Creating an Effective Mood Board

When planning a photo shoot, you'll often be asked by members of your team to share a mood board. If you've never made one of these–– don't fret. Everybody has to start somewhere. The first time I was asked to do this, I frantically googled "mood board" and made an atrocious document with all of the images blended together with a feathered eraser. If only I'd had this blog back then. Ha! Let's get started on creating an effective mood board.

What is a mood board?

A mood board is a collection of images that will set the tone for your upcoming photo shoot. This can include photos, swatches, patterns –– images that will convey what the tone of the shoot will be. Most often this will be put into a concise, one-page document but can also be divided into several separate mood boards for styling, lighting, etc.

Why do I need a mood board?

Having a mood board helps your entire team stay on the same page. When you share and discuss ideas before a shoot and settle on a solid visual plan, your shoot will move smoother and if your entire team is on the same page, you will have a more cohesive set of images. Modeling agencies will often ask for a mood board as well so that they understand what is expected of the model, and can determine which models to send over in a package.

What should be included on a mood board?

Your mood board should help to convey your goals for:
– Lighting
– Location
– Styling
– Makeup
– Hair
– Model + posing
– Props, if any
– The overall mood of the photos

Some creatives will also include any notes or story inspiration text on their mood board.


Laying out your mood board.

You can lay out your mood board using Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, but if you need a quicker solution, I have sent mood boards in the form of Pinterest boards divided into sections. Another option is to use GoMoodBoard, a limited but effective drag-and-drop option. Try to keep your mood board to a one-page document rather than several pages –– if your team members need more clarity on specific inspiration, you can create a more fleshed out makeup mood board.

Pinterest Section Mood Board Example

Pinterest Section Mood Board Example

Sources of inspiration.

Digital sources I use for inspiration include:

That's it! Now that you've got the basics of a mood board, all you've got to do is... create. Do you have any inspiration resources I'm missing? Drop them in the comments!