Drawing Will Improve Your Photography

I’m going to get straight to the point, if it wasn’t for the years of experience I’ve had as an illustrator and fine artist, I am convinced my eye as a commercial photographer would not be anywhere near the quality it is today.

“But how can that be, these are two very different skills sets?” you ask.

At first many may think this but when you begin to break down the two artistic areas, you soon realise how interlinked and similar they actually are.

Let’s look at a few key points of both techniques:

  • both practice the art of composition and placement of shapes
  • both deal in lighting, shadows and highlights
  • both require an understanding of depth and perspective.

That is just a few of the similarities between photography and drawing, but how could drawing improve my skills as an amateur or a commercial photographer?

How Can Drawing Help My Photography?

When you take a picture you assess the frame and composition, sometimes for only a split second before pressing the shutter and (post production aside) bang you have captured the image. With drawing you are literally forced to take all of the points mentioned previously, plus many more, into consideration before carefully applying the marks to the surface to create the final rendering.

Drawing will force you to slow down and analyze the subject matter carefully before, during and at the end of the process as you critique your ability and techniques in relation to the subject you have created. During this process you must pay much more attention to detail within the subject as you make the marks on the surface to create your drawing, far more than when taking a single frame with a camera.

This process, when practiced regularly over time will train the brain to look at photographic subjects and composition in a similar manner as a drawing subject, with a clearer understanding of detail, form, perspective, lighting and proportion.

Something amazing will happen after spending time practicing the art of drawing, when you are out shooting images, you will begin to look at the world and specifically your subject matter in shapes and blocks of light and shadow almost like x-ray vision…I promise you this is how I see my world. Every photo is like a new painting.

Please understand, you do not have to be a master artist at drawing, just sitting with a pencil and going through the process and immersing yourself in the moment will benefit your photography, I guarantee it!

What Should I Draw?


Literally just draw anything, it’s a simple as that…but here is the thing, if you really want to take things to the next level and supercharge your area of specific photographic endeavor then I would suggest drawing that.

If you are specifically a portrait photographer then I would suggest drawing anything, but maybe have a crack at a few portraits. Even if it’s from magazines or photographic reference…even your own photographs, because that will be the best way to really analyze what you did to get that image and where you might improve it.

I regularly sit in on life drawing sessions to brush up on my drawing technique and improve my observation skills. Life drawing will probably be the best thing you can ever do to really learn form, lighting and proportion…the key elements to taking really, really good photos, no matter what subject you shoot.

I am primarily an Industrial Photographer so I spend a lot of my time in and around heavy machinery, factories, mine sites and construction areas and I love my niche so much so that I spend time drawing my own made up machines, to see how I might improve on the function and form of the machines I shoot…yes I know it’s a little obsessive.

What this does for me is help focus on the components and operation of the machines I shoot. It means I get to understand not only the detail of the subject matter but also the functionality and mode of operation. This is key to being a quality industrial photographer.

What If I Can’t Draw

There are many world class photographers out there that probably don’t draw, I am not saying you must be able to draw to take good pictures.

What I am saying is that you will definitely benefit from doing some drawing, no matter how bad you think you are, it is a given that this will improve your photography.

That said, I absolutely believe everyone can draw, we are all given the same brain structure, give or take, as in a left and right hemisphere. It is all in the transfer of thought process from left to right, or analytical to creative. If you are already shooting images, chances are you are already experiencing a shift into the right hemisphere to take most of your shots. That’s the place drawing comes from, the rest is practice and learning technique – surprise, just like taking good photos.

Reference Books

Number one book to help both your drawing ability and photography:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – by Betty Edwards

Before I discovered this book in the early ‘90s I had been working as a designer, illustrator and art director for about 8 years and I truly thought that only select people had the “Magic Talent” to draw or paint. Then I read the book, applied the techniques and actually attended a course based on the teachings. After seeing the results of the attendees that I did the course with and understanding the concepts of the book, I became convinced that everyone can not only draw… but also draw convincingly.

Seriously I swear there were people on that course that couldn’t draw a smiley face to begin with that walked away at the end with some amazing portraits in charcoal and pencils.

What does this book have to do with photography – more than you could imagine!


If you want to seriously improve your photography then grab a pencil and a piece of paper and go out and start drawing.

Contact me if you want to talk some more.


“The Industrial Photographer”