Vision Board


Do you see that folded white photobomb? That small piece of paper is one of the most valuable pieces in my creative process.

In between takes, I noticed that I'd left my vision board in frame. Without a second thought, I mentally red-flagged those images for the trash bin.

It wasn't until after we'd wrapped, and after I'd had time to unwind and reflect on the chaos of the shoot session, did I take a moment to pause and slowly go over each image. As is my usual process, each photo would be weighed and balanced to determine which ones felt true to the story I was trying to tell. I came across the image you see above, and I stopped to reflect on just how important that paper was for this particular shoot.

We'd rushed through this one, having all of our little ones with us. We certainly didn't have the best creative energy flowing, the lighting wasn't as optimal as I'd hoped, and truly, all we were worried about was trying to get just enough good content to wrap up as quickly as we could for our little ones.

I reached for my vision board 3 or 4 times, one time, Dustin reminding me. Even on a perfectly planned, stress-free shoot, I reference my vision board at least one time. This time though, the board saved the shoot. With every glance, I was a little more focused.

So today I want to dive into my process of creating them. It’s been such a paramount tool for me that I had to share this with YOU!

Manda Lee Smith |


INSPIRATION> I'm in a revolving door of creating content, and when I fail to separate that content into unique stories, there's no clear vision. In addition, I know you all are well aware, but the platform in which we are sharing our content is particularly saturated, creating a unique drawback when attempting to foster anything "new."

Fabricating a vision board allows for the opportunity to foster new ideas and envision fresh, personal takes on ideas that have already been done. By creating a vision board for each look, I'm evoking emotion and setting a mood, promoting focus and mental clarity to tell the story on each shoot.

GUIDANCE> Every step in generating a board develops the character of the shoot a little more, growing and reaching until the idea feels complete. It's essential that I bring my vision board with me to each shoot in one-way shape or form. I'm not living in the mood of the board in between the time spent creating it and the actual shoot. So being able to reference where I was creatively when I curated it, allows me to get into character if you will.

TEAM COMMUNICATION> I'm not the only one in this process, right? My team is an all-important key to bringing artistry to life. Whether that's Rony or my husband, they both become a sounding board when bringing this story to fruition. Communicating my ideas draws them into my mindset for a shoot. Often times they're suggesting additional pieces of inspiration as well as location options I hadn't previously thought about. For my husband specifically, newish to photography, looking over the vision board is remarkably helpful in capturing the angles I'm looking for.

Manda Lee Smith |


CURRATE> Collecting visual interest is the first step in constructing your vision board. I start with a single item. For example, in this shoot, I began with my coral pant. I then image search the color, and I start to build from that. One image will inspire you to explore another one and after a while, having a collection of images, you'll find that a mood has developed. Another tool that supports me in this process is the curated selection of different artistry books I've gathered over the years. Both new and old, between the pages, there are original ideas that I will never find on the internet. I mention this so that your eyes are open to seeking inspiration from uncommon or not easily obtained sources.

PUT IT TOGETHER> The exciting part. Seeing my imaginativeness all in one place brings it to life. There are many ways to go about putting it together. This will be very personalized to what works for you.

You could physically do this with magazines and books, or you could do it digitally. More often than not, my process is to create it digitally by merely adding images to a Pages document. You could also create one on photoshop, PicMonkey, or various apps.

I then save it to a folder with my other boards, air drop it to my phone, and then print it out. I laminate a copy as well to keep in a collection with all of my previous mood boards, for reference purposes. For you, it might only be getting it to your phone.

Below, is what’s actually inside that folded up piece of paper, the board I created for this shoot. Organize the images in a way that feels organic to you. As you see, I prefer to overlap them. I’ve also included side by side of this board vs. my actual images to show you how I got from point A to point B.

Manda Lee Smith |
Manda Lee Smith |

Have a happy time creating evocative visions to bring your thoughts to life & as always, pieces from my shoot/similar pieces are include to shop on the scroll below.