How to Mix Photography and Illustration

The creative world is a wonderful world, but it is one in which participants are under pressure to conform, at least to some degree. You might think this is counterintuitive for an industry based on creativity, but you can find that pressure anywhere you look. Yet, many of the most remarkable creatives continue to evolve, adapt, and pioneer news ways to do what they do. One of the ways these high-level folks accomplish this is by working in mixed media. Mixed media can include things like photography, art, design, the written word, and even motion or motion graphics, but here, I’m focusing on illustration.

What do you mean by illustration?
Illustration can include things like drawings, sketches, plates, prints, artwork, or other visual aids. Drawing and illustration are often used interchangeably, but the primary difference is that drawing is considered personal expression, while illustration has a commercial relevance or angle.

Why is using illustration so important?

Visual information is ingested thousands of times faster than written information—something we’ve seen clearly as we continue on in the “Visual Age.” So illustration helps readers digest and absorb your message. Illustration also allows for nearly anything you can dream up. The only limit is your imagination.

In today’s world, the best creatives are vying for, more than anything else, attention, so using  multiple forms of content to reach multiple or varied audiences works best.

Which types of books typically use illustration?

Let’s start with children’s books: Many of the best children’s books are about magic or fantasy, stories best told through illustration. In addition, you have many varieties of nonfiction books that use illustration to break up text or help make data accessible.

Why do multimedia projects work well?
All of us are unique, and we all respond differently to different content or stimuli. I come from the photography world, so seeing a strong image is enough for me to engage with a story or concept, while you might respond more to a graph, drawing, or sketch from the author.

In today’s world, the best creatives are vying for, more than anything else, attention, so using  multiple forms of content to reach multiple or varied audiences works best.

What if I don’t have an art background?
Join the club! I have no art background and always considered myself to be extremely limited when it came to things like drawing or illustration. But, I just gave it a go, and that is my suggestion to you. Many of us have had art taught out of us by a multitude of life choices, but we all have a little artistic freedom just waiting to be rediscovered. Pencil, paper, begin.

What’s the best way to use illustration with photography?
Think about using illustrations that support the idea of your photography, or use them to illustrate the things you were not able to capture with your photography.

What about using illustration to highlight behind the scenes action of a project?

This is a great idea! Illustration, especially things like sketches, doodles, drawings, etc. often come across as much more personal than a photograph. You can use your illustrations to highlight the reality of the behind-the-scenes life of a project for the people involved. I’ve also seen people use instant film with sketches to do the same thing.

Do you have any examples of projects where you used both photography and illustration?

Last year I traveled to Wyoming to document the eclipse. As a photographer, I had to make a decision as to what I needed to cover. I knew there would be a glut of imagery of the actual eclipse, and I found myself more interested in the people who had come so far to see this miraculous event; however, if I photographed the people I couldn’t really photograph the eclipse at the same time. So, I made illustrations based on how the eclipse made me feel. Simple acrylic on art paper paintings. I then scanned these items and used them in the book.

Speaking of books, how can I use illustration in a book?

One of the things I love about Blurb is that I can print a single copy of a book. This means I can make a book, customize it after the fact, then print another, and do the same. Each copy will be completely unique. So, one suggestion is to design a notebook using photographs, text, etc. but then leave blank pages. You can then fill these with hand drawn illustrations. Each copy will contain its own unique set of sketches and drawings.

Where do you look for inspiration or knowledge when it comes to illustration?

The first place I look is the Communication Arts Illustration Annual. I also look at things like The One Club, which is loaded with all kinds of inspiring content. Finally, I look at A LOT of books.

Ready to make a completely custom Notebook or Journal? Choose from three sizes and mix and match blank, lined, square, or dot grid notebook pages. Get started today.



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