Using Mood Boards to Collaborate with Clients

Tomorrow afternoon, I have a really cool shoot with a small, independent opera company in Toronto. Loose TEA Music Theatre company is mounting a short run of Bizet’s La Tragédie de Carmen. This version is set in New York City in the 1920s where our heroine is a burlesque dancer. With post-WWI America as the backdrop, this production is bound to be an amazing show.

I jumped at the opportunity to shoot this production because it combines my passions with my focus and lands squarely in the convergence point of the kind of work I love to do: portrait, promo, and working with diverse, creative people.

The company’s founder and the director of the show described what she was looking for, I told her what I had been thinking, and we collaborated on the concept for the shoot. Following this, I put together a mood board for the shoot and sent it to her for approval.

This is the completed mood board I put together for tomorrow’s shoot:

This is the mood board I created for my collaboration with Loose TEA Music Theatre on their production of La Tragédie de Carmen.

This is the mood board I put together for the promo shoot for Loose TEA Music Theatre’s production of La Tragédie de Carmen.

As you can see, a mood board is a simple collection of images that serves to provide an aesthetic and direction for the shoot. We don’t want to recreate any one specific image, but rather identify what we like about specific images and be inspired by elements of each.

For tomorrow’s shoot, I want to show the spectacle of the stage, to capture the venue of this interpretation of Carmen. You will notice two images on the mood board that highlight this intention, one in which you can see the light in the shot and the flare it casts into the lens, and another in which you can only see the light streaming down behind the subject. Since I am planned for this, I rented a haze machine for the shoot to capture lighting that I plan to place behind our Carmen and to open up the details in the shadows.

I will also be shooting a variety of shots, of three different cast members, so that we end up with a variety of images that can be used for the promotion of the show. The mood board allows us to stretch ourselves in a few different directions while maintaining a clear, concise and consistent feel across all the imagery.

It is important, however, that once you’ve gotten the shot you wanted to keep shooting and pushing yourself beyond your own and your client’s expectations going into the shoot. You want to shoot with an attitude and approach of not only getting the image, but being able to say, “Yeah, we got it, but I think we can go even further, do even better.”

The shoot will have its own finished style and aesthetic that doesn’t reflect any one image on the mood board in particular, but has elements of each, whether that be sex appeal, costuming, lighting, posing, props, or anything else that you think can help you to achieve your desired result.

Using Mood Boards for Inspiration and Personal Projects

I am always working on a few different independent projects and test shoots. Currently, Mo Bro Photo is a large-scale project I’m planning as a supporter of Movember, but I’m also planning a test shoot with a dancer, and have a personal project in which I’m creating a series of fake movies and TV shows and will be shooting the promotional artwork for those movies.

A big part of my pre-production workflow is gathering source inspiration and assembling those images into mood boards. I find mood boards help me to define the image in my mind and often expand my original goal into something more interesting that my client or I might not have otherwise considered.

For the dance shoot I’m planning, I was scanning for images in the usual places when I stumbled across this image of Eileen Jaworowicz from New York photographer Lois Greenfield that was slightly different than the typical black and white photo of a dancer jumping through the air. Something about the vibrant orange and the look of the photo made me think of birds of paradise and now I’m working on fresh ideas that have taken me in a new direction. A direction you’ll just have to wait for to see.

Are you using moodboards for your shoots?  How has a moodboard inspired you in unexpected ways?