Classical Drawing Can (And Will) Improve Your Photography

By Dzvonko Petrovski / November 18, 2016

Drawing And Photography Are Related – Here Are 6 Ways To Prove It

Confession time. Recently, I’ve started taking classical drawing classes as a part of my studies. Yes, it's true and I love it!

You might say: why would you need drawing classes in order to improve your photography –
They're two different techniques after all, aren't they?

However, I assure you, drawing has a lot more in common with photography than you might think.

drawing and photography

Image by Hazyrah Mokhlas

1. Drawing Trains Your Eye

We photographers must be able to judge the light, shadows, depth, form, proportion, and all other aspects perfectly in order to be able to capture a better photo than the rest of the world. When you start drawing, you are forced to do that.

This is because you need to transfer what you see on a piece of paper, which forces you to pay much greater attention to the details. 

Drawing by hahayoyoo K

2. Depth Perception

Ok, so 99% of the time we aren’t aware of the perspective that our eyes have. Yes, we are aware of the perspective that a 200mm lens would create versus a 24mm lens, but not about the perspective our eyesight has.

This is partly due to the changes that our eye can do, and the “content aware fill” that our brain does on our vision. But, when you start drawing subjects, you become aware of the perspective your eye has.

Oftentimes, that knowledge will prove quite useful in judging the distance and focal length in order to capture what you have pre-visualized.

Drawing by William

Further Learning

To ensure your photography is a reflection of your inner artist, you’ll want to brush up on the concept of “Composition“. This Course from our friends at Photzy (written by Pro Kent DuFault) will be sure to get your skills polished up!
No more thoughtless and dull images – only awesome ones!

3. Proportion Awareness

I’ve often found myself staring at a certain photo and wondering what's wrong but not being able to put my finger on it for quite some time. Ever had that?

After a while, I’ve come to realize that the proportions are all messed up. Duh!

By “messed up proportions” I mean using a weird angle that will make the legs appear longer compared to the torso, or vice versa. Not that this is essentially bad – often it might not be what you intended, but you’ve done it anyway since you weren’t aware of the proportions.

When you start drawing, on the other hand, you take measures, hence you're paying more attention to the proportions than in photography.

This way, you train yourself to see it before even thinking about it, just as you would compose a shot in the rule of thirds; you (eventually) don’t think about it, it just comes naturally.

Drawing by Rick and Brenda Beerhorst 

4. Gaining A Better Sense Of Composition

Usually, when you start drawing you are drawn to studying the work others did, and that almost always leads you back to the classics, the masters of the craft.

This is something that will come in very handy when you are photographing or planning a scene in the future. Understanding the ways the old masters did their composition and used light to play with the human eye, can be especially valuable.

Drawing by Alexander Strugach

5. Greater Sense Of Light And Shadows

In photography, it's all about the light, and its byproduct: shadows.

Now, no matter how long you do photography, you will never stop learning, and you will never stop training your eye to judge light. This is the most important skill that you can learn in photography and the one that pays out the most.

Drawing and shading a picture is a great way to actually “feel the light”, and start noticing how it takes form over the relief of a surface, the way it bounces from one place to another, how it envelops a certain ridge and so forth.

When you start transferring that knowledge and familiarity to paper, it kinda embeds it in your mind with each new drawing you do.

Drawing by shrimali vijay [artist]

6. Additional Benefits

When you start drawing, you become a little addicted to it.

Drawing isn’t something that will cost you much, in fact it is one of the cheapest hobbies ever. In my local store, recycled drawing paper, soft drawing and toning pencils, quality eraser, and quality pencil sharpener will set you back around $5 in total.

The additional benefits are that you get better at drawing too, which will prove to be quite useful for sketching scenes that you plan to shoot, creating a storyboard etc.

It's actually good practice to cast your ideas onto paper in order to make sure you don’t forget them. Yes, you can write down the explanation, but a decent sketch won’t hurt.

Summary

If you have the time, take up a drawing class. It doesn’t have to be an advanced one, even some online classes would do. Start drawing regular day objects, and follow up with some tutorials until you get the hang of it.

Once you do, you’ll see that your photography will improve along the way. You’ll start to pay more attention to details, and your standards for what makes a good picture will rise, together with the quality of your work.


Drawing And Photography – Top Takeaways

  • Appreciate what it means to slow down and understand how famous artists developed an eye for composition and why their images are in fact, timeless pieces.
  • By drawing, you're paying more attention to proportions and the scale of what your picture should look like.
  • Understand light and shadows and how they affect and complement to make an interesting piece.

Further Resources

Further Learning

To ensure your photography is a reflection of your inner artist, you’ll want to brush up on the concept of “Composition“. This Course from our friends at Photzy (written by Pro Kent DuFault) will be sure to get your skills polished up!
No more thoughtless and dull images – only awesome ones!


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About the author

Dzvonko Petrovski

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and is not afraid to share the knowledge about it.

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