First of all, what is a mood board?
A mood board is a gallery of photographs, drawings, textures, colors, etc. that represent a particular style or concept. They can also be called a "vision board", "go-by board", or a "style board" and are used by all types of creatives, not just photographers.
When working with agencies or models, it is really important (and sometimes required) to send a mood board. The mood board will help everyone get on the same page as far as styling, wardrobe, posing, and overall vision for the shoot goes. It's especially key if you need your model to provide her own wardrobe – you don't want to have a moody, dark style in mind and her show up with summer dresses because you weren't clear enough in the email.
Below is a partial board I have created for an upcoming shoot in Oklahoma. I want to incorporate a lot of mixed patterns, bright colors, and a subtle hint towards vintage.
What to include in your mood board?
You should include anything that represents your vision. If you are doing a really summery shoot, include cute graphics of watermelons or just put a photo of a pineapple. There seriously isn't a wrong way to make it.
I like to include photos that show a mood. If I want my model to smile a lot (not typically the case), then I would want to include lots of photos with smiling models. For this shoot, though, I want a youthful and moody vibe. So I have included photos of models with that same attitude or poses that I believe would work well. I also like to ensure that the photos I use are telling of the location we will be using. We will be shooting in a historic area of Oklahoma City with lots of rarely used roads, street signs, and chain link fences – so I included some photos that showed just that. If you are shooting at the beach, it only makes sense to incorporate beach photos – showing downtown city photos wouldn't capture the feel of your shoot properly.
If your model needs to provide her own wardrobe, you should make sure to include photos of individual items of clothing. This will help a LOT when she is deciding what to bring. I am providing partial wardrobe, so I included a couple key pieces / inspo for her to keep in mind.
Okay, so how do I actually make a mood board?
I make all of my mood boards the same way – and it's extremely easy and timely. I open Pinterest and search for specific styles or patterns that I want to include, i.e. Editorial Fashion, Street Fashion, Checkered Skirt, etc.. If you search something more vague, Pinterest will give you options to then further your search. Just keep clicking and digging yourself into a deeper internet hole, and you will find everything you are looking for.
Drag the photos you like to your desktop as you keep searching. When you have enough to tell your story (I usually include 30-40 photos in my mood boards but you can include as many or as few as you think captures your vision), upload them to your preferred site. You can use a Pinterest Board, you can use flickr, etc. I use Pixieset for all of my mood board (and client galleries) because it looks very clean and professional, keeps your images in full-resolution, and has a free forever membership option.
And that's it. Send your mood board to your client and let them know they can ask you any questions they may have! Mood boards are so much fun to make, even if you don't have an upcoming shoot. When I don't have other work or need a break, I will create a couple for later shoots – it gets my creativity flowing and it saves me time in the future.