Working with Props & Backgrounds

“I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I make them for myself first and foremost – that is important”— Jacques-Henri Lartigue

They may not be the subject of the portrait but the right prop and background will not only enhance a photograph, they can improve your image with your clients. But you need to light it appropriately. In a portrait of a child sitting on a Victorian bench in a environment created entirely with background and props, the background can become almost be as big a part of the image as the subject but, using that same background, unlit and barely visible, the subject becomes highlighted and the background is reduced to a supporting role.

Anything can be a prop. Even an old lamp bought at a thrift store can add just the right touch to your next portrait session. The secret: Make sure that your subject interacts with the prop. Lighting for this portrait was made using a Dynalite SP2000 power pack and a four-head setup with two large Chimera lightbanks with two  heads pumping light onto the background. Exposure with Canon EOS D60 and EF 85mm f/1.8 lens was 1/125 second at f/11 and ISO 100.

Updating Props and Backgrounds on a regular basis gives your clients the variety they are looking for and keeps them coming back but using the same props and backgrounds year after year, sends customers to your competitors. Successful photographers understand that after backgrounds and props have been used for a couple of seasons, they’ve paid for themselves and it’s time to purchase new props and backgrounds.

Don’t toss the old backgrounds and props away! Put them on Craig’s List and sell them. You may not get top dollar but it will help get you started on your next batch of new props. You’ll get more creativity for your dollar by investing in versatile, durable props and backgrounds that enhance all aspects of the finished portrait.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.13.43 AMIf you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting, in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere, which is available from Amazon.com. The money we make from affiliate marketing with Amazon costs you nothing but keeps us online, so thank you for your continued support!

Author: Joe Farace

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