December 16, 2016

When To Think Twice About Props (and How to Get It Right!)

Photography props can make your photos more interesting. They can aid in conveying a theme or a message. However, a prop should be used to enhance, never distract. If a picture is worth a thousand words, think of the prop as a metaphor. Photographers need to use their experience, creative eye and intuition to choose props that help sell the narrative of a photo. Here are some times you should think twice about using props and ways to use props tastefully!


Props as a Disguise for Awkwardness

Sometimes, your subject just looks (and likely feels) awkward! Maybe they just don’t know what to do with their hands and their pose isn’t flattering. This is where your excellence as a photographer comes in, well, handy.  There are several hand poses you can use to make your subject look relaxed and comfortable. Make sure you give them direction and resist the urge to hand them a pen or a briefcase and try posing them instead.


Props That Add No Value

You must ask yourself what value the prop adds to the photograph. Are you using it as a crutch instead? For example, having your subject clutch a file or hold a briefcase. These might seem relevant, but they’re too generic to really convey anything about the individual or their business. Keep these kinds of props out of the photograph!


Props That Are Contextually Inappropriate

This is a total judgment call. There are times when an element or a prop may be inappropriate to the context of the business. Be on your toes for these kinds of things! For example, when photographing a divorce attorney, remove the framed photos of his happy family sitting on his desk. For a bankruptcy attorney, avoid a display of flashy or expensive accessories.


Ways to Successfully Use Props

Keeping in mind when you shouldn’t be using props, let’s talk about when and how props can be used. Remember to always keep in mind the context of the business and individual that you’re photographing. If you do that and use our guide below, you’ll have beautiful and unique photographs to share with your client.


Use a Uniform as a Prop

When we think of professional business portraiture we envision our subjects in business professional attire. However, that may not convey the image of the company at all. While attire isn’t a prop, per se, it is worth mentioning that you must consider the type of business when you are styling your subject. A tech-forward business’s idea of “business professional” might be the pair of jeans without frayed hems and that one pair of Sanuks that doesn’t happen to resemble house shoes.


Use a Prop to Convey Personality

When you’re dealing with business portraiture, it can feel difficult to find creative ways to express the personality of your subject. Remember, it’s about context. Finding ways to convey personality can be simply the way they are styled and allowed to interact with one another during the shoot. A laid back approach lends itself to photography that comes naturally and has a more candid feel. These shoots can be a lot of fun and will reflect the personality of the company, as well as the individual.


Use the Environment as a Prop

Take some time and scout your location. Are there any unique structural elements that can be used as background or props? Recognition of the physical building in which business is conducted resonates with prospective clients. They can see that this is a real brick and mortar establishment. That can go a long way in your client’s satisfaction with the end result, especially when creating marketing materials.


In the end, the successful use of props in your professional business photography will depend on your eye for detail, sensitivity to context and symbolism, ability to understand your subjects and their business, and a clear strategy from the start. Don’t be afraid to experiment with varied compositions and environments. Remember that props are not crutches, they should help tell a story while keeping your subject the main focus!


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