As a portrait photographer I am always looking for new ways of building portraits. The only way of finding inexpensive photography prop ideas is to search for inspirational images or look for them in your daily surroundings. Depending on the nature of the photoshoot, the props you use vary broadly.
Portraits made with children vs. contemporary photography portraits will have very different elements in them.
You will also have to have a clear understanding on what it is you want to convey. If the image will be used in a professional sense, inflatable toys might not be the way to go. Here are some props you’ve seen in specific portraits and some you’ve not even thought about. The style of your photographs will determine what you will eventually use.
This one might be a funky one, but bodypaint gives more graphic lines to your subject. Creating shapes and forms to the human body, it adds a layer of playfulness to your portraits. It can be used to add leading lines to your images.
These props are ancient and have been used from the renaissance paintings. Adding fruits as props bring a splash of color to the imagery while adding graphic shapes. Grapes communicate lust and passion, while oranges represent the sun and light. You can use fruits to an overwhelming extent or even making clothes or hats out of them. Photographer Emma Sarpaniemi uses fruits and vegetables in a quirky way.
3. Flowers / Plants
Flowers are versatile props to use. Roses usually communicating romance and love and are thus used in wedding photography. Other flowers like dandelions represent joyfulness and hope. Flowers can bring more texture bringing an organic feel to the images. Plants on the other hand signal more wilderness and can be used in building an outdoor setting indoors.
4. Other food
You can really just get creative and combine daily food to portraiture or other type of photography work like still-life. It will require some work and an innovative mindset but it will also be more rewarding because you have worked for your idea. One great example of this is Tatsumi Orimoto. Something as basic as a baguette can work as a prop.
5. Glasses / Sunglasses
Glasses and sunglasses are typical props to bring startling feel to the portrait. If the person doesn’t naturally wear glasses, it might be misleading unless you are trying to depict a character. Sunglasses on the other hand can hide the subject and add powerful impression. Sunglasses have usually been a fashion statement and also used in such.
Hats and costumes in general add playfulness to the setting. Especially when photographing kids it brings a certain character to the portrait. Like in the previous props, look into the quality of your hat; a trucker cap is usually connected to laid back attitude, but a beret might be connected to European / French culture.
7. A chair or a couch
Easy and accessible prop is using chairs in portraits. It lets your subject relax more and adds more texture and shapes into the image.
When deciding what kind of chair to use, take the material into account; polished chair will translate into wealth while a plastic one depicts momentariness and expendable nature. There are other props in this image like a glass of milk and the carton.
Essentially, you can use anything as props that you can think of. To bring more of a theatrical feel to your images, you can even use toy guns or cigarettes.
Inexpensive photography prop ideas are easy to come up with, just always ask yourself the question why it is you’re doing it and be also able to answer it.
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