Before a portrait shoot I like to have a set of ideas to test. The subject and the location usually create some new ideas we shoot on the fly, but there is some satisfaction when a pre-visualized idea is realized in a photograph. That’s when I feel like I’m in charge of the camera rather than the other way around.
Sketching ideas is a big part of this. And it helps in many ways:
I can sketch during a consultation session to make sure the subject and I are on the same page and managing expectations.
If I don’t meet with the subject before the shoot, I can send them a scan or electronic image to discuss their preferences.
Pinterest boards are useful, but sometimes you can’t find a good example to match a simple idea you have. Making your own sketches can be a part of this mood-board process.
Having a set of ideas means having something to fall back on if the momentum disappears during a shoot.
Ideas can involve building on inspiration found elsewhere such as fine art or other images.
Sketches can be made with pencil and a notebook, or you can even do it on a computer using software. Krita is an open source drawing program that is set out a lot like Photoshop and even has layers, but the brush/pen selection is wonderful and there is no temptation to import a photograph!
And don’t be scared to draw. You need no actual drawing skills other than simple wire-frames and shapes. As a photographer, you’ll also realize that ideas around shade and light are as important than composition and background.