Mood Boards and Inspiration

Inspiration can come from anywhere, an image on social media, a beautiful sunrise, a scene on a street. When the time comes to photograph it, you need to communicate your inspiration to others. A mood board is a great way to capture the mood or feeling of a shoot, or a particular image.

The Mood Board itself consists of a collage of objects, nowadays almost always pictures, showing colour and specific detail. For a shoot there may be a reference image, a picture of the type of model(s), clothes, lipstick shade, eye makeup design, hair style, and a colour pallet. In the good old days, a mood board would have swatches of cloth, makeup samples, hair samples, and Polaroids. You can still do this and share photographs of the results.

How do You Make a Mood Board?

There are so many ways – you can try the traditional route, paper, scissors and glue. Pinterest is an obvious choice, just remember that not every image is on Pinterest, but there are lots. Browsing any social media will let you capture lots of images. Take in a web site for a museum or gallery – the world is full of beautiful images.

After you have lots of images, the idea is to find the few that capture the spirit of your inspiration. These images can be made into a collage, and then shared on social media to attract collaborators, or with your artistic team to help share the vision.

What about “Single Image Inspirations?”

A single image is a great starting point, but don’t be seduced into recreating it – that’s copying, not inspiration. There is nothing wrong with an homage or tribute, just put your own twist on the image, make it yours, not theirs.


Should My Images Look the Same?

After a photoshoot, the editing starts. This can be a simple process, or as complex as desired. As part of this editing, the overall look and feel of an image is determined. This includes the colour pallet – basically the dominant colours used in an image. If you think about a great movie, all the scenes look like they belong together, the frames similar scenes look like they were all made on the same day, under the same light conditions, even though the movie was probably photographed over many months. This activity is colour grading, although it can be confusing. because the term is also used for correcting errors between exposures, to make them realistic, and also to bring different exposures from different environments, to a common, accurate, baseline.

For us, making still images, the question is “should they be graded the same?”. As artists, the answer is a strong “maybe” 🙂

If the series of images are telling a continuous tale, say a walk down the street, then there is a strong argument for keeping the colour pallet constant through the series. The same is often true for a fashion shoot. But, for a series of artistic images that stand alone, or for a beauty shoot with different looks, a different pallet that complements each image may give a better end result.

Another thing to consider is the destination for the images. In a portfolio, you may want to showcase consistency. For social media, with time between each image post, and very probably different people seeing each image, the need for consistency is less. Making each image look the best it can regardless of what comes before of follows it, is a good choice.

Other creatives involved in a shoot can give a photographer valuable insight, especially into the story of the images, and their intended destination.

Above all, have fun!


Tell a Story

Images that tell a story are more interesting than pretty pictures. When we are selecting an image to post, composing an image to make a photograph, or designing a makeup look, thinking about story is a sound idea.

The importance of story can be seen in Instagram captions – people are telling us the story of the image. Sometimes to help convey the message, sometimes because the story is not apparent from the image, and sometimes because they can’t help themselves. Regardless, the desire for the story is apparent.

And the story does not need to be complex, just something to lift the image out of the ordinary. A person looking at something out of the frame will often grab attention. So, will an interesting prop. The right clouds and light in a landscape can generate a feeling of wonder, or dread.

Makeup tells a story; who is our subject, what have they seen? Special effects makeup can tell a very detailed story, and does not rely on a photographer’s skills to get the message across.

I find subtle messages work best, even with darker themes. A hint of what is to come is often a stronger story than an obvious picture. Pink light and a baguette vs. Eiffel Tower; both say Paris.

When photographing live or street, look at the subject, the surroundings, above and behind as well. There are elements of the environment that strengthen the message. At a rock concert, a guitar solo looks great zoomed in, but a fan swinging on a speaker stack can add volumes to the message (pun intended).

Stylists and Makeup Artists that can tell stories with their work will always be in hot demand. Not every photographer can, or wants to, create a story themselves. Some want to clearly capture your story, not tell their own.

So how?

The quickest way to improve you story telling is to think and look. Think about what the story is or should be. Look at what supports that, or what is needed. And practice, practice, practice. What worked, what did not, what works for you!


Image Editing Tips

Better Images Guaranteed

There are millions of books, videos, and training services promising to make you better at making images.

Most of them are inspirational – they are designed to make you feel like you can be a success. I call these materials entertainment, because they are filling an emotional need rather addressing a technical issue, or knowledge gap.

Don’t get me wrong, these are fun, and serve an important purpose – motivation! You can learn a lot from them, but it is mainly the same things, taught by different people, in different ways.

So, what are my editing tips?

Tip One

”Leave everything for a day” before you share an image. Nothing looks the same the next day. Sleeping on it is always good advice 🙂

Tip Two

This follows hot on the heels of tip one – ”Never make destructive edits”. Because when you look at something a day later, you will probably want to turn some things down, and maybe some things up. So layers and sliders are your friends, flattened images are not.

Tip Three

”Have a good look at your image before you start”. A good long look will save you editing fails. Sometimes an image looks good initially, but has a terrible flaw that does not become apparent until after you have wasted time editing it. This means starting again with a different image, or more editing. Little things, like eyelashes coming unstuck, weird hand placement, and men urinating in the background, can all “appear” after an edit. Save some time and look closely.

Tip Three (B)

Don’t edit sequentially – 2 images that look similar are not as good a use of your editing time as 2 different images. You can always come back to editing any you skip over, but don’t take a chance of getting “bored” with your subject before you get an edited image from each “look”


How Do You Select Your Images and Why?

Advice for all sorts of creatives

There is No Such Thing as a Good Photograph

If We think a photograph is beautiful, we are wrong.

