had over 60 pages of ideas to photograph and 3 months after starting the sketchbook I went out to shoot one of the ideas.

Here was the first sketch idea.


As you can see I'm not much of an artist, but I was able to sketch enough of the idea to convey the idea and remind myself of the details. Here is the resulting image:


As you can see the image is almost exactly as described in the sketchbook and I don't think I would have been able to take a photo like this if I had not planned it out first in the sketchbook.

A fellow photographer friend approached me a few weeks later and asked for my help in doing a Little Red Riding Hood themed shoot. I didn't really have any ideas ready for such a shoot so I started thinking about it and over the next few days wrote my ideas in the sketchbook. Here is the result.

Here are the resulting photos

Again the resulting photographs were very similar to the ideas in the sketchbook.

Over the next couple of months I continued adding ideas to the sketchbook and realized I was coming up with a lot of ideas but not implementing any of them. So I booked some models and over the next couple of weeks knocked off 4 ideas from the sketchbook. Here's the latest






So just like a filmmaker will make a storyboard for their film, making a sketch of the photo idea helps to visualize the idea and acts as a reminder for all the details.

When I started the workshop with John Paul Caponigro I was very skeptical of the whole sketching idea. I am more of a left brain type guy and sketching seemed more right brain and not for me. But I decided to try everything John Paul suggested and have been ecstatic with the result. As I said the workshop changed my approach to photography (hopefully for the better :) ). The sketchbook is a now a solid part of my workflow and is a tool I will use for the rest of my photographic career. Give it a try.




Work of Art

Bravo TV has just started the 2nd season of "Work of Art - The Next Great Artist". I highly recommend this program to all my artist/photographer friends.

This past week I started watching some old shows from last season that were on my DVR and have been inspired by every single episode. The show is a reality show where artists are given an art challenge and often have one or two days to complete the challenge in whatever medium they choose. The art is then shown to the public and guest judges then crtique it and pick a winner (who gets immunity at the next challenge) and a loser who is sent home.

There is a mix of artist types on the show, there are photographers, sculpters, painters, street graffiti artists, performance artists. What has been interesting to me is that while watching the show I will often get ideas about photography subjects I want to shoot, and these ideas don't come from the photographers in the show. Sometimes it from a painting one of the artists creates, sometimes it a scuplture, it varies every show. It's a great show for sparking my creativity and as I mentioned above I have been inspired by every episode.

It airs on Wednesday Nights on the Bravo Channel ( Check it out.


Is Being Creative a Constant Uphill Battle?

Ira Glass outlines what it takes to break through as a creative person. I've seen various versions of this over the past month, but liked this presentation and thought it fit well with today's topic.

I am constantly trying to realize my vision in my photography. I have the idea and visualize it in my mind, but the resulting photograph is rarely as good as in my mind. Occasionally though I produce some work that I'm really proud of, because it exactly represents my vision, perhaps it's a fluke, or by chance. Perhaps it's because I had planned and thought about the concept for months or years prior to actually taking the photo. Perhaps that planning helped me to pay attention to the little details while I took the photo.

Often when I do get one of these "good photos", I will come back a year later and look at it and think our naive I was, that I'm much better now than I was then and I could make that photo so much better now. It seems that I am never happy with the level that I'm at. I'm always striving to get better, which I guess is a good thing, but I often wonder if I'm ever going to get to the point where I consider my work good. Or is it going to be a constant striving to be better, never satisfied with the current?

18 Imaginative Thinkers Break Your Creative Block

Creative blocks happen to everybody. How you deal with it determines how long it lasts.  In his blog Luke Copping interviews 18 different creative people on how they avoid or get of creative blocks. Some very interesting perspectives are given.

How To Steal Like An Artist

Austin Kleon had a great post on HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME). Some very good tips on how to be an artist.