My Take on Photography Props

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When I got into photography I never really give this much thought. 

It was years before I even purchased my first photography prop. 

I’m very subconscious about everything that ends up in the frame of my images, everything must have a purpose.

So here is my take on photography props.

How I Feel About Photography Props

When I plan an image I have a specific idea and a story behind it. If anything in the image is taking away from that idea, it doesn’t need to be there.

That is why for the longest time, and even still, I almost never use props.

If I do use a prop, it must help in telling the story and at the same time not take away from the main subject in the image.

I can’t stand seeing those images with a dozen or more props in it. I don’t know what to focus my attention on.

If I decide to use a prop, it’s usually just one, two at the most, and one of those two being something the subject is sitting on so it takes almost no focus or attention whatsoever. 

Why I Use Photography Props

Like I said before, if I am going to use a prop, it must help in telling the story, that is the primary reason. 

Otherwise, if it is not helping to tell the story, then it is taking focus and attention away from your main subject.

How I Use Photography Props

When I do use props, this is how I use them. 

The simplest prop is finding something from the environment that makes sense and use that. If the main concept of the image is a child walking through the woods, maybe find a stick he can use as a walking stick. Or have him examine a leaf or a flower or a pine cone. Just a few quick and simple examples. Just look around and think, if I was a kid, what would I play with? A lot of times the children themselves will make it easy on you and find something to play with.

Then there are planed props. These are usually brought because of a specific concept I have in mind, but that almost always (but not always) consists of a single prop, two at the most. Because the more you add to an image the more you take the focus and attention away from the main subject of the story.

This can be a lantern in the dark woods. It can be a jar for capturing lightning bugs. It can be a bird cage with their pet bird inside. It could be an animal.

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If I use a second prop, it’s usually something for the subject to set on. A box or crate, maybe a pumpkin or a pile of books.

Breaking This Rule

Well, it’s not really a rule, this is just my take on photography props and I just made it up. But there are appropriate times to use lots of props and that is, you guessed it! If it helps tell the story. 

Occasionally there are times when many props are appropriate without taking away from the story and you can be the judge of that. It’s easy. Simply ask yourself, does this take away from the story or help tell the story?

Of course, you are free to do whatever you want. Some people are absolutely in love with their props. 

This is just my take on props. I always say “break the rules as often as you follow them”.


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