Investing in Props: What You Need to Know and Prepare For
I LOVE talking about props.
nd obviously, props are a huge thing when it comes to working in any kind of photography.
There are tons of affordable options for props. You can literally find props everywhere if you look with the right eye. So this makes understanding how to invest in props to maximize your return an important topic for business owners who need photos. I’ll give you a few things to keep in mind whether you’re looking to invest in props for pictures you’ll take yourself, you’re working with a professional photographer, or you are a professional photographer.
Source Your Props
For great photos, you need props tailored specifically to your business. Even if you’re working with a photographer, it’s not likely that the photographer will have all the perfect things for your brand or product. Most of the time, the items that photographers have are more basic for filling out image backgrounds and not intended to catch a viewer’s attention in regard to one particular brand. So it’s worth it to either spend time searching for props yourself or send your photographer with specific instructions for what you individually need. This will allow you to better control what your images are going to look like and what your outcomes will be.
Love Them and Reuse Them
Let’s get real for a second. It’s easy to go shopping in Target, Hobby Lobby, or T.J. Maxx and spy things that are pretty. But if you don’t really LOVE an item you’re considering for you and your brand, give it a pass. Also, don’t buy an item you can’t imagine using in at least three to five different photoshoots and in various ways. Props that don’t meet these criteria are just going sit around unused in your garage or studio and eventually end up in the donation bin.
Control Your Budget…
Having a prop budget and sticking to it is another important factor for investing well in props. The very easiest way to control your budget for a shoot, especially if your budget is very small, is to go purchase items yourself. But if you don’t have the time or desire to do this, a lot of brand photographers will do the shopping for you when you give them a set budget and good instructions.
…But Spend for Quality
It doesn’t help your budget or your goal of having fabulous photos if you buy something affordable that will look cheap under the scrutiny of the camera. Your props need to show quality for a higher-end appearance in your images.
How it Works
Let me give you an example of how a wise prop investment scenario with these guidelines might play out. I have a Target close to my house, I’m there all the time for one thing or another, and they carry all sorts of well-styled, current items, including Magnolia (and don’t even get me started on Magnolia!). Maybe I find a really cute white vase that I think would be perfect in some upcoming photoshoots. It fits my brand aesthetic and the aesthetic of several of my clients, so I know it passes my 3-5 photoshoots rule. I could put flowers, pampas grass, or even a plant in it, so I know it has multiple uses, too. I always have my prop budget in mind when I’m shopping, so when I look at the price tag, I know this vase costs a bit more than I’d ideally like to spend on a single item. I take the opportunity to pull out my phone and look for some other, possibly more economical options. I might check Amazon, searching with specific keywords like “matte white vase.” And while I see that there are definitely some lower-priced options there, the reviews reveal some quality issues. Then I might check a few other stores, like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Maybe Michael’s doesn’t have any vases in the same style, and Hobby Lobby doesn’t have anything I like better for less. At this point, I’m back to the vase at Target, and as I consider the cost, I realize that within the next 3 shoots for which I use it, the vase will have paid for itself and then some. So I make the call that this vase is a good investment, and it leaves Target in my cart.
A Few Last Notes
If you’re trying to use these guidelines but still feel a bit unsure, you can always lean on your photographer’s opinion, because they’ll likely have a very good perspective about props. And if you need any more advice around sourcing props and making sure you’re looking at things from a cost-effective standpoint, feel free to leave me a comment below or shoot me a quick DM. Or you can always check out my free styling mini-guide for more prop ideas, too. But hopefully these suggestions will get you on the road to wise prop investment and minimize your buyer’s regret.
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