How To Make A Photography Mood Board In 10 Steps

A good photography moodboard can get your idea across to your clients. Read on to learn more about how to make photography moodboard in just 10 steps!

how to create photography mood board

Mood boards are one of the most powerful creative tools an artist can use, especially when it comes to planning a visual project such as a photography shoot!

Whether you’re working on your own, with a team of fellow creatives, or helping a client bring the concept of their dreams to life, a photography mood board is the perfect starting point for consolidating ideas.

Below, we’ll tell you exactly why a photography mood board is useful and how you can easily create one as you plan your next creative project.

How Is a Mood Board Useful for Photographers?

When clients come to photographers like you for help on an upcoming shoot, they’re trusting you to use your artistic eye and technical skills to execute their ideas. Sometimes, a client has a vision in their head that they find difficult to express with words. Other times, they may be able to articulate their ideas, but they might not have a clear visual concept in mind. In both of these instances, collaborating on a photography mood board can help form concise ideas and get clear on the creative details. 

Those who work outside of an artistic field may struggle to “say what they see,” more or less, leaving you with a few different ways to bridge the communication gap. One option is to take a more verbal approach, asking what ideas appeal to them (“pastels,” “softness,” “hard lines,” and combining images that fit these descriptions until you’ve constructed a board you agree upon. For those who are more visually oriented, scrolling through collections of popular photos on sites such as Pinterest, Pexels, and even Google Images to collect your elements may be more fruitful. 

Working as a creative team alongside your client to create a mood board will allow you both to stay on the same page and reduce the possibility of surprises and misunderstandings that make the project fall behind schedule. You can both show up to the shoot with the same end goal in mind, which allows you to streamline the process and prevent re-shoots.

1. Keep Your Photography Ideas Organized

Organization is key when it comes to creating an effective photography mood board with a clear visual direction. There are several ways to keep each project organized. 

You may group images in folders, based on the time at which they were shot. This approach makes referencing a breeze as it is easy to look back on previous photoshoots for inspiration, the concept they revolve around, or any number of categories. Your decision all comes down to what will be most helpful for your creative process. 

In addition to creating a mood board folder, you can also use tags to organize your photographs. You may tag photos based on their ideas that are relevant to each other, using several tags on each. An effective tagging system will allow you to group similar photographs, which can be helpful in driving your creative direction.

2. Create a Professional Mood Board for Photography Clients

When building a mood board with clients, it’s important to work together as a team of creatives. You can get a clear idea of the concepts your client has in mind by using a client questionnaire.

If your client can easily articulate what they want, placing their words directly on an inspiration board alongside relevant visual elements is a great way to show them how their ideas can come to life. 

You may even choose to collaborate with your client directly on physical boards for a hands-on experience. However, there are also many online tools to create stunning digital mood boards. Many of these options even include a built-in image library for endless inspiration.

3. Crop Your Images In Different Ways

When combining a collection of images to build a photography mood board, your creative composition is extremely important. Part of finding the perfect composition for your mood board comes down to how you crop images. 

How you crop images will determine which elements of your photography mood board demand the most attention. 

Consider cropping photos of your subject using the rule of thirds, and when using a reference photo, experiment with croppings to find one that best emphasizes the most inspiring element. 

4. Evaluate Different Color Swatches

Color is one of the most valuable elements to consider when building your photography mood board, from background colors to accents.

photography moodboard- color palette

The right color scheme can evoke a desired reaction, such as sadness or joy, from your audience. As you work with your client, make sure to ask them what emotion they want to tap into with their project.

From there, give them some insight into relevant color theory concepts, providing resources like color charts, schemes, and swatches. Discuss how different color relationships can play into the project as a whole and curate the desired result.

5. Experiment With Different Lens Styles

The right lens, along with the camera body, can make all the difference in curating your client’s ideal creative vision.

Different lenses and camera bodies will garner different results. For example, some options work best for producing artistic, beautiful images, while others are meant for filming videos. If you’re going for more of an Instagram mood, your client may even opt for an iPhone camera!

Contexts like the amount of light you’ll be using on the shoot will also help determine which lens and body will work best. Explain to your client that elements like apertures and depth of fields will also play a role in the final result.

