Don’t get me wrong. I love Pinterest as much as the next hot-blooded American. It’s a great way to find inspiration and new ideas about all kinds of things, but as a photographer, I can’t think of anything more disheartening than a client who decides to use Pinterest to create a “Shot List” for our session. Used improperly, Pinterest hurts results, produces unrealistic expectations, and ultimately leads to disappointment.

In recent years, I’ve had more and more clients create or even show up the day of a session with their “Pinterlist”: a handful of printouts or a set of pins they’ve saved on their phone. With joy and excitement they show me the pins, and say things like, “I found these great shots on Pinterest. I want to do this shot, this shot, and then if we have time, this shot too.”

They’re all lovely images from another photographer in unbelievable locations with fabulous wardrobe. I’m demoted from creative director to “monkey with a camera,” because I’m expected not to create the best images I can make for the client, but to duplicate the efforts of another photographer – and that’s just bad news for everyone all around.

Here are four reasons you should stop creating “Pinterlists” for your photographer:

  1. Your back yard probably isn’t located in Mykonos, Greece (and neither is my studio space). Before you add the image to your Pinterlist, ask yourself, “Do I like this image because of the location in the image or do I like it because of the pose?” If the location is what makes the image list-worthy, and you don’t have access to any location like it, then leave it off your list. The result will be a disappointment because you don’t have access to a mansion with 30 foot ceilings and a spiral staircase, and neither do I.
  2. You don’t know a world class fashion designer, and you don’t own a $3,000 dress (neither do I). If the image you saved to your list is more about the wardrobe than the pose, and you don’t own anything even close to that wardrobe, then leave it off your list. The wardrobe made the shot fabulous, not the pose. We can’t magically recreate an image of a fabulous piece of wardrobe that you don’t own. The result will look nothing like the pin you saved, and you will be disappointed.
  3. You’re not a 6’ tall supermodel. Some poses are not for you. Compare your build to the build of the person in the image you saved. If your build isn’t close to the build of the person in that image, you’re going to be disappointed with the result. Get rid of that image. We’re going to get great results that are based around your height and your build, because my job is to get the best pose for your height and your build. That’s my job, and I’m good at it.
  4. Your need to duplicate another photographer’s images stops me from giving you my very best, creative work. You hired me because you liked something about my work and my style. I promise that the images that won you over aren’t duplications. When you ask me to simply replicate someone else’s work, you rob me of my ability to create images that are specific to you. You kill the creative process that would have more than likely provided you with stellar images, and frankly, if you wanted duplications, there was no reason to hire me in the first place.

Pinterest has many great uses. I mean, how else would I have ever found a life hack that has helped me make perfect corn on the cob in the microwave and later use those same husks to make a stunning door wreath? Pinterest, however, should never be used to create a shot list – a “Pinterlist” for your photographer. It’s only going to lead to results that don’t match expectations and disappointment in the final results. Instead, choose a photographer for his skill and style. Discuss your expectations openly with him, and then allow him to use his creative expertise to get you the results you’re after, without the restrictions of duplication.

And, if you just can’t help yourself – if you’re simply addicted to Pinterest and can’t stop yourself from using it as inspiration for your session, here are three excellent ways to do it:

  1. Look for and pin poses you like, and then practice them in a mirror before your session. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for family poses, wedding poses, or even boudoir poses. Try them out before your session and see just how they fit on you. If they look good, give one or two a go during your session – and then trust the professional to personalize that pose for you during the session.
  2. Look for and pin wardrobe you might like to wear for your session, and then go out, find, and try on that wardrobe on your own. Find what looks great on you, and then wear it for your session. Remember. Your photographer probably has some tried and true wardrobe tips for best results. Don’t hesitate to run your ideas by him first. He might give you a perspective that you didn’t think about when you pinned your inspiration.
  3. Look for and pin general image style, and then find a photographer whose work matches that style. If you want natural light, look for a photographer whose work looks similar to your pins. If you like high-contrast fashion photography, find a photographer whose work looks similar to your pins. Remember. You’re not choosing shots to replicate. You’re choosing a general image style – whether that be vintage or modern. Make sure your photographer can make images in the style you choose and then make sure he knows what style you’re after before the shoot.


Andy Armstrong is a 12-time international award-winning Master Photographer who is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. He specializes in portrait, commercial portrait and fine art portrait photography.