While looking for a photographer to shoot your food or product, one of them asked you whether you need a mood board or whether you have a creative brief or mood board or reference images for your shoot. If it is the first time you are hearing such terms regardless of whether you are finding a food and product photographer for the first time or otherwise, wondering whether this is necessary, who is supposed to do the mood board and how it will help you get the best results for your shoot, read on to find out.


What is a Mood Board?


By definition, a mood board is a combination of text, images, and objects brought together to illustrate a particular theme. It’s a detailed game plan that everybody is on board so that on shoot day, everything proceeds as planned. No doubt, there may be hiccups on shoot day itself but a mood board helps your photographer to avoid the potential pitfalls if you have thought about it beforehand and done your homework. It has all the important elements such as the story or concept, reference images, lighting, equipment, props, backdrops and much more. 


Being the visual artists that photographers are, having a mood board helps us to bridge the connect between what we are envisioning in our head to what has been done already that could be close or even the same as what we hope to achieve for your shoot. You could have multiple images with different aspects that you like and wish to combine them into a single image for your shot. Fill it with tons of details, sketches of your composition or reference images and show it to your photographer way before shoot day. That way your photographer gets to comment, ask questions and clarify your vision for the shoot.


Pro Tip: If your photographer is producing the mood board for you, send go-bys of the look and mood that you are looking for! That helps your photographer to look for other relevant reference images for your mood board.


Is it Necessary?


If you have not given your finalized shot list to your photographer, then the creation of a moodboard is definitely a prompt for you to think through your marketing plans. When you look through the mood board that your photographer have prepared for you or prepare a mood board yourself, you would have decided on the various elements such as lighting, props, backdrops, angles and more. As beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, a mood board is a visual guide so that your photographer knows what imagery looks beautiful to you. Together with your shot list, you would have worked down the details as to the order of the shots, whether there are group shots, whether extra ingredients such as garnishes need to be prepared and many more. You would also have ended up with a shopping list for fresh food purchase if dishes would be cooked for the shoot. Most importantly, the mood board ties in closely with the story you wish to convey to your audience and the emotions you wish to evoke with the subsequent imagery that is captured by the photographer.


Pro Tip: The more questions your photographer asks you about your mood board, the better as that would mean that they are trying to find out and understand your creative vision for your shoot.


Who is Supposed to do the Mood Board?

Creation of mood board is an additional line item that most photographers offer but it is totally doable if you prefer to do it yourself and send it across to your photographer. I guide my clients who prefer to do their own mood board and it would likely take you a few days to pull it together but you would have delved deep into the questions and the resulting imagery that you would like to achieve out of the shoot. I often include light and prop setups in the mood boards that I create for my clients as it shows how the props and backdrops can come together with the intended lighting. It is again a huge time saver on shoot day as we can eliminate those setups that ain’t your cup of tea and work with those that you like for the shoot.


Pro Tip: Save your go-bys into Milanote or Miro and share it with your photographer. That way you can easily comment and collaborate with each other.


Does it Give me the Best Results?

A shoot with a finalized shot list and mood board gets you amazing results as you have thought through of how you intend to use the images, what kind of images you wish to have and how best to execute the game plan. The time savings means that I, as the photographer, once getting the safe shots on the shot list, would have time to get other unplanned shots in the bag and which you potentially may like better. Often times, I would suggest unplanned shots once we have the safe shots in the bag and every single time, my client chooses those as part of their final images.


Pro Tip: If you have always felt stressed and worried every time you need to have a photo shoot, definitely talk to your photographer about mood board creation and create it to see the difference it will make to your photo shoot and the resulting imagery.



I hope that I have answered how important a mood board is and the benefits to producing one or paying your photographer to come up with it. A photo shoot is a collaborative process between you and the photographer and a mood board helps to save time, gives your photographer direction and you end up with beautiful imagery that you can be proud of. Send me an email if you have any queries about creating a mood board. Follow along on my Instagram and as a bonus, sign up to my mailing list below and grab my top 5 tips for a killer mood board! It is bound to give you a head start to making your own mood board!

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