Drawing vs. Photography

For many years drawing, painting, and art sculpture were the three core types of visual art. But then, in 1826, the new format of photography was invented, and its arrival changed the art world forever. 

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Drawing and photography may seem very different in the contemporary world, but both originally served the same purpose. Before photography, artists used drawings to capture a scene, document a moment in time, or create a portrait. 

With the introduction of photography, drawing and paintings no longer needed to document. They couldn’t compete with the realism and accuracy that came with photography, so they moved on to something different. 

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Painters turned to different art forms, surrealism, and abstraction. But drawings were and are still pitted against photographs. Photography and illustration compete throughout history. In this article, we will look at drawing vs photography and how these two artistic styles differ.

Photos Vs. Drawing

Photos and drawings are the two principal ways artists visually communicate. On the surface, a drawing is very different from photography. However, the two styles have directly competed for the past 200 or so years.

Fine Art Photography

Photos took over many of the roles that drawings previously filled. Before the advent of photography, drawings and illustrations were the dominant methods for producing commercial artworks.

Drawings were widely used in magazines, product design, fashion, retail, newspapers, posters, books, and much more. Over time, as photography became more and more sophisticated, it took over many of these mediums. 

While some commercial businesses still use drawings, it is far less common than it was 200 years ago. Photography is now the dominant medium for advertising, magazines, and other commercial uses.  

What Is the Difference Between a Photograph and a Drawing?

Photography is a type of art and technology that produces images on photosensitive surfaces, known as photographs or digital photographs. Drawing is a method of art creation that creates a picture, representation, likeness, or diagram. 

Timeliness is a crucial difference between photographs and drawings. Photography is an immediate reaction that catches an exact moment in time, while drawing is a meditation. 

Two artists capturing the same scene may portray it entirely differently. A photographer shooting a beautiful building might catch it in the morning, with a tourist walking through the frame at that moment. An artist drawing may sit and sketch all day, omitting any passer’s from their scene and capturing only the building. 

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Photography is a spontaneous impulse that captures a moment. The photographer’s decision on when to capture a scene is their most crucial artistic decision. Drawing is a study that can expand on what the artist has taken from a scene. An artist may return to a drawing over multiple days or weeks before it is completed. 

The potential for reproduction is another one of the main differences between a photo and a drawing. A drawing is usually created on paper, and the original is one of a kind. Any reproductions would be copies of the original. A photograph can be reproduced quickly and cheaply many times, with no difference between versions. 

Is Drawing Better Than Photography?

Whether drawing is better than photography is subjective. It will depend on the type of art the viewer enjoys and appreciates. 

When photography first emerged, it was still rare. Only professional photographers would own and be able to operate cameras. Artistic photographs were rare, and it was difficult to reproduce their photos without direct access to the photo negatives. 

However, as cameras became widely available, photography became more common and less rare. The invention and easy availability of digital cameras led to a flood of photographs, many of which are nondescript. Even those fine works of art produced by very talented photographers can be easily reproduced in prints again and again. 

The commodification of photography has made it more affordable and more available than an original drawing. Photographs are incredibly popular with both everyday individuals and art collectors. But a drawing can still be one-of-a-kind if the collector has the original, elevating its perceived value. 

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However, the invention of crypto art and the ability to sell and buy original photographs as NFTs may shake up the current status quo in the near future.

Why You Should Draw From Real Life, Not a Photograph

Many art students ask if they should draw from real life or from a photograph. There are benefits to both options. If your subject matter is limited in real life, then a photograph may provide you with more scope to practice drawing different scenes.

However, photographs are not substitutes for the real world as we perceive it ourselves. To draw from a photograph is to create a drawing of another artist’s work. You are merely attempting to duplicate something the photographer experienced and captured.

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Drawing in real life, even from the exact same scene, enables an artist to capture it as they experience it themselves. Our human vision also sees the world differently than the lens of a camera, so a photograph perceives a scene very differently than the eye does.

Drawing from a photograph is also less challenging than drawing from life. When drawing from a photo, the camera has already done half the work for the artist. 

The subject or scene has already been flattened and projected onto a two-dimensional plane. Drawing from real-life challenges a new artist to learn how to capture the three-dimensional world on a flat surface by using line, scale, proportion, and other drawing skills.

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Drawing from life allows you to create artworks with more personal perspective, originality, and honesty. 

Collecting Drawings & Photographs

Drawing and photography are both popular mediums, and many artists will try both styles or even combine them into a single artwork. Both these mediums are popular with art collectors and for display in private homes. You can buy photography art at Eden’s online art gallery or at other Eden galleries all over the world.


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