When it comes to creating images that stand out, one thing is super important. Preparation! As it would take too long to go over everything I do to prep on one article, I will focus on one of the key elements, mood boards! Now without any hard evidence to back me up, I’m pretty sure that the old master painters used to mood board in their own way. They would do a moodboard with sketches of various parts, and use it as a reference when they painted the piece as a whole.
I have a friend who is a painter, and he too mood boards in his own way when creating his works of art. He cuts out reference images from magazines, or prints them out from photos he has seen online. As he is creating his final painting, he has them pinned to a board to reference as he paints. Cool eh?
Whether you like it or not, as photographers we are all artists! So why not act like artists and put the prep in beforehand. This includes sketches, writing out lists, creating background stories and building mood boards. I started creating mood boards on the advice of another photographer, the mood board king as I like to call him, Dean Samed. Dean created a Photoshop master class, and in it laid out the importance of creating mood boards, and I have been converted ever since.
I have two reasons to mood board. One is for inspiration, and the other is to gather reference images for when I create. So for one shoot I may have multiple mood boards, (Dean would be so proud haha). So let’s first cover inspiration mood boards. All the examples used here are Deans mood boards (just because they rock!!)
Inspiration mood boards are born of images that inspire you as you create your image, and help you craft it into the final piece you are trying to make. For example if you are creating a composite images with giants in, then you would search the web, and create a mood board full of giant images from different artists/photographers. These mood boards are to fire up your imagination, get the juices flowing and inspire the birth of your new image.
Reference mood boards are a different beast altogether. I use reference mood boards when I am trying to create details, and I need to look at an actual image of the thing I am trying to create. For example, my image has a badass apocalyptic tornado bursting through a city. Well it would be silly of me to just guess at how a tornado looks. So I would create a mood board of tornado photos, and then use that board to create my tornado in Photoshop by using the images as reference… do you follow, I hope so haha.
Another example, you are hired to create a book cover with a zombie . You are a digital artist, you have to create your zombie without the use of make up. To do this you would have to piece together various images, and blend different textures. To do this you would use a zombie face reference mood board like the one below.
So now we know the difference between the two mood boards, lets talk about how I create my mood boards and the best place to find images for your mood boards (again passed down from king of the mood boards Dean).
My number one go to mood board image paradise is Pinterest, and 80% of the time this will be the site I use. But if you cant find what you are after there, my next two websites would be Deviantart, or google images. The reason Pinterest is my favourite is because essentially it is a cyber mood board tool, so you can mood board online to create your mood boards……Man this is getting all kinds of mood board crazy now haha.
You now have a selection of images you want to use in a mood board. So what next?! Well open up Photoshop and create a new document. I usually use A3 or A4 size.
Once the new document is open, go back to the image online, right click and click copy from the drop down menu.
Switch back to Photoshop, go to the top bar, Edit, and click paste. Or simply hold down ctrl and press V. The online image will now appear in your new document.
Use the move tool to place it where you wish, and resize it to the size you want using free transform, by holding ctrl and pressing T.
Now follow the steps for each image you choose, and eventually you should have kick ass mood board.
Hope this helps. Do not be afraid to use artist techniques to advance your photography. Erik Almas uses mood boards for reference, so if its good enough for Erik, it is good enough for us haha.