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The Top Must-Have Professional Photography Props for the Studio

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2011

Cameras, accessories and equipment are but a part of the picture when conducting shooting sessions in a studio. Another essential is professional photography props that accentuate your images and complement your clients.

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    Professional Photography Props

    Okay, so you’d like to set up a mini-photography studio or expand your photography options to the next levels, so what are the best studio props to have available? Here we’ll cover some suggested photography props and offer some ideas for their use. They’re easy to get, and often low-cost, free or at least can be made yourself if you’re still on a tight budget.

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    Photographic Equipment and Accessories

    Extra flash units, slave flash units or flood lighting units are a must-have in a photo studio. An equipment failure for any reason during a photo shooting session can be potentially disastrous. Spare batteries, battery re-chargers and even a spare camera, camera body or other device backup are essentials too. Don’t forget that for some quick added lighting or fill you can always use a large or medium-sized mirror to reflect light where you want or need it. Large colored cardboard sheets can also be used to bounce light into shade or shadowed areas. Mirrors are handy too for checking lighting, make up and clothing. Your subjects will certainly appreciate being able to check their appearance before and during the photo shooting session.

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    Photography Props for Babies: Toys and Playthings

    If you’re even remotely considering the inclusion of children in your studio photography, then you’ll definitely need to maintain a stock of photography props for babies and children. Remember to keep these clean and sanitized for your peace of mind and your photographic subject’s safety. Small and large rubber balls, squeaky toys, rattles and even a few small stuffed animals can come in handy with tots, toddlers and young photographic subjects. The child can be seated and allowed to fondle or play with the plush toy or stuffed animal to help "occupy" them for the photo shooting session. Be sure to ask about possible allergies before using any props too. Personally, I have an assortment of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends on hand. Mickey Mouse and associates have proven to be popular with photo studio subjects as well. Other often popular props for photography are such items as toy trucks and airplanes (metal or wood), small noise-making toys and soft, rubber or foam cubes in a variety of colors. Avoid objects which could be easily swallowed or which may potentially choke a toddler or small child. Alternatively, you might also ask a parent to bring a couple of the child’s favorite playthings to the photo shooting session. Personally, I’m a tad leery of balloons as photography props for babies and children. A sudden burst and the whole session can be spoiled. The sometimes hot lights, bouncing around and unpredictability of children factor in as well to my mistrust of using balloons in most cases.

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    Professional Photography Props: Clothing

    Sunglasses of several types, a variety of hats, caps, head wraps, turbans and head coverings, scarves, white linen or dark leather gloves, bow ties, neckties and other small accessory items of clothing can help to change the mood and focus of your photo shooting sessions. Having a few plain skirts and blazers or jackets for men can prove to be useful at times as well. Eyeglass frames with the glass removed offer an effective series of props which won’t cause you problems with reflections when shooting. Why not have a few pairs of goofy, crazy or wild eyeglass frames available too? Sometimes you never know what will spark the interest and expressiveness of your subjects, no matter what their age.

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    Occupational Clothing and Uniform Items

    Having on hand such items as chef’s hats, aprons (male and female versions), uniform caps, baseball caps with removable logos or in plain colors, nurse’s caps, smocks, construction hats and helmets, among a host of other possibilities are useful props to maintain on hand for easy access and use depending on the area you live and work in. During your interview with the photo session client, ask about possible motifs such as occupation, hobbies, personal interests, favorite colors, travels, etc. to help spark your own creativity in preparing professional photography props for the studio photo shooting session.

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    Musical instruments

    You can have a lot of fun with professional photography props in this category. A variety of inexpensive whistles, flutes, bells, recorders, harmonicas, small drums, wind and percussion instruments are inexpensive to acquire, easy to clean, and effective – though at times really noisy, instrument-based photographic props. If your photo shooting session client has a musical bent (you did ask about this during the pre-shooting session interview, right?) you should certainly incorporate their preferred musical instruments in a round of photos during the studio photography session.

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    Books and Magazines

    Books like the Holy Bible and other well-known or popular books can be lifesavers in keeping the photo studio subject’s hands "occupied". Magazines can be opened, stacked, rolled or "read" to help focus and control photographic subjects during studio shooting sessions, especially as senior photography props. Remember to ask about personal items which your subject might want to have included in photos.

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    Cups, Glasses, eatery items and cutlery

    I’d be really hard-pressed indeed to remember just how many times I’ve raided the kitchen for a few on-the-spot digital photography background props. Included in the mélange are such items as coffee and tea cups, table service settings, wine and cocktail glasses, crystal service settings and pots, pans, place settings and table cloths might be appropriate in some cases.

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    Flags, Posters, Banners and Seals

    When the subject readily identifies with a national, federal, state or local government office or agency, digital photography background props can include or consist of an appropriate flag, banner, poster or official seal. On occasion, an arm band worn around the upper arm does the trick. This is another point to ask about during your pre-shooting session interview.

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    Professional Photography Props: Flowers and Plants

    Bouquets of mixed flowers, roses, orchids and other floral arrangements are always useful. These can either be fresh or artificial depending on where you live, prices and availability. Not only flowers and floral arrangements, but crystal, glass or ceramic vases can also add dimension and variety to your subject’s digital photographs and are useful as professional photography props.

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    How to Make Props for Photography

    You can opt to make a few of your own professional photography props, buy or borrow others or use those which might be provided by your photo shooting session client. By having a range of useful, interesting and provocative props on have can go a long ways in setting or creating moods and ensuring a lively, successful studio photo shooting session. Your props can easily be stored in a cabinet, set of drawers or shelved closet set aside for this purpose. Which props you’ll use, when and how will be determined by the type of photography you do, your clients and your location. Just be sure to have fun while you’re at it.