LET’s talk PROPS, PROPS, all things PROOOOPS related! It’s a HOT topic among food photographers! Understandably though! Props are an essential part of food photography. They can make or break an image and help us to tell the story in our photographs.
If you feel confused with how to choose the best props for your food photography or the props are taking over your entire space (I have heard from photographers who keep their props even under the bed!) – this post my lovely creative is for you!
I know exactly how you feel – I have been there myself. I spent £££ on pretty props and I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t make my food images look…..ehm…..pretty.Not to mention that I was very quickly running out of space.
So I sent myself on a MISSION!!!!! Mission to build an ultimate Prop Capsule Cupboard with items that will work EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!
So let’s dig deeper!
LESS PROPS, MORE CREATIVITY
Don’t panic! I am not here to tell you to get rid of all of your props and that you should photograph on a couple of plates only from now on! If you have a prop hiring place near you – good for you and I am jealous that you can hire different props for your projects. But I know for many of you out there, including me, this is not an option, so I am here to encourage you to pick your props more mindfully and rethink your strategy when it comes to using props in your images.
I truly believe that less props means more creativity. Because CREATIVITY NEEDS SPACE TO BREATHE! And the truth is that too much choice will only make us feel overwhelmed! And confused.
Let’s imagine for a second that you have your dream studio 🙂 It’s filled with ALL the props that you’ve always dreamt of, in every single colour, shape, pattern and size. Feels amazing, right? But then imagine, you’ve got a project to shoot, and you have unlimited possibilities when it comes to choosing props! It would take hours to decide what to shoot your dish on!!!
Being limited can actually work magic on our imagination and creativity – so I really want you to embrace these limitations. Plus, let’s be honest, if you have too many props to use, you will forget what props you have anyway!
IT TAKES TIME
Building an essential prop collection takes time. And patience! So please don’t feel like you have to have everything RIGHT NOW. You really don’t need much to create amazing food images. Wanting more is only an illusion anyway. You never reach that place when you say – ok that’s enough 🙂 That’s just how our beautiful brain works – always wanting more.
Write a list of your essential prop collection and build it slowly, and intentionally. When it comes to props, as in other areas in life, go for quality over quantity. And they really don’t have to break the bank – I found my favourite timeless pieces in different charity shops and car boot markets for a couple of pounds! Have your eyes wide open!
FOCUS ON FOOD FIRST
That’s the advice I would give my old self. I was so excited about using props, that I simply forgot about the food I was shooting. No wonder my photographs always looked like they were lacking something! My props might have been great but the food on my photos certainly didn’t look appetising. Focus on food first, and learn how to style it. Props are there to support the story of the dish – but the dish should always be the shining star!
HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS I ALWAYS ASK MYSELF WHEN I SET MY EYES ON A BEAUTIFUL PROP:
Is it just pretty to me, or will my camera find it attractive too? 🙂
Will I use it often? Can I use it with different dishes?
Do I really need it?
Do I already have something like this?
Where will I store it?
Do I love it?
Will I love it later too?
Ps. And just to be clear, my prop cupboard doesn’t always look that clean lol 🙂
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUILDING YOUR PROP CAPSULE:
1. PROPS SHOULD COMPLIMENT THE FOOD – Props should never be the first thing the viewer is looking at (except that the viewer is a photographer or a stylist!And these two will never miss a unique prop!lol). They should never distract from the dish you are shooting or to be overpowering – your dish is the main star. Think about it when it comes to size, shape, pattern and colour of your props. ALWAYS choose what compliments the food.
2. NOT EVERY PRETTY PROP WILL LOOK PRETTY IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS – I made that mistake before, I bought something because it was beautiful, but it turned out it wouldn’t work in my photographs. The camera sees things differently to our eyes and not everything pretty will look great in front of the camera. Get to know your tool and learn how your camera sees props.
3. CAMERA LOVES TEXTURE – Texture adds life, dimension and depth to your images. This is something to consider when choosing the props you work with. Light picks up the texture beautifully and it adds interest to our images.