Help your client understand the effects of different lenses by presenting them with a group or collage of photos for several different options. You can also both look to resources like designer lookbooks for additional inspiration.

A few different lens styles to consider include:

  • Fisheye
  • Wide-angle
  • Standard
  • Telephoto


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6. Use Grids, Frames, And Lines

Geometry plays a major role in the final effect of any piece of visual art, which is why using elements like grids, frames, and lines within your mood board is an effective way to hone the desired results. 

Within your mood board, experiment with both simple and complex elements and explain to your client that these elements will affect the overall mood of the project.

Your choice of frames, for example, can be nearly as important as your choice of photos! Play around with different image overlays, frames, and textures, on a digital mood board to express how different options affect the vision.

7. Resize Your Images

resize your image on photography moodboard

Cropping the images on your photography mood board is important, and resizing your images is just as essential and effective. Experimenting with different image sizes will allow you and your client to get clear on the creative vision of your project. 

For example, which works better: portrait or landscape? Does your client prefer the effect of many small images, or what will be the perfect Shopify image size for your campaigns?

As you work with your client to answer these questions, the two of you can collaborate in real-time with a digital mood board. Many digital mood board platforms provide online tools to crop, resize, and emphasize images to your heart’s desire.

8. Collect Comments All in One Place

Building a photography mood board with your client is all about collaborating so that the two of you have the same clear concept in mind–which makes communication essential.

When communicating through images isn’t working, words make all the difference. As you work on a digital photography mood board, you and your client can use communication tools to make notes on details, provide feedback, and stay on the same page.

A picture may be worth a thousandwords, but a simple annotation or note card can make all the difference in your ability to understand each others’ visions. 

Tools, such as NoteLedge or Markup, tools can also be used to provide important context about the project, such as information regarding the shoot location, references pulled from customer interviews or a speech, and more. 

Additionally, words are helpful when placed directly within the mood board itself. Incorporating pieces of text such as quotes, phrases, and typography into your mood board can help to build a more concise creative vision.

9. Collaborate With Your Teams

Nothing compares to the power of an amazing team of professional designers on your side. If you’re working with an array of artists on your photography project, a mood board will allow you all to collaborate with ease.

When working with other photographers, you’ll likely each have different elements and ideas to bring to the table. Creating a photography mood board will help everyone get clear on a cohesive, detailed concept.

In addition to other photographers, you may also find yourself working with other creatives, such as videographers, graphic designers, social media specialists, chefs, musicians, or even wedding planners.

While each of these artists works in a creative field, they won’t all be as attuned to visual elements as photographers. That’s why a mood board can be so helpful–you’ll be able to combine visual elements with text, audio, and images. 

10. Use the Best Mobile and Desktop Software for Photography Mood Boards

To create the best photography mood board around, you’ll want to use the best digital mood board software you can get your hands on!

While desktop software is a great place to start, using mobile mood board software will ensure you’re always ready to pin and document visual elements from the web, social media, and whenever inspiration strikes. And as you know, creativity can strike at any time!

The following platforms are fantastic for building stunning photography mood boards, whether you’re at home or on the go:

  • Instagram: Allows you to save posts into convenient collections you can return to for inspiration
  • Pinterest: Lets you pin  and group inspiration from all over the web into virtual, shareable mood boards 
  • Adobe Lightroom: Provides a platform to edit and organize photographs into stunning photography mood boards
  • NoteLedge: Acts as an all-in-one creative platform where you can easily create multimedia and photography, mood boards

mobile mood board software will ensure you’re always ready to pin and document visual elements from the web, social media, and whenever inspiration strikes. As you know, creativity can strike at any time!

Creative tools on NoteLedge allow you to sketch, type, collect online content from the web or Pinterest, and utilize elements that encompass every area of media. The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to building a digital photography mood board! As you dive into this process, it may be helpful to do some additional research on incorporating multimedia elements into a photography mood board, the role colors play in emotions, how geometry affects photography, and more!

Mood boards have been a commonly used creative tool for a long time but with so much fantastic technology at our fingertips these days, it’s never been easier to capture inspiration from all over the world – and the web!

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