Emma posted this great question in the comments section, and it deserves a good answer:
"How much of this - composition and emphasis through arrangement of elements and lighting - is a story guy's job and how much is a layout guy's? Where's the line?
Because a story guy has to get the point across, but doesn't design the whole thing (right?)"
And my colleague Mark Walton answered the question pretty definitively in the same comments section. The thing I want to emphasize - that I keep repeating - is something that I want to be clear no matter what. It's one of the immutable laws of storyboarding, and it's this:
Nice storyboards will never save a bad story. A good story is the most important thing, as we all know. So a good story illustrated with poor story sketches is always preferable to the alternative.
I talk a lot about drawing on this site. Some of it is really basic, and some of it is more high-end stuff for people who already know a bit about drawing. Just don't ever get the idea that I'm saying every story artist has to draw superbly well, that's not the case at all. The most important skill that a board artist needs is a good sense of story structure - how to put together a story, how to assemble a sequence, what makes a scene work or figure out why it's not working. If nothing else, a board artist needs to have a good sense of entertainment. Without that, nothing you board will be worth watching!
A good friend of mine always says "Storyboarding isn't about drawing. It's about ideas." There is no truer statement about what we do.
That's where drawing comes in, as Mark Walton mentioned. The more you can draw, the more you can communicate. The better you can communicate, the more range you have as a board artist. But the most important thing about any story sketch is that it should communicate the idea it is meant to express. If it fails to be a clear drawing then nothing else matters. That's the second immutable law about storyboarding:
If the drawing isn't clear, all the pretty drawing in the world won't fix it. A story drawing must be clear, first and foremost.
As Mark Walton mentioned, a lot of it has to do with the director, and also the type of movie. Some directors want to get the whole movie figured out as fast as possible so they can see the shape of it, because everyone knows that once you get the thing up once, you will change pretty much all of it as you go along trying to make it better. So why spend time on pretty drawings the first time around? Other films, ones that tend to be more technically challenging, or more subtle in their emotional range or storytelling, might require a bit more finesse and control in the boarding in order to judge if it's working. It's all on a case-by-case basis, and every film is different. Every studio is different.
But the whole point of my blog is this: as long as you are going to be a board artist, you will have to deal with these aread; how to tell a story, how to assemble a film and how to draw storyboards. For me, if I'm going to have to deal with those areas, then I'm going to want to learn as much as I can about them in order to be better at my job, and ultimately make my job easier. Plus if I'm going to spend the time doing something, I'd just as soon try to do it well. So I'll talk about a lot of stuff, some of it very relevant to the job and some tangentally so. Just remember those two "laws" I mentioned above to keep in all in perspective. A good story is always the most important part!