Everything we see is viewed in context. One person’s beautiful flower, is a farmer’s weed. The context sets the parameters by which people judge things; and every image we select for a purpose, is judged. Five likes and no comments? We have been judged.

The thing to ask ourselves is “What do I want to achieve?”

We have just got an image and we want to share it with the world, then post away!

If we want to build a following, then consider – “Is this image what I want to be known for? Is it what people want to see? Does it send a confusing message?”

Is the image just “more off the same?” If it is, and we want to be associated with that type of art, then perfect! If we want to be known for a wide range, then think – “Am I selecting too much of the same thing?” We can always hold back images till a later date, so there is variation in what we post.

How much should we post? If we post everything we can get our hands on, it sends a clear message – “I’m posting this because I like posting my stuff.” It does not show that we care for our audience.

You are not a good judge of your own work

Ultimately, our opinion is what guides us, but our opinion can be informed by other people. This is especially handy if we want approval, or offers of collaboration and work. People who like us often like our work. Their opinion is often not useful because they actively want to like out work. Someone who can give us impartial criticism is what we need. If we model, a photographer that likes an image that we don’t, can help us understand what other people see.

Makeup artists can take advice from clients and photographers – we might not be satisfied, but they can tell us if what we have done works for them.

Photographers can easily get feedback from other photographers, but the people that the photograph is for are an excellent source of information – consider showing a large range of images to a model, makeup artist or client, and see which they chose to be enhanced, or like the way that they are.

Regardless of anything else, we should always think about what we want an image to do, and let that help us make a selection.


Why Monochrome?

Monochrome just means one colour. The term is often used with black and white, but it also includes other single-colour photography techniques, like sepia, and cyanotype. I’ve even seen red and gold used beautifully.

Colour and monochrome have very different presentation. The beauty, and challenge, of monochrome photography is to use the absence of colour to bring out the message of an image more clearly.

To do this intentionally requires thought and planning, like any good image.

Why do some images look better in monochrome?

Texture and contrast information comes from light and dark. This is what we are left with when we remove colour. In a full-colour image, the colour can work with the tone and texture, or it can fight against them. In a beautiful colour image, everything is working together. The colours in a sunset often draw your eye in the same way as the tone and contrast – you won’t see many B&W sunset photographs because of this harmony.

Where you will see monochrome (or reduced colour) used is when there is something else in the scene – a solitary hut or figure that would be lost in the golds and yellows of the sunset, but is clearly part of the story in black and white.

With noir photography (think 1920’s gangsters), monochrome often looks best. A colourful silk tie, bright blue suit, or yellow dress, might not sit well with a gritty, mob theme. This is a case where the mood of an image conflicts with its colour.

Nostalgia is another common use for monochrome. Many subjects are often seen in black and white, because that’s what people had at the time. A similarly themed image in colour may not have that same feeling of yesteryear.

An image shot intentionally to be seen in black and white will almost always look better than an image that is run through filters to see what looks best. That said, intuitive photographers may make colour images, with strong tone and contrast, without realising they have a perfect candidate for a monochrome image.

With practice, you can see in your mind what an image looks like in monochrome, without having to make an exposure. This same skill can help you identify a monochrome gem in your existing catalogue of images. Looking back at your previous work, and testing it in monochrome, can help you identify those scenes that work in black and white. Who knows? You might be a black and white photographer is disguise, and at least you will have some fun with filters.


TFP Is Bad For You

TFP Is Bad For You, it will ruin your chance for a career. It’s only good for beginners. If you model TFP you won’t ever be paid.

Or so I have been reading.

But here’s the thing, that’s not how it is. Time For Photographs (TFP) has been around forever, top agencies in Australia still send models out at no charge to enrich a model’s portfolio, or to gather publicity. World renowned photographers and models often collaborate on non-commercial projects because they love what they do. Many say that it keeps them ‘fresh’. Everybody gets something in their portfolio that they love, often different to the ordinary commercial work.

Matt Granger, known for years as “That Nikon Guy”, publishes books full of models that are not paid. They want to be in a beautiful book, he wants to publish a beautiful book. Everybody is happy, everybody wins.

Why do people say TFP is bad for models? Selfishness and ignorance, I think. Some people only see value in money, and honestly believe TFP is a poor choice. Some people think TFP competes with their business, stealing their customers.

Artists believe there is value in :

  • Making art.
  • Having a diverse portfolio.
  • Working with creative people.

There is one question that all parties contemplating any photoshoot should consider – “Is there value to me in doing this?”

“Value” can be money, a powerful portfolio, enjoyment, expression, or simply the satisfaction of helping someone.

I’ve always shot TFP. If I’m doing commercial work, I’ll always find time to shoot what I want, the way I want, with people that love collaboration. Sometimes, I hire models, sometimes, they hire me. If I need a specific look, for a specific purpose, and there is no value flowing to the model, then financial compensation is only fair. The same is true if a model wants my dark and moody style in their portfolio.

What are the actual downsides of TFP for models?

  • Sometimes you work with novices, and the quality of the end result can show this. In cases like this it’s best to look at the other values – it’s practice and you meet people. A little extra time can turn a challenge into a success, overcoming obstacles can be fun.
  • Sometimes you get nothing back. This happens, but it also happens with professional shoots. Working through a casting group helps reduce the chance of it happening – peer group pressure is a wonderful thing.
  • Sometimes you get images that are nothing like you expected.

And the upsides?

  • It’s cheap and cheerful.
  • Limitless choices of professionals to work with.
  • You can make a wide, and varied portfolio, with many styles.
  • No exclusivity contracts.
  • Work with people that love making art.
  • There are professionals and amateurs doing TFP, work with both.

Shoot TFP if you want to – it’s rewarding and helpful.


Cassidy Nancarrow



Shoot 1

Shoot 2


Brooke Jane — Screenland


Jasmin Screen