Working With Props

Whether you want to go out with a friend and just take a couple of snapshots or you are in the middle of a photo session, creative use of props can really add a touch of WOW to your images in the end.

The point (as with everything else in photography) is to focus on the relevant and only add what’s necessary to the image – and make the entire environment work for you rather than the other way around. Remember that the idea behind photography props (all sorts of props, whether they’re natural ones or artificial ones) is to add more focus to your message and your subject and not distract the viewer from the entire image. You can use props that are cherished by your subject, or simply things that you find around at your shooting location. Within this chapter we shall discuss some of the most interesting photography props you can use and how to integrate them best in your images.

Prop #1 – Benches

You can use benches for a variety of shots, you can use them (as we noticed in Chapter 2) as a method to help our model lean on something, or you can use them for more artistic purposes. Your subject placement is also incredibly important, you can put them at the end of the bench, and use a wide angle shot in which you include the entire environment or you can create a close-up photo in which you use the bench just as a support. The possibilities aren’t limitless but they allow a certain amount of creative space. Make sure you use it properly.

Prop #2 – Activities

This is quite a creative prop, since it doesn’t limit you to a certain thing (like the bench). In portrait photography you will have to work with different kinds of subjects and you will soon find that children photography is one of the most difficult skills you will have to develop. You see, children are incredibly hard to control, especially if you want a decent pose out of them. However, give them their favorite toy, or put them in their favorite environment and they become completely natural at being photographed. You can do the same with shy models that don’t feel comfortable being photographed while just standing. Allow your model to play around with their favorite toys – whatever those may be, and your portraits will not only look more natural, but will also feel like they communicate the right message towards the viewer.

When working with models (that aren’t children), you can consider one of the following:

  • A cup of tea – get your model out for a cup of tea or coffee instead of forcing them to sit through a whole photo session as a professional model. Chairs and tea or coffee make a beautiful environment and if it helps your model relax, you win on both ends.
  • Their favorite tool – we all have our little things that make us happy. For some it’s toys, for some it’s computers. Regardless of your model’s favorite tool, make sure you discuss this in advance and find the one that’s more suited to their attitude and behavior. Ask them to bring along something they feel strongly about and you will start noticing they’re a lot more natural along that object.

Prop #3 – People and Pets

People feel incredibly strongly about their pets. And in tandem with the mention written above, pets can end up being some wonderful props on their own. Not to mention that they soften the image in ways you can only begin to imagine. If you know your model has a pet they feel strongly about simply ask them to have it tag along, and see what happens. Let them play with their pet the way they usually do and start shooting. Pick the shots that display some of the most natural snapshots of human emotions. All you have to do is sit and wait – pets will bring emotions out of just about anybody.

Prop #4 – Flowers

Female models look wonderful with flowers. Children portraits are even cuter with flowers. The good news is that in theory, you can’t really go wrong with flowers. However, things can go bad if you go down cliché lane, and you forget where to stop. In other words, an overuse of flowers in your image might just go against the one rule that was stated within the chapter – do not draw attention from the subject with your prop. Make sure the flowers complement the look on your subject’s face. Also, make sure you help them pose accordingly to their prop. Some might look good with a red rose between their teeth while some might just look odd.

Prop #5 – Frames

In our last chapters we will discuss a little bit about what you can do to make your images more interesting. Within one section we shall discuss the beauty of using frames to create a more interesting environment for your subject. In this chapter, however, actual frames can be used to create a picture-in-picture effect. These fun, creative twists can go a long way – and if you’re lucky, you will come up with more ideas about how to use those frames on the spot, with your subjects. Remember that there’s nothing better than adapting to your model and their behavior.

This small list of photography props ideas is by no means a complete one, any object can be used as a decent prop, provided it fits the scene. The important rule you need to follow (and has been mentioned here countless times) is the one that focus on keeping things natural. Even if you’re going for that creative twist, it’s important not to go too far and create an odd environment for your subject. Test the field first, have your subject take a few random shots with his or her prop and see what fits best. When you have all that figured out, you can start being creative.