How to use Moodboard Pro to distill ideas and get inspiration

Feb 5, 2012 | Business, News | 27 comments

Various Twitter followers have asked me a question about searching for inspiration this week so I thought I’d respond in a blog post. Here is how I find images and use apps to drive my thought processes.

1. Moodboard Pro is one important app in my creative process.

I surf the interweb from time to time following a thread on Twitter or a repost on Tumblr. I find Model Mayhem and 500px are good image sources too. I let myself be led through the myriad of portrait images that present themselves. If I like a shot I use Google images to check out other work by the same photographer. Each time I come across an image that I like or one I can learn from I either screen grab it using Command + Shift + 4 or simply drag it to my desktop. In an hour or so I can have 30 or 40 shots too add to my inspiration collection. My aim is never to recreate the images exactly, rather I want to borrow a pose, a lighting look, the mood of an image or the fashion styling. Rarely are the images I gather similar in style to my own work. I gather portrait paintings too.

1. Flickr might have peaked in popularity but there are some fabulous collections in the vaults.

2. 500px is the new kid on the block taking over from other creative sharing sites as the home for online portfolios.

3. Tumblr is another of my inspiration sources. I like to follow photographers on Twitter who broadcast their Tumblr feed updates. I've got to know the Twitter photographers to watch although I'm always on the lookout for new follows.

4. This is part of my profile portfolio on Model Mayhem where I have uploaded 199 of my images and organised them into albums for others to share and comment on if they wish. Lists on Model Mayhem often link to interesting artists and their collections of images. Many commercial and fashion photographers steer clear of MM so it can seem limited to keen amateurs at times. I think that's no bad thing as I've found amateur portraits often exhibit far more art and care than the work of some professionals.

My inspiration collection lives in iPhoto. I don’t have many uses for iPhoto other than to sort inspiration pictures and to sync photographs including my own work with my iPad. This puts iPhoto firmly at the heart of my inspiration process. There are no large images in my iPhoto library just screen grabs and actioned jpegs that I’ve made for my iPad. This makes iPhoto fast to open and browse.

5. My iPhoto screen showing a small selection of the 500 or studio images by other photographers I have on file.

New pictures I’ve found go in an album called sorting and from time to time I go through this folder dragging and dropping the pictures into my other albums that have specific categories. These include Studio inspiration, Interior location inspiration, Exterior location inspiration etc.

6. A close up detail showing some of the 50 or so albums I have organised in iPhoto.

Each of these folders contain several hundred images, some of them are mine but most are the work of other photographers from all over the world. When I’ve created a shot that transcends the inspiration picture I replace it with my version. They are usually completely different but the reason for the original image to live in my album has passed. When the majority of images in an album category are mine I go back out into the world wide web for more variety and ideas.

7. Moodboard Pro is an app for the iPhone that directly accesses the iPhoto library and the internet.

8. The boards I have made are displayed on a grid. I have quite a collection to scroll through. I always make a new mood board for each shoot as I find the process therapeutic and I get to learn what I want to capture. This way I only have to occasionally refer to the board during a shoot.

I don’t use iPhoto directly for inspiration on shoots. There are far too many images in each of my albums to be useful. Instead I use an app on my iPad called Moodboard pro. This accesses the albums of photographs that I chose to sync in iTunes. It all sounds complicated but it really isn’t. I create a new mood board, choose a name and a background texture then I’m all set to start adding images and text. I find that 15 – 20 images make a great mood board. I’ve developed a style that uses three rows of images. I don’t like using the pins and picture edges etc. These do make the board prettier but the board just performs a function for me.

9. I started by using a random layout for my boards embellished with pins and tape.

10. Now I have a more ordered layout. Even my mood boards have adopted a style - haha.

When I add a new workshop title to our offering I create a mood board or 2 and go out to practice on test shoots. It can take as many as 4 or 5 test shoots before I am happy with my workshop content. I then replace the mood boards with all my own pictures shot on the test shoots and publish them on the workshop pages to show the delegates the kind of images we are going to shoot. On this page at the bottom left you will find a good example of four moodboards for my workshops in Germany. (Click on the thumbnails to see them bigger). I’ll never publish the work of others or use other photographers work to promote my services. It’s only courteous and how I’d like my images to be respected. In return I offer all my work via my blog at the perfect res for mood boards. We can all help each other in this respect.

12. Last year I did a studio shoot for a local florist. By the time they had got back to their shop I'd made up a jpeg for them to email to all their clients. The clients had an easy job of choosing the flowers and placing their orders for Valentines day. The marketing strategy was a great success and Moodboard Pro was at the heart of it.

My inspiration images are very precious to me and represent many hundreds of hours of research so I prefer not to share them on Pinterest etc. Like a writer gathering inspiration through experiences and the writings of others us photographers must feed our ideas and creative engine within. I love to look at paintings too. Many hours of studying art and photography in my life have given me some ability to unravel the code that lies within a successful image. With practice and perseverance I try to put that code right into my pictures to give them soul.

 

Where do you get your inspiration? What sources will you share? Please feel free to comment below…

27 Comments

  1. Murray

    Hello Damien,

    Great article! I was interested in how you catalog your images and wondered if you had a list of the different folders you have setup in iPhoto?