4. CHOOSE SOMETHING YOU CAN USE OVER AND OVER AGAIN – something that never goes out of fashion, is not too memorable and works with everything for every occasion – just like little black dress 🙂
I used the same props in these images and as you can see they work with different dishes, and different moods. See the small bowl right there? In first picture it’s filled with pesto, in the second with yogurt and in the third with sesame seeds. It’s the same bowl, but when filled with something different it becomes a different prop. Same with a little jug – in picture one it’s filled with oil, in the second with maple syrup. I used the same plate in the second and third picture too, but it has a different purpose. It’s all about those items that you can use over and over and over again. But because it’s not something too memorable, and the dish is the main star, the viewer won’t get tired of seeing the same thing.
5. ITEMS YOU CAN MIX AND MATCH WELL – you want to create a cohesive set where all items work great together but each item can be photographed separately too.
In this waffle image here, each prop comes from a different place. The cutlery and cooling rack are from different vintage stores. The flowery plates were bought in a charity shop, a plate with a pale pink rim(left picture, bottom corner) is from Ikea, and the textured one (left picture top corner) with a golden rim from TK MAXX. In addition,the little pink bowl is from Sainsbury’s and the linen from H&M. They all work great together as a set, but I could use them separately too.
6.PICK HERO PROPS TO COMPLETE THE STORY
A hero prop to me is something that will work with every single dish and will help with telling your story. So for example my vintage icing sugar sifter will work with EVERY cake I will ever bake and will add an essential detail to my photographs. A hero prop could also be a knife,that will work with both sweet and savoury. Cutlery, that again, you could use with every dish. A cooling rack or a really nice wooden chopping board. A hero prop should be something one of a kind, a very unique item that will reflect your style too. These items usually take a long time to source! That sugar sifter for example took me few years to find! I really encourage you to write a list of your essential hero props, that will both reflect your style and tell a beautiful story in your images, and start hunting 🙂
My list of essential hero props for a baking story would look like this: rolling pin, knife, pastry brush, cooling rack, vintage teaspoons, icing sugar sifter, nice baking pans.
7. BRING OTHER ELEMENTS INTO THE FRAME
I love bringing the ingredients into the frame to complete the story of my dish. Something that was used in the recipe or something you can serve the dish with. This might sometimes require getting more ingredients that the recipe includes – but it’s not like these ingredients are ever wasted. Including a human element will add a lifelike quality and will add a beautiful detail to your images too. Think about what other elements you could include in your photographs.A chair pulled out, maybe? This could be a nice way to invite your viewer and say ‘come over and sit down with me’?
8. SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
The cake stand in the first image is not a cake stand really 🙂 It’s a bowl that has been turned up side down and a plate placed on the top of it. It is a great trick, but only when your viewer can’t recognise it straight away. In the blueberry bun image I used parchment paper as a prop because I didn’t have plates that would be small enough and proportional to use with them. I loved how this image turned out! Sometimes you just have to think outside the box and get creative!
9. WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED – LEAVE THE PROPS AND FOCUS ON FOOD ONLY
Using props can be overwhelming sometimes! And too distractive! You start playing around with props and stop focusing on the most important thing in your photograph – food. Sometimes you might also feel you don’t have props that go well with a certain dish.
So, I highly advice you to sometimes leave the props on the side and focus on the food only instead. Something I always do on my Workshops – is to encourage others to try to create an image with no props or limit the amount of props in the frame. It really is a great exercise to focus on the beautiful details of food and to notice the magic!
Here are some of my favourite prop places:
If you are looking for prop inspiration – check out my PINTEREST prop board.
So,tell me about your favourite prop place!? And any prop are you hunting for right now?
I have been looking for a vintage fine mesh square or rectangle cooling rack and a vintage cherry pitter for ageeeees!!!!
AND BEFORE I FORGET! SAVEUR BLOG AWARDS 2018 NOMINATIONS HAVE STARTED! You can nominate your favourite blogs here.
Of course it would mean the world if you feel I deserve a nomination too!