How to Use Props in Composition

When composing, the subject can present a strong image by itself, or it can be enhanced through the use of props. Props are secondary elements that are included in the shot to support the point of interest, not to detract from it. Therefore, much care is taken when introducing props to the scene. There are some questions to ponder on when using props:

What is it for?

Props can help tell the story. They give the viewer information as to what the scene is all about as well as draw attention to the subject. You can also use props to frame the subject or to show scale. A puppy curled up inside a cup will show the viewer just how small the pup is.

Where do I put it? 

Props can be added to create background, foreground or middle ground interest. Certain empty parts of the frame can come to life with the strategic placement of a prop. Props can supply leading lines for the viewer’s eyes to travel and ultimately rest on the subject.

What features does it have?

The subject might be the main point of interest in the shot but that doesn’t mean to disregard the visual appeal of secondary subjects or props. The colors, shapes, lines and textures of props can enhance the overall look of the composition. Just bear in mind that no matter how attractive they look, they still shouldn’t steal the limelight from the main subject.

Can it help with the subject’s pose?

Your dilemma on how to make humans or animals pose more naturally can be eased with the help of props. Certain props may have meaning to the subject and these may act as a security blanket. Children, for instance, may behave better during the photo shoot if given their favorite toy to hold. Animals may be more still if given a prop that holds their interest. Chairs, benches, and other similar types of props may be obviously intended to help the subject pose. But more than that, the right kind of chair or bench can go beyond just merely literally supporting the subject to becoming an element that adds meaning and context to the image.

How else can I use it?

If you use your props in unusual or uncommon ways, they can place your image in a different level entirely. Veer away from the ordinary by making your subject relate to the prop in the strangest ways you can think of. For example, instead of showing the subject sitting on a chair, make the chair lie down sideways and have the subject sit on a leg instead. Strange images can be less commercially appealing but they can catch attention more than the ordinary ones. Also, this flexes your imagination when composing the image, and also the viewer’s when looking at it.  

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