Photography Props

A vibrant umbrella adds interest to a simple shot.

Photography props add visual interest to a portrait while reflecting the person's outfit and personality. Even amateur photographers can use props at home to make their photographs look more professional.

Necessity of Props

Although some photographers and subject find props cumbersome and cheesy, a minimal number of props are needed for most studio portraits. Basic props like chairs, benches, cushions, stools and columns allow different poses for individual and group portraits. Backdrops, even plain ones, can provide start contrast to a person's outfit, match their eye color or simply provide a soft setting for a portrait.

Using photography props can also serve purposes beyond simply setting a nice pose. They can:

  • Create a scene, such as a window bench and seat in front of a floral cloth
  • Enhance a personality trait, like using easels and paint cans in the picture when photographing an artist
  • Depict a holiday, such as Easter (basket with eggs), Halloween/Thanksgiving (pumpkins and fall leaves) and Christmas (sleigh, sled, Christmas tree)

Choose props carefully and with the assistance of the person being photographed. A rough-and-tough football player, even though dressed in a suit, may not want to pose in front of a Victorian porch swing. Props are supposed to enhance, not overwhelm the subject. Too many props can take the focus away from the person and will make the photo look cluttered.

Suggestions for Photography Props

Photographers each have their own photography style, including a preference for particular props. Before choosing a professional, ask about props available and look at a portfolio of their previous work. Studios often allow or even encourage customers to bring their own props in, which may include favorite toys, collections or awards.

Babies and Toddlers

Babies under one year of age may need special props to help pose them. Breastfeeding pillows covered in a drop cloth can prop babies up on their stomach or allow them to recline in a seated position. Small items like angel wings, ribbons and bows, wooden alphabet blocks, stuffed animals and cherished keepsakes also serve as excellent baby props.Toddlers are notoriously hard to photograph. Old enough to realize that it is not Mommy behind the camera, they can get scared and cry. Alternatively, they may be too excited to sit or stand, running all over the studio. Props can help in both situations. To help toddlers become comfortable in the studio, allow them to hold a favorite blanket or stuffed animal while headshots are being taken. Allowing toddlers to sit in a pedal car or tractor can keep them in one spot. Giving them a log, column or confetti to play with or hold onto can also get their attention.

Families

Props used in family portraits are often part of the background. A white picket fence, gazebo, barn scene with hay bales will add depth and dimension to a standard seated photograph. Outdoor photographs can incorporate trees, rivers, large rocks and park benches into the scene.

Individual Shots

Individual portraits, like senior photography sessions, often incorporate props into the photo. Simple barrels, ladders, stools and windows provide visual interest without detracting from the subject. Add some individuality by incorporating instruments, religious books, athletic gear, awards and flowers into individual photographs. Personalizing the photo makes it more meaningful.

Find and Buy Portrait Props

Props are all around. Looking in the right place is the key to finding them. Antique chairs, discarded quilts and toys are good choices for a beginning photographer's studio. Check garage sales, auctions, consignment stores and even personal basements to find unique items that add visual interest to a photograph. Professional photographers often purchase props from retailers who cater to the industry. Stores like Photographyprops.com, and Pro Studio Supply offer quality merchandise meant to be used in a professional setting. Backdrops, seasonal items and basics are all often available for purchase at professional photography support stores.


Photography props create a visually stimulating photograph and can help convey emotion along with proper posing and lighting techniques. Using the right props in a photograph can add extra dimension and enhance the personality of the subjects in the photo.

Photography Props