Photography Sketchbook Ideas – 9 Inspirational Examples

Last Updated on November 28, 2021

Many high school Photography students are unsure how to present printed photographic images in a creative and visually appealing way. This collection is intended to motivate and inspire students who study high school qualifications such as NCEA Level 3 Photography (Scholarship), A Level Photography and IB Visual Art.

Please view our new book: Outstanding High School Sketchbooks. This book has high-resolution images so that fine details and annotation are clear, making it an excellent resource for students and schools. Learn more!

photography sketchbook ideas
These four sketchbook pages by design student Joshua Brooks combine several excellent presentation strategies. Images have been positioned in an ordered, well-balanced formation, with small, non-distracting annotation. Hand-drawn compositions have been included – an excellent way for competent drawers to think through ideas and provide visual variety to their photography sketchbook pages. Some images have been printed with clues about the digital manipulation that has taken place (see top right); this can allow students to look back and understand how various effects were achieved, as well as communicate this to the examiner.
Mixed media photography sketchbook
Two A Level Photography sketchbook pages by Melissa Kelsey, completed while studying at ACG Strathallan College, Auckland, New Zealand. Melissa gained 100% and Top in New Zealand for her CIE A Level Photography submission (you may be interested in reading our article about her AS Photography Coursework). These pages were created using a range of mixed mediums, including photo paper, gesso, shellac, brown and black paper, magazine paper and cardboard. Sketchbooks provide an opportunity for students to investigate ideas and experiment with different techniques, without producing ‘finished images’. In these examples, the photographs are not constrained to a rectangular frame and free-flow across the page. This is an excellent approach, allowing students to play creatively with the communication of ideas, without the restriction of composing a finished work. Photographs have been cut and ripped at the edges and collaged onto the page with torn paper, drawing and annotation added.
A Level photography examples
Four beautifully composed A Level Photography sketchbook pages by Ellie Powell. This accomplished A Level Photography sketchbook is a reminder that a simple presentation, with subtle variation, is often all that is needed. Thumbnail images (or darkroom negative proofs) are analyzed, with compositions highlighted and scrawled over, allowing the quick communication of ideas. Even the selection of red and yellow pens is purposeful, linking seamlessly with the colors used throughout the portfolio. In these sketchbook pages, Ellie accompanies the photographs with thoughtful annotation and observations.

Mr Sam Kiff, an Art teacher from Thomas Tallis School, London, UK, has generously uploaded the sketchbooks of his A Level Photography students, providing these as valuable learning opportunities for others. The level of creativity and inventiveness shown in the work – such as this A Level Photography Coursework sketchbook by Natalie M – is excellent. Viewing a sketchbook in its entirety is very helpful, as it shows the exploration and development of ideas over time.

High school photography sketchbook
An A Level Photography sketchbook from Fortismere Secondary School Art Department. Fortismere Art Department is one of our recommended blogs and websites for high school art students and teachers. Those with a sharp, edgy, graphical tendency (as this student has), should embrace their strengths, rather than feeling pressured to emulate the gestural, painterly, mixed-media presentation style commonly used by Fine Art / Painting students. In this example the clean, ordered layout complements the photographs and creates a sleek, professional sketchbook page.
Scholarship NCEA Photography workbook
This is an NCEA Level 3 Photography Scholarship workbook exemplar from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, by a Year 13 student. This highly accomplished and creative photography sketchbook layout is part of a project that explores the transient nature of human existence. Different films, cameras, approaches and formats are used, as well as sculptural elements (negatives and other items are inside plastic bags attached to the page). With items arranged on slight angles, the work takes on an off-kilter, landed-where-it-fell appearance. However, the page is skillfully and purposefully composed, with careful balancing of form and color (note the consistent color scheme used throughout pale blues / greens / ochre).
Creative mixed media sketchbook
A creative mixed media sketchbook page by Emeline Beroud. Photography students sometimes forget that the production of a photograph doesn’t always end with the printing process. In this artist research page, buttons, assorted papers (including vintage pattern paper and tracing paper) colored thread, negatives and developed prints have been stitched together, creating a rich and textural layout.
IB Art workbook examples
An International Baccalaureate workbook page by Ariadne Strofylla from Moraitis School, Athens, Greece. This IB Art workbook explores the concept of body distortion. Images are placed in a simple grid formation at the top of the page, with drawings and photographs cut out and painted around at the bottom; ideas morphing and developing from one medium to another. This results in a varied and interesting sketchbook page that suits the intriguing subject matter.
A Level Sketchbook photography
A sketchbook page by Mark Hoynes, completed while studying at St Boniface’s Catholic College, Plymouth, United Kingdom (image sourced from their Art Department’s Flickr) Students often get caught up in producing laborious sketchbook pages, with every inch of the paper covered. This sketchbook page is a reminder that white space should not be feared. A sketchbook page can sometimes be treated as a gallery space upon which quality artwork can be ‘hung’. In this example, the image on the left – a clever photographic representation of a conceptual idea – is celebrated, with text quietly balancing the layout on the right.
A Level Photography sketchbook example
An A Level Photography sketchbook by Emily Betts. The left-hand page shows documentation of a double negative technique; the right-hand page includes research and planning for final photography piece. These sketchbook pages are part of the research and planning in an A Level Photography project exploring the theme ‘Hidden Identity’. The inclusion of test strips is beneficial; images are neatly trimmed and positioned on the pages. Articulate, well-reasoned annotation adds to the sharp, clean presentation style.

It is clear from the examples above that there is not one best presentation style for a photography sketchbook; ultimately a student should embrace a style which complements their own work and plays to their strengths.

Need more sketchbook ideas?

This article showcases quality presentation ideas for Photography sketchbooks and is part of a series showcasing and celebrating outstanding sketchbooks by students, artists and designers. You may also be interested in viewing our other sketchbook resources:

This sketchbook collection is continually updated. Please bookmark this page so that you can return to it when needed! If you would like to submit your own sketchbook page for inclusion, please contact us. 🙂

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