The Tool Most Photographers Aren't Using Enough

The Tool Most Photographers Aren't Using Enough

As photographers we're in a fortunate era where we have more tools at our disposal than ever before. That said, there's one well known one I have used consistently for years, that many photographers neglect.

When I first started out in photography after buying my first camera, it didn't take me long to realize I was in love with portraiture. As much as I enjoyed taking my camera on adventures to shoot just about anything (and I still do), there's something about photographing people that resonates with me. Before long, I was spending an hour or two every day looking at portraits on Flickr, 500px, and on photography forums. It became an obsession and so I felt my time was better justified, I'd save any image that I connected with. It's almost impossible for me to unpack what "connecting with an image" entails, but despite how high my standards were, I just knew when I was going to save a portrait, and I knew instantly.

What started off as an odd hobby for when I wasn't shooting, became as way of collating gargantuan mood and inspiration boards. I began categorizing shots in to themes, as well as saving every portrait I selected to a master board. I had absolutely no idea when I started doing this that it would become a source of crucial information and ideas, not only for me, but for many others too. The well-known tool I had chosen to use was Pinterest.

What started as a bizarre and thoughtless compulsion morphed in to a useful but mostly selfish habit, and then finally in to a habit that saw worth for others... many others. In fact, at the time of writing this, my Pinterest boards garner around 100,000 unique monthly viewers which is more than any other social media platform I run. The most frequented is of course my collation of portraits I love, but also some of my own work and it acts as a big referrer to my portfolio and other websites. I in no way intended it to be this, but rather a tool for me to gather ideas and moodboards from, which is why I have an enormous number of "secret" boards hidden from the public.

The benefit I feel photographers just don't utilize enough is a centralized database of themed moodboards. Every possible genre, location, and brief you may have or get in the future can have a huge selection of already scouted images for ideas between you and any creative directors or agencies you work with. In fact, it has got to the point where if I'm arranged an editorial style portrait shoot, my newly created boards are referencing predating boards of mine.

Furthermore, if you follow other creatives who use Pinterest effectively, you have a home feed of potential contributions to your boards without even searching. I cannot recommend enough creating an orderly visual database of styles, techniques, locations, and shoots you enjoy. Not only do they prove fruitful when you're working on an idea, but also when you're feeling a little flat and jaded.

Do you use Pinterest for these purposes? Comment your Pinterest account in the comments below; I'm always looking for creatives to follow!

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michaeljin's picture

Oh. I thought it was going to be "Their Brain"

Robert Nurse's picture

LOL! That was my first thought. At least, in my case.

K G's picture

Pinterest, seriously?

Richard Hart's picture

do a google for anything and pinterest comes up high in the search rankings. I dont use it either...

LaMont Johnson's picture

Great to have another photographer using Pinterest as a place to collect and store Ideas.

Daniel Sandvik's picture

A website that requires me to create an account to browse the content is an instant blacklist for me. Pinterest is number one on that list.

Shawn Kenessey's picture

What are you fighting against? Reality?

Heiko Kanzler's picture

I use pinterest for over a year now for creating boards and collaborate. My prefered feature is to set a board to "secret" which allows you and your collaborators to comment on the pictures which are only visible to you and the collaborators.

Daniel Medley's picture

So much this. I use it a lot in this manner. By the time shoot day arrives, it really saves time for the photographer, talent, hmua, and wardrobe.

Couldn't you do this with Google Photos?

for sharing yes, for using a community, no. different beasts

Darren Russinger's picture

Pinterest? You're joking, right?

Mr Hogwallop's picture

At first I thought holy cow, Robert must be the busiest photog in town, then I re-read the article and learned that all these photos are not Roberts, but are pictures he likes along with some of his.

Robert Nurse's picture

And that's one problem with Pinterest. I don't want to leave the impression that I took the photos I've pinned. How do you distinguish what's yours and what's not clearly and quickly?

Joe Healey's picture

Hey Robert, I label a board my work and the others as 'inspiration'. I had the same thought. I didn't want visitors to think I was taking credit for another's work.

Joe Healey's picture
I use Pinterest often to build mood boards for models prior to a shoot. Not sure where all the snarky Pinterest comments come from but it's a fast, easy and a great way to style out a shoot with a model prior to curtain call.

Daniel Medley's picture

People dissing Pinterest are missing the point. For a long time I didn't understand the value of it, but then one member in a collaborative project suggested it. I've used it heavily since and have not looked back. What better way to explain to someone what you're trying to do than to show them examples of the mood/style you're after?

What I've done is create "secret" boards that I and the talant/model use to bounce ideas in. By the time the shoot rolls around, it can save a ton of time and really get the creative juices flowing.

hey Fstopper, can you please add a "block user" feature? I'm so sick of all these negative comments.


I use Pinterest when presenting mood boards to models or clients. It gives them an idea of what I'm looking for before the shoot. It also opens discussion to what the model may favor or dislike so we know what we want to achieve when we work together. It's free, easy to use and most importantly easy to share. While I don't agree it's the tool photographers need to use more of, it can be a helpful resource to leverage.

Robert Nurse's picture

I used to use Pinterest (Pin) a lot until IG. I still use it for setting up mood boards and collaborating. But, I'm still trying to figure out how to get my own images more attention on it though. Don't judge me! (LOL)

Julien Mériot's picture

I've loved using pinterest for the past few years. Collecting images that inspire me, and especially when working on a photoshoot idea. You can check out a few of my ideas there :

Great to see some other people using it like that!

Shawn Kenessey's picture

People go on pinterest to buy things which is different from a lot of social media where it is typically just about following each other. Personally I find Instagram obnoxious due to its enabling and monetization of image theft. At least on pinterest every image is connected to a website where its origin and owner can be verified. It doesn't reward stealing content the way IG does.

Seriously. I thought it was going to be something different. So this is a millennial version of collecting photographs from books and following professionals or those that inspire. Millennials, swear they discovered something new when in reality its just recycled.

Scott Darby's picture

I don't know how pinterest even ranks in google. The images are never there when you click them. Just like that bloody mind hive thing.