The Return of the Hand Drawn Shoot Layout

Posted by on Nov 12 - 2018

Before computers ruled the creative process, photoshoot layouts were lovingly created, hand-sketched affairs. In these days where ‘found’ images are so easily obtained, there’s surely no need for those old-fashioned drawn layouts? And anyway, there can’t be any creative professionals left with the necessary skills?


Well in 2018 we have identified a fresh wave of client demand for this style of shoot layout – and not only in the fashion arena – and we have embraced it wholeheartedly. The reasons for this demand include: the necessity for efficiency in the creative process; the short-comings of ‘found’ imagery; and the need to maximise the impact and sales effectiveness of every catalogue spread.


In our experience, a found picture which everyone agrees shows how to proceed with the shoot can mean completely different things to different people.

i. The client may only like the model and the pose.
ii. The art director was keen to propose the backdrop, and the depth of field.
iii. The stylist could only see the folded arms and the furniture.
iv. The photographer knows what lighting should be used, and that the smile is very important.

A drawn shoot layout removes extraneous information, leaving the all-important pose, eye contact and direction of flow around the spread. Because – of course – in the catalogue these pictures will never be viewed individually. They will be viewed as a group, working to move the eyes of the viewer around the spread to where you want them to look.


Although stars in themselves, the pictures must also be team players, subordinate to the need to inspire and sell products, not merely as a portfolio for your talented photographer. You can also show exactly how much background is required on each shot, and whether copy will need to be dropped-on or reversed-out – making for a well-integrated and so more powerful spread.

From a designers point of view, it can be so frustrating to be presented with a stunning image, that is completely the wrong shape for the page and doesn’t include enough background for the copy. With a sketched layout the photographer can see exactly what is needed per shot in regards to back drop and space around the main focus. There are no mixed messages with hand-drawn shoot layouts.

Shoot layouts also allow model selection, location, lighting and style to be clearly discussed well in advance of the shoot. The photographic team can then concentrate on efficiently creating your vision.


Our Creative Director has much enjoyed this step back to his roots, and in training a particularly talented member of our team. Our clients have been equally thrilled with the stunning drawings – not least, because we are presenting them with a highly visual creative concept that outlines the entire photo shoot. And the results speak for themselves:

“When Tony suggested pencil drawings, we weren’t at all sure how it could benefit the design of our catalogue. Frankly, it also sounded very old-fashioned. But TA Design’s shoot layouts were at the heart of their creative vision of our catalogue – and they were a key part of our achieving 300% of target sales.”

Dale Stillman, Managing Director, Spirit of the Andes


We’ve also been using shoot layouts to good effect in sectors other than fashion, including key spreads for B2B clients.


And the news is getting around – we’re thrilled to have just been awarded the prestigious Innovator’s Award for Creative, Content & Print Production at the Direct Commerce Association’s Autumn Conference. So if you like the idea of working with a friendly bunch of passionate, pro-active and multi-award-winning experts, who are amazingly good value... then give us a call on 01273 724040 and discover what our skilled team can create for you. 

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