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What’s the easiest way to bring some interest to your photos and also give your subject something do – add in a prop! The different options of what can be used as prop are so endless that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Especially when you are trying to match the prop to an outfit and location and overall aesthetic. But, don’t be overwhelmed! Below are some of my favorite prop types and some of my tips on utilizing them well.
Ange is the queen of props, especially when it comes to Halloween. However, the one I want to focus on is her cloak. Obviously it brings something to the photo with her just wearing it, but her swishing it around gave the cloak (and the photo) both movement and a vibe. When someone is moving their clothes around (whether it be a cloak, sweater, dress, etc.), the trick to have them hold it loosely and move it back and forth multiple times. Often times I will have the subject move their clothes around themselves instead of waiting on the wind or making bigger movements.
If you’re interested in more tips on capturing clothes and movement, check out my post on twirling. If you’re interested in more of Ange’s Halloween shoot, check out my post on creating a themed shoot.
Your best case scenario is when a prop can both further the overall meaning of the shoot and all serve some sort of visual purpose. Liz, in the photo above, is a stylist, so a mirror makes total sense as a prop for her. Putting it out in a field gave us a bit of a more natural background, but, because the mirror was wood, it still felt cohesive. In both of those aspects, the mirror served the overall meaning of the shoot.
In terms of visual purpose, the mirror gave us some light and depth that we wouldn’t have had without it. Liz could look at herself, as she is in the photo above. She could also pose with it. Hang things on it. Reflect things in it. It gave us a lot of options for a fairly simple and commonplace prop.
One type of prop for someone to bring is something that they use all the time. For example, Renee is a makeup consultant, so her bringing her favorite products makes sense. Having her pose while actually using them gives the feeling that you are getting a sneak peek into her everyday routine. This pose would also work with her looking at the palette, instead of the camera.
Z brought a Starbucks holiday cup to her seasonal shoot because she felt like it really represented something that she could connect with her followers over. I believe she captioned one of these photos with a poll asking for everyone’s favorite seasonal drink. We also used the opportunity to tag Starbucks and hope they’d notice us for a potential collaboration. Obviously it is hard to get such a big company’s attention, but this strategy is much more doable with a slightly smaller brand. You never know!
Flowers never fail to upgrade a photo. The trick is to make sure that the vibe of the flowers matches the vibe of both the subject’s outfit and the overall shoot. In this example, Rachel is wearing a velvet gown at a mansion (although you can’t see it in this photo), so her flowers match the elegant and old world aesthetic of the photos. This bouquet is also large, which adds to the feeling of the photo. This isn’t to say that a smaller bouquet would look bad, but you would photograph it differently.
You can also never go wrong with a flower crown, see Sarah below. The trick to a flower crown is to make sure that the flowers are big enough and close enough together that the crown looks full. I also recommend wearing is a little lower on your forehead than you normally would. Sarah has it pulled down just a bit and it photographs better than if she’d been wearing it more like a headband.
Sometimes locations will come wit their own props. They will be of varying quality and varying levels of cohesion with the actual location. I’ll say this – if you’re unsure, take the photo and then, if you don’t like it, don’t use it. Don’t overthink things while you’re on location. The doors in the above photo are a permanent installation in the sunflower field. Do they add to the overall ‘story’ of the shoot? No. Are they cute because they’re rainbow colors and Z looks good in front of them? Yes. This farm was particularly populated with props and we took photos with all of them. Once I got home, I sorted through which ones were successful and which ones just looked silly.
Props are an easy and affordable way to bring some interest and fun to your photos! Don’t be intimidated by your options and have fun experimenting!
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Hi, I'm Dylan, a photographer in the Philadelphia Metro Area. I love iced coffee, red wine, and am always up for binging Gilmore Girls or Parks and Rec..