    Cheers
    Murray

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Murray,
      I use albums in iPhoto just like I use playlists in iTunes. The names of the albums are relevent to location or genre. So I have:
      Studio inspiration, Interior location inspiration, Exterior location inspiration, Headshots, Nudes etc.

      I hope this helps, Damien.

      Reply
  2. damien

    Hi Mick,

    Thanks for sharing your Tumblr feeds. I’ts just this kind of giving that makes this blog tick.

    Kindest regards, Damien.

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Martin.

      Reply
  3. Troy Baker

    Love this Damien, do you or anyone have a link to Moodboard pro as I can’t seem to find it…

    Reply
  4. Barney Walters

    moodboard pro is a great tool but as you clearly point out the best time spent is actually looking and producing.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Barney,

      Indeed, researching and organising images is the main bit. Putting mood boards together is just the output.

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
    • damien

      Cheers Rob. I hope your ideas board happened. Damien.

      Reply
  5. Johannes Berg

    Watch out while being inspirated or you might get caught by ACTA! :-)

    By the way, I love your Images, Makes me wonder if I should sell my 5D-gear and just keep my precious X100..?

    Cheers
    Johannes

    Reply
    • damien

      Haha, Love it Johannes. A 35mm lens is great for most things but I’d miss my 100mm lens too much if I was to get rid of my 5D.

      Warmest regards, Damien.

      Reply
  6. Eivind Rohne

    Moodboard is a nice app, but I feel it has some big limitations. I’ve recently switched to Corkulous Pro, and am very satisfied. Works on both iPad and iPhone (very important for me). It even lets you work on the same board across different iOs devices (and with other users/colleauges as well…!) through iCloud or Dropbox. Corkulous Pro has replaced several other apps for me, like Moodboard, Stickyboard and Popplet.

    Cheers,
    Eivind

    Reply
    • damien

      Thank you for that tip about Corkulous Elvind :)

      Reply
  7. Bryan

    i get my inspiration from anywhere i can, the internet is filled with ideas but an afternoon spent in the library looking at images that a publisher thought good enough to put into print helps narrow my focus but sometimes just walking down the street can spark an idea.

    I hope you are getting commission from Moodboard Pro ; )

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Bryan,

      Indeed books are still a great source of inspiration. And no i’m not on commision from anyone :( Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  8. pete

    Love it – thanks for the recommendation.

    Using it to plan my ‘Hitman’ shoot this weekend.

    Pete

    Reply
    • damien

      Haha, Thanks Pete :)

      Reply
  9. Rob Brook

    Yet another great blog posting Damien.
    I use a seperate catalogue within Lightroom to store and organise my moodboard images. I use a an auto import folder so any images I find can simply be dragged from the desktop onto the auto import folder and it goes straight into Lightroom. (when you upgrade lightroom keep the old version installed and use it purely for mood boarding. This saves having to swap catalogues and allows you to seperate auto import folders)
    I use Pinterest a lot as this helps me spot future trends by using the crowd sourcing which is inherent within Pinterest. It’s also a great place to find quality images and open you to other fields as non photographers also use the site. Pinterest have just added a new feature of allowing you to publish to your timeline within Facebook. If you publish your own work and moodboards to pinterest you’ll be able to watch your own progression over time.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Rob,

      Great tip on keeping previous versions of Lightroom for moodboarding. I’ve shyed away from Pinterest for now because I want to keep my research private however many of the images I post here seem to end up on Pinterest. Just look at http://pinterest.com/source/prophotonut.com/ I’ve no idea how many of my shots are floating around that site but it’s for the greater good of creativity I suppose.

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  10. Martin Johnson

    Thanks for sharing Damien. Wonderful inspiration

    Reply
  11. martin

    +1 for moodboard pro though it has some frustrations like the inability to apply a style (for eg picture borders) to a whole board (unless I missed something).

    If you don’t have an iPad Keynote for the mac works well too. You can just drag images off a web page onto a blank slide. With keynote you can apply a style to the whole slide.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Martin,

      Great tip about Keynote. The thing I like about moodboard pro is it takes the background image size as it’s canvas size so big high res boards are posable too.

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  12. Murray

    I started uploading images to 500px in December and I really like the site it’s proving to be a useful source of inspiration. There are some excellent images on there.

    I took my inspiration for shots of Simon from the Tom Ford advertising of a couple of years ago.

    MM is definitely a mixed bag.

    I find websites for make-up and hair products good for the latest trends and adverts in magazines are always worth a look.

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Murray,

      I think 500px might just take over from Flickr for some photographers.I like the rating system but would hate to put my images through it.

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  13. Ian Pollen

    Interesting article, thank you Damien for sharing.

    I use a similiar approuch to yourself and always resist the temptation to just replicate an image. Instead I try to take just elements from a few and build something original.

    I think the original bit is the hardest part ;-)

    Regards, Ian

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Ian,

      Sometimes the original bit comes from the circumstances you find yourself in. Don’t look too hard for original, let it find you when you need it.

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply

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