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Updated: Sep 30, 2023

As a photographer and Creative Director for brands, mood boards play a starring role in developing a clear direction and the flow of a photoshoot. I'm sharing my process for finding inspiration and creating a mood board to bring your next photoshoot or creative endeavor to life. This is for you if you are working with a photographer, event planner, or alone. You'll love our ultimate guide to moodboards for your next photoshoot, our free template, and the ease of having all of your inspiration images in one place.


Why you need a moodboard. Yes, even you.

First off let me address the elephant in the room. If you are considering outsourcing this portion of your project, that's completely fine! No shame, no shade to you. We all need to spend our time where are strengths are put to the best and most efficient use.

However, if you are considering skipping this step entirely and jumping all 10 perfectly manicured toes straight into your big photoshoot, I urge you to reconsider. Here's why. Moodboards are the best way to ensure you are making the most of your final photoshoot images and that they will be exactly what you need for your business brand. Think of it as a dry run to work out the kinks prior to stepping in front of the camera. A way to see the final creative vision all in one place.

A moodboard is a valuable tool used to put all ideas in one place in order to visually stimulate the design process and be referred back to for inspiration.

I used to think it would all work out to do a shoot with nothing but a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve while working with a photographer. I thought overplanning would kill the spontaneity and make me less “creative in the moment.” I was so wrong. Through no fault of the photographer, the final images didn't match my overall vision and ultimately I felt both time and money were wasted. Wanting a different result, I now take different steps to ensure a successful shoot, using my background in photography, marketing and branding to plan the ultimate editorial photoshoot for my clients. Before my shoots, both personal and professional, I put together a detailed breakdown of the shoot including mood boards for each look and shot set up. It is quite literally a dry run through our creative concept from start to finish.

What is a moodboard?

Now onto the basics. If you don't know what a moodboard is, it is essentially a collection of images that are used as references before or during a photoshoot (or any kind of creative project). A mood board (or inspiration board) may be a physical or digital collage of ideas. Mood boards are so much more than curating your Pinterest board or tearing pages from the September issue of Vogue, although if you have done either, it's a good start! At The Goldenbrand Studio we love mood boards for developing ideas.

In a study conducted by the Journal of Business Research, it was found that mood boards were effective in setting the scene, directing activities and aligning sub-products by establishing a point of reference.

Besides expressing moods or evoking emotions, mood boards provide inspiration (Eckert & Stacey, 2003) and summary representations of wider development processes.

Dipping into my Art History background here the history of mood boards is fascinating. The art of documenting feelings, thoughts or events onto a surface with paint or image has been around for a long time, probably beginning with the cave paintings of cavemen, usually after a hunt or battle. Egyptian tomb walls are another example; images depicting the person’s life, their character and what they imagine they will encounter in the afterlife.

To help you graduate from magazine cutouts stuck on your wall, let's explore the benefits of creating a mood board as the starting point of any project.

Here are our top reasons to start your mood board process today.

They involve clients in the process early on

When we've been commissioned for a project, we want to ensure our client is brought into the creative process early on. This allows us to ensure our vision for the photoshoot is tracking with the vision our client is holding for the final images. The process also allows time for the client to get to know us so they feel safe and excited to work with us on shoot day. If we need further clarification on a client vision, we will create several mockups to give them variants to choose from.

The process also allows time for the client to get to know us so they feel safe and excited to work with us on shoot day.

They make collaboration easy

Mood boards making working with a team straightforward. When planning a photoshoot with moving parts such as location, make up, hair, wardrobe styling, mood boards are a lifesaver. For our virtual shoots we start with a mood board template then build out a brand deck and countdown to shoot day document that is distributed to the creative team members.

The Goldenbrand Studio Moodboard for Lindsay Kearns

Okay, I'm convinced, how do I make a moodboard?

Our mood boards usually start in Pinterest since it is a great source of inspiration and collaboration with clients. Using Pinterest, we begin by pulling images that strike our fancy knowing we will cull any that no longer feel relevant later. A word of advice for you as you begin this process: Do not judge or overthink what you save during this phase. One of the most satisfying parts of this process for us is seeing the evolution of images as we start pinning. Usually the ones that make it onto the final mood board are the last ones we pin, but the entire process is necessary to reach that end result.

A word of advice for you as you begin this process: Do not judge or overthink what you save during this phase.

Once I'm done gathering my images, I'll open up Notion (you can use whatever you like) and make a more detailed document, separating my mood board into sections.

These sections are often:

  • general moodboard

  • lighting

  • hair and make up

  • styling

  • location

  • props

  • anything else that feels relevant!

The Goldenbrand Studio Moodboard for Rachael P. | Winemaker

Your next steps

We love a good DIY mood board. To help you get started, we are sharing our Studio template with you. Simply click below to access the mood board template and guide. Or let us handle it for you. We put all of our creativity catalyst skills strategy, mood board, and photography skills to use in our popular 365 Sessions.

Looking for even more? You'll love our Course Suite.


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