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Yes Please

Ever have the feeling that you and your client aren’t speaking the same language when talking about a shoot?

When creating visual collateral for others, the potential for miscommunication is huge.

A mood board is the perfect tool for collaborating with a client or a team of creatives. Use it to ensure that you are on the same page about the desired end result.

Here’s how to create one, and how to make the most of it.

A photographer making a mood board for a project

What Is a Mood Board?

A mood board is a collection of images gathered together into collage form. That’s the simplest definition.

It is used extensively in design and photography to help define the direction of a project.

Sometimes you may want to create a physical board from magazines and other print media. But these days a mood board is usually virtual. And you send it to a client and other people involved in a shoot or project for feedback or collaboration.

Depending on the genre of photography, there can be a team of people involved in the shoot. For example, models, wardrobe, food, or prop stylists. It’s important that everyone understands the aesthetic that the images need to convey.

A mood board is necessary when working with clients. But you may also want to make mood boards for your personal projects or shoots.

For example, I have several mood boards that I refer to when doing personal projects or shooting images for my premium stock portfolio. They provide me with inspiration and help me stay on track. I also avoid photographing my subjects with a repetitive approach.

Mood boards also act as a nudge to remind me to experiment with different camera angles or styles of lighting.

It’s up to you to determine how a mood board can help you get your creative juices flowing.

How to create a photography mood board example

Why You Need to Use A Mood Board

There is an old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words“. When it comes to working with clients, this is especially true.

Language is not the best way to express what the eyes should see. Words like “fun”, “bold”, “clean” are too abstract and can mean different things to you than they do to your client.

Another important point is that people see colour differently. Or they do not know the words to describe certain tones within a colour range. Think mauve and lavender, or how they differ from purple.

Your idea of  “dark and moody” food photography might not be someone else’s idea of dark and moody.

Put together a photography mood board that shows specific examples of the look that is sought after. This will give the client and everyone involved the opportunity to agree on the direction of the shoot.

It’ll prevent dissatisfaction with the end results or the need for a costly re-shoot.

 a bright and airy photography mood board example

How to Create a Mood Board

When working with an agency, they might be the ones to send you a mood board right off the bat.

When you are working client direct, you can ask them for some sample images. Or you can create the mood board yourself to start the conversation.

Mood boards are not about finding images to copy but to inspire. They will often contain elements that will not appear in the final images. These images are meant to represent qualities of the brand or the desired aesthetic.

Start by collecting many images that have a desired element you are looking for. This includes lighting style, colour, atmosphere or texture.

When agencies send photographers mood boards, they usually contain 5-15 images. Try to stick to this range for the number of images in your mood board.

When it comes to mood boards, less tends to be more. Too many images can dilute the essence of the feeling and atmosphere you are trying to get across.

One tip is that you can create a photography mood board containing your images only.

It is always very helpful to get clients to point out which of your images resonate with them. After all, they approached you because they liked your photography.

Having them refer to certain images that evoke a similar feeling or colour treatment to what they are looking for can help you narrow down your approach.

You also may want to make more than one mood board for the client to select from.

Each board should reflect a different brand concept. But it should still align with your understanding of how the images should look in the end, based on the information provided.
How to create a photography mood board example

7 Apps to Help You Create a Mood Board

There are various apps that can help you create a mood board.

The most popular and familiar to most people, of course, is Pinterest!

But there are a lot of other apps as well. Here are six that I recommend you try out.

7. Pinterest

Pinterest is a powerful search engine . It’s not only for recipes and home decor inspiration but to share inspiring images. Legions of graphic designers, agencies and photographers use Pinterest every day. Either to put together mood boards or send boards to one another.

The great thing about Pinterest is that you can find images for your board within the app itself. Then you can pin them to a board, rather than search for them online and then upload them.

You can also keep your board “Secret” if you don’t want anyone knowing about your board or pinning from it. You won’t be able to share the board with anyone else if this setting is turned on.

Pinterest also offers a Business version, which means you can access your analytics. . You probably don’t need this function if you’re just using it to create mood boards.

An example of a food photography mood board

6. Mood Board

Mood Board is a free app that allows you to make mood boards quickly and easily and is the easiest tool on this list.. You can choose a template or create your own.

You simply upload the images and save to publish them. All mood boards are private so just share the link to make it public.

A useful, stand-out feature is the space for you or your client to make comments directly under each image.

How to create a photography mood board example

5. Milanote

There is a professional and free version of Milanote. This is a digital space to organize your ideas and make sense of them as they grow.

It is used by art directors, photographers, brand designers, and marketers. You can do anything from planning photoshoots, mapping out a storyboard, to brainstorming ideas.

It is popular with big name companies like Adobe, Facebook and Apple, to name a few.

Milanote runs across all devices. It’s private and secure, and has a tactile interface that makes putting forth your ideas super easy.

You can log into the site for free, or if you have a Mac, you can download the free app.

There is also a Chrome “Web Clipper” by Milanote. This will help you instantly save text, images, links, videos and more to your boards.

4. Niice

This is another easy-to-use tool that will allow you to source inspirational images. You can also use a drop-and-drag interface to create a mood board.

It is completely customizable and private by default. There is interactive email attachment and an “export to PDF “feature.

With Niice, requesting feedback is easier than email. There’s no signup, installation, or download required. Your clients can simply scroll & tap to give you the input you need.

Another noteworthy feature is the Niice Chrome extension. This allows you to grab and save images from the web.

As with Milanote, there is a free and a paid option for professional teams or heavier users.

3. Canva

You may already be using Canva to create graphics for blog or social media posts. But it’s also a great tool for creating mood boards.

Choose a presentation template and a grid format from the bottom of the template selections.

Upload your images and then drag-and-drop them to customize your mood board. To share the mood board, download it as a high-quality PDF or invite your client or team to collaborate.

Canva has a tonne of free templates but there is a paid version for more advanced features.

A screenshot of Canva mood board template

2. Pixieset

Pixieset is actually a gallery app. Thousands of photographers all over the world use it to send proofs to clients.

You can also use it as a mood board. Upload the images you want to send and choose a cover for a professional look.

There are various settings to add watermarks and logos if you like.

Clients can mark the images they like by hovering over the top right-hand side of each image. To select, click on the heart icon.

Once they have made their selection, Pixieset will send you a notification.

You can also download the Lightroom plug-in. This allows you to publish from Lightroom Classic to Pixieset, re-publish new edits, and sync collections structure for easy organizing.

1. Photoshop

This one calls for a bit of skill. If you are familiar with Photoshop, you can also use the program to create mood boards that are very specific to your needs. With Photoshop, you have full control of your layout.

You can change the background colour, add text and change the fonts. And you can create the layout with complete freedom.

One tip is to make your favourite or most important images the largest in your layout to make them stand out.

Photoshop is a good program to use if you are working exclusively with your own images.

How to create a photography mood board example



When working with a client, creating a mood board may be a process of back-and-forth before a clear direction is settled upon.

This is what you want though. This way, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to deliver exactly what the client is looking for before you pick up your camera.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

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Darina Kopcok

Darina Kopcok is a writer and professional food photographer who shares her recipes and photography tips on her blog Gastrostoria. Her latest work can be found on OFFset, as well as her online portfolio at

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