Let your mood board undergo a reality check

Tip 22 for Better Shoots by Heidi Rondak

“Concept is the key to success”

PART 3: Let your mood board undergo a reality check

Following the guidelines of my last tip, your mood board may by now be ready to be seen by others. At this point, always be careful with the copyrights of the mood material because sharing will be a form of publication for which you actually need a license of each copyright holder and the models shown (and on top of that the legal prerequisites are different in every country). In order to be on the complete safe side here, you can find a good range of useful creative commons photos on stock photo platforms some of which even offer images for free, e.g. Unsplash, Pexels, or pixabay. If you’re seeking even more professional content that was for example published in fashion magazines earlier, you can find a good variety on gettyimages, however, you’ll need to invest a bit of cash in it. Besides the copyright aspect, this article treats a few further stages where you’ll be able to touch up the mood board and make it a masterpiece. 

You can find free photo material on Unsplash, pixabay, and Pexels

An awesome concept baits a great team

As soon as it’s complete and free to be shared between the potential team members your mood board is the best tool to communicate your shooting plans visually. If it’s done well and designed to inspire, the ones who are already on board will get enthusiastic about the project immediately. They will most certainly show a great motivation to make your photo dreams come true because they are on the same page with you. 

In case you didn’t hire anyone yet it’s, again, the mood board that is crucial when pitching to the ideal professionals because it clarifies many of their questions before they even need to ask – and it does it better than words. Remember that words can leave too much room for interpretation and cause very different imaginations in everyone’s’ heads but a key visual or a group of mood images are more definite. With such, you can win over anyone who’s right and available for the shoot more easily. If responses turn out to be rather reserved you can kindly ask for those people’s opinions and figure out how to fill the gaps if there are any. E.g. you can add a colour scheme for the styling or make-up, or make sure the pictures match harmonically. More usually, it’s, in fact, the offered fee that needs adjustments (;

A great mood board (and fair payment) helps you to get the best team

Let the experts approve the mood board

During the briefing, there might be a couple of questions or doubts coming up anyway. At this stage, the photographer, the stylist, or the hair & make-up artist (or of course someone else of the team) can point out one or the other aspect that would need further clarification or tell you whether something in your concept is inconclusive or de facto impossible to action. Although this might be a little inconvenient at first, a briefing with constructive feedback leads to a more successful shooting result because you can eliminate any mistakes on the basis of expert knowledge. And the good part about this: it’s in your hand to replace anything that doesn’t serve the concept with something better – for which you had enough time to chose carefully instead of in a rush when you’re on set already. Therefore, feel free to double-check with your team as much as required. It will help you refine your concept eventually and allow you to stay in control of your production’s outcome.

Let the experts approve your concept or help to improve it

First shooting preparations according to the concept

Model casting

Another adjusting point comes up during the model’s casting. You might be wishing for a particular model or a certain type of face for the project. However, sometimes, it turns out that models are not available due to other jobs or because they are traveling. Depending on your budget you can sure fly them in or, otherwise, find a similar-looking model instead – if you’re lucky. Now, if this new model happens to have a different haircut or the original plan for the make-up doesn’t fit her facial anatomy new ideas are a must. Finding a new look that’s still compatible with the whole concept can be challenging but the hair & make-up artist can certainly help you with this task. In another scenario you may suddenly fall in love with another suggested model who’s look is a completely different one. Again, you could try to „squeeze“ that model into the former look – yet replacing it with a new one would be the smarter solution. As long as your gut feeling tells you that you’ve found the right model, going the extra mile is certainly worth it.

The type of model you book decides over the fine-tuning of hair & make-up guidelines

Prop & location scouting

In case you’re still looking for a specific studio or location that you’ve, so far, only characterised through stereotypic images this search can sometimes conclude in necessary concept changes too. Like I described in tip no. 4 shooting on location, especially outdoors, can be quite tricky and sometimes pricey. Oftentimes, the perfect location is the one that breaks your heart because it’s being unaffordable, unreachable, unsafe, etc. after all. In this unfortunate case, there’s no way around scaling down your expectations a bit. But the good news is, it doesn’t mean a reduced quality of photos, just a more minimal way of approaching the mood. We can make the best of it when we, for example, build a small set in a studio with palatial wallpapers and a small number of furniture items instead of renting a whole castle to shoot. And as we are on the subject the same is true for props in general: in photography, we create more than the actual image. Moreover, we give hints to get one imagining a whole story around the image. Thus, we don’t have to use a whole set of props to transmit a message. The insert of a symbol alone can start a chain of associations in the viewers’ eyes. To give you an example here too: the model holding a balloon, a cupcake or a glass of champagne can be enough to suggest a festive occasion like an anniversary, etc. So, for such a theme you don’t need an overload of things like it would be in real life when you celebrate a party. 

As you can see, adapting doesn’t automatically mean that you’re cutting back on your ideas, your values, or the high quality of your concept and campaign photos. All roads lead to Rome. And thinking of different ways of approaching a topic can help you find the best one to act on for your campaign shoot. This way you’re clearing away obstacles before they turn out to be really problematic. With a refined concept, you can finally go about the preparation of the production finding dates, scheduling every step, and spending the money that has been waiting for this for so long – what a relief!


If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or the other, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!


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