A short guide to making a MOOD BOARD for a photo shoot


You usually don't do a photo shoot all by yourself. You gather a team of models, make-up artists and stylists and it's important for everyone to know what the desired result should be. Think about it, not everyone thinks exactly alike. It's very possible two people have complete different thoughts about a certain description. Your stylist might think 'glamourous' has to look very 80s, while your make-up artist has a Parisian Chic vibe going on. It's easy to avoid this and get everyone on the same page with a thing called a mood board. A mood board is a collection of inspirational images put into a collage. There are no rules on how it should be designed, as long as everyone will get the vibe and style of the shoot. So how to make a mood board, you ask? Don't worry, it's easy. Even if you're not a computer geek! In this article I'll show you how I do it and other easy ways.


This mood board is made on Pinterest
This mood board is made on Pinterest



A photo shoot always starts with a concept, an idea to start with. What's the story you want to tell, what's the vibe you want to spread? What is the goal of this photo shoot? The concept behind a portrait shoot is probably a lot different than the concept behind the newest editorial look book shoot of a funky clothing brand. The first is very personal and you might look at other portraits or people you admire, while the fashion brand needs a more unique and creative approach. Sometimes it can be hard to decide on a concept. Try writing down some key words that appeal to you or put an entire brain storm to paper. 




When you know which way to go, it's time to collect images. You can use your digital devices to search for inspiring images, but flipping through the paper of a magazine can be very exciting too. I recommend a combination! When deciding on the images, try to stay critical and see if the image really fits your concept.  It's sometimes useful to make a different mood board for different team members. Think of a mood board that shows make up looks to inspire the MUA, or a mood board that shows all kinds of poses that will inspire the model.  Make sure you do not attempt to copy an already existing photo. No one will take you seriously and you'll be in violation of the Copyright Law. 




I love flipping through magazines to find inspiration. There's something extra special about looking at great photography when it's printed on paper. If you don't want to use scissors to cut the images out, take a photo with your phone and continue digitally. Don't hesitate to dive back in time and open up older magazines. Inspiration can be timeless. The fun aspect of searching for inspiration this way is that most images don't circulate the internet that much. 




Collecting inspiration in a digital way is very accessible. You could start by visiting the websites of your favorite fashion magazines and dive deeper from there. In the credits of photo shoots you will always find the name of the team members, which you can google to find more inspiration. Another good source of inspiration are trend websites. A few of my favorites are: Booooooooom & CoolHunting. The images you find can be saved to your computer or you can pin them directly to your Pinterest board if you have the plug-in. I'll share more info about Pinterest later in this article.




At this point you have a big collection of inspirational images, perhaps between 25 to 50, and now is the time to put everything together. I believe in 'less is more', so it's important to go through all of your inspirational material. I always start with putting my most favorite images aside, but you can also start with getting rid of your least interesting images. You are finished when you have selected about 10 to 20 inspirational images.




There are many ways to make a mood board. In this article I'll go over a few (easy) ways.



I prefer making my mood boards in Adobe Photoshop. I like having full control of how I design, as I love playing with different sizes, shapes and asymmetry. It fits my style as a photographer. I like making the most inspiring images larger than others. You can really design any way you want. To my team I explain what inspiration I get from every image, but I've seen other mood boards where people use text to make things clear in the mood board. In the images up here you see one of my mood boards and a photo that came out of the mood board. I wanted a colorful, yet serene with a bit of a psychedelic, flower power and 90s vibe to it. 




When you're not as skilled in Adobe Photoshop, but still want to put together a mood board, Canva might be your solution. It's a free, online drag and drop editor. Canva offers pre made templates or you can start designing your own mood board from scratch. It also has its own library and you can add color palettes and typography. I think it works quite easy and although I've never used it myself, I thought it would be a nice tool to share.




Some of the people I work with love using Pinterest to make their mood board in. It's a website that allows you to make inspiration boards in a super easy and fast way. You basically 'pin' your 'interests', hence the name. It's super user friendly and you can find tons of images about basically every subject. You type it and find it. When you want to use Pinterest to make a mood board for a photo shoot you make a new board and start adding inspirational images to it. Tip: You have found an image you really like and want to find similar images that contain the same elements? Scroll down from that photo and you will find those similar photos! Another fun feature Pinterest offers is the option to work on a board together. The whole team can join in. Down below I'll show you one of my Pinterest mood boards and one of the photos that came out as a result.




It's quite silly, but a few weeks ago I reposted a mood board made by a team member. One of the photographers that made some photos on the mood board wasn't too happy with me sharing her photos without credits, which I totally understood. I understand that it can be hard to credit every single creative person that has worked on every image in your mood board, but the lesson I learned is to be very conscious when publishing. The images are copyrighted and you wouldn't want your photos to be floating around without credits. So add credits if you can when publishing your mood board. Also make sure you make absolutely clear that it's a mood board to inspire and not your own work.


You now know easy ways to make a mood board for a photo shoot! Do you also love working with mood boards? And if so, what are your favorite tools to make them? Let me know in the comment section below. 

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Ravi (Sunday, 14 July 2019 18:03)

    Hi Landa,
    I am new to the concept of "mood boards" and I just stumbled upon your beautifully written article explaining how to go about creating one! kudos to you for explaining the process of creating mood boards in such a lucid language with easy to follow instructions. Now i have created my pinterest account now onto my mood board!

    Thank you.

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