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Mood Board—Plan Your Photography Shoot Like a Pro

Mood boards help you crystallize and communicate your creative vision. Discover the tools to bring your vision to life.

Start Your Photography Shoot Planning with a Mood Board

I never start my photography shoot planning without creating a mood board. My mood board is the creative north star. The board provides signposts to guide the photography shoot. I use the board’s visual cues to communicate the “what” of the shoot. The “how” is another matter. Mood boards are a fantastic mechanism to get everyone pointing in the same direction. It’s also a great canvas for uncovering more creative ideas. Here are some tips to help you incorporate mood boards into your photography shoot planning and communications.

Examples of Photography Mood Boards

Pinterest for Photography Shoot Planning

Occasionally, I use Pinterest to create and share my photography mood board. After Pinterest added Sections, I was able to better plan and organize my boards for clarity. Now, I create sections for Styling & Wardrobe, Makeup & Hair, Theme & Direction, Locations & Destinations, and Props & Production Design. If you’re using Pinterest for mood boards, I encourage you to use Sections to organize your board pins.

Mood Board - Plan Your Photography Shoot Like a Pro Photography Mood Board Template on Pinterest

PowerPoint for Photography Mood Boards

Most often, my inspiration comes from a variety of sources. With so much diversity, PowerPoint is the best canvas to organize and present my board. With PowerPoint, I include video, audio, images, screenshots, color swatches, camera images, lighting diagrams, and more into my photography planning. I organize each slide by a single theme to keep the ideas cohesive. This makes it easy to tailor my decks for specific shoot presentations.  Try building your board with presentation software.

Video for Photography Mood Boards

For some situations, I use video for some of my more innovative mood board presentations. These videos are short by design. I use them as background footage and promos for model calls. You can pack a lot of content into 30 seconds. So, you don’t have to feel that your boards are static documents.

Low technology for your Photography Mood Board

With all of the technology at our disposal, who would ever make a low-tech mood board? I make tear sheets from magazines, newspapers, and junk mail of inspiring work. During my brainstorming, that information is placed on a whiteboard or posted to a wall. Afterwards, I pick the keepers and placed them in my inspiration binder for reference.

Apps for Your Photography Mood Board

Affinity Photo/Affinity Designer

I am a super fan of Affinity by Serif. Currently, I use Affinity Photo and Designer to create boards on my desktop. This is great with high resolution images that I want to retain that fidelity. Most of all, Photo and Designer are fun and capable applications that handle all of my design and image editing duties. Affinity Photo makes creating a collage easy.

Mood Board - Plan Your Photography Shoot Like a Pro
Photography Mood Board #madeinAffinity


For making mood boards on-to-go, I prefer Moldiv. I used the fully-unlocked version. It has all the bells and whistles for photography editing and mood board creation. It’s a universal app; so, it looks great across all mobile devices. The collage tool is by far the coolest feature in Moldiv. It’s ideal and fast for board creation. Even more, you can remix your board to create a new look without rework.

Mood Board - Plan Your Photography Shoot Like a Pro

Adobe Spark

If you’re a Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you should be using Adobe Spark. The premium version is included in your subscription. The tools for building a consistent brand identity across social platforms is a cinch. Since it’s a cloud service and app, your work is available virtually everywhere.


This is a unique app for making callouts. What’s a callout, you ask? Callouts identify or describe elements in an image or video. Callouts are great to clarify complex mood boards. This is singularly designed for this task. It doesn’t do anything else. After my mood board is created, I use This to create any special callouts for the mood board. You can see an example of This callouts in my deconstructed lighting mood board below.

Mood Board - Plan Your Photography Shoot Like a Pro
Deconstructed Lighting Mood Board with Callouts #ThisbyTinRocket


Start With a Plan and Make Something Grand

If you want to make consistent iconic images,  you need to develop your creative process. Whims and hope aren’t good strategy for photography shoot planning. Once you get in the habit of creating boards, your mind will be more agile in the moment to do something spontaneous and unplanned. What may seem like an inspired image is your mind remixing ideas from iconic images you’ve seen across your boards.  In my next Mood Board article, I will share where you can source your inspiration and how to collaborate with your teams during the pre-production process. If you start with a plan, you’ll consistently make something grand.
Finally, remember the role of the mood board is to inspire, educate, and communicate.  Share with your team, your client, and your subjects that the images have been sourced from other creative professionals. You may not always know the original copyright owners. However, don’t claim the images are yours. If watermarks are on the images, I work hard to keep them visible on my boards. I do this for two reasons. Firstly, I want to clearly communicate it’s not my work. Secondly, I want to be able to find the artist again to discover more of his or her work. Everything is a remix. However, don’t use your boards to merely copy someone’s creation. Use them to inspire your own and to contribute something new to the world.

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Cam Evans, MBA. Photographer Cam Evans, MBA. Photographer

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