Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Propping up Photos

Recent Wedding Dress shoot for Gippsland Lifestyle magazine, Winter edition, and a well placed prop.
I really love taking photos.  It's what I do to make me happy and amazingly I'm now blessed enough that it is also something I do for a living.  It's a little living at the moment but I am hoping that it will turn into something even more consuming.  Writing is, of course, my other passion, hence the blog, but this is where the title "Sweet Words Pretty Pictures" comes from.  I'm so lucky that I can combine the two with my job on the magazine I work for.   
I enjoyed photography right through school.  In Year 10 I was the School Photographer, which didn't mean much really, but I did get out of class sometimes so I could run about with a camera slung around my neck and look important.  I wasn't a trendy kid so this meant something.
I went on to study photography at university and this was a time when I had to use an SLR which required FILM!!  Yes actual film, and we had to develop it ourselves and print our own photographs.  It meant a lot of time in the dark room inhaling a lot of horrible chemicals. 
Today, finally I am getting paid for my photographs, something I think that every photographer, whether serious or semi-serious aspires to.  It's a rare thing.  It's a rare thing for writers basically it means that I am poor a lot. 
As you can see, I have a thing for balloons...

The interesting thing about my photos now is that I have discovered that I like to use props.  Not all the time, sometimes it just doesn't call for it, but in my recent Wedding Dress shoot, and in Fashion shoots that I can do for clients, sometimes a well placed prop does the trick.  (ie. the lovely red heart shaped balloon in the photo at the top). 
So how do I come up with these prop ideas?  Actually it isn't a process that requires hours of research, it's more that I think about the outfit the model will be wearing and the location first.  I either try to place the outfit in the best location or work the other way and have the location sorted first, then find an outfit that will suit the spot.  Strangely I am able to picture what I want in my head first, which means the outfit, location and the model's pose, and if the shot requires a prop that will sort of just drift in there too.  Then I go about finding that prop, which is actually quite fun.
I prop might not be something that is being held by the model or client either.  It could be a piece of clothing or accessory that is added to the photo, usually something that is a little bit unexpected... like these boots in this photo....
Boots as a prop...and the flowers of course.
The boots can be considered a prop because it isn't too often that cowboy boots are worn with a wedding dress...although a lot of country girls do tend to do it for their wedding photos and it looks fantastic!  I wish I'd thought of it for my wedding!
The other thing that makes great props are animals.   This is my horse.
A word of caution when it goes to using 'living' props however.  They are unpredictable and my horse was pretty grumpy in this photo.  She doesn't like being floated and my husband had to stuff her into the float to get her to the shoot, then stuff her back in afterwards.  She was a big sweaty nervous mess when she arrived, but thankfully she calmed down enough to get a few shots in.
The other thing that can be considered a prop, and to keep in mind when taking photos, is to make use of an interesting feature at the location.  These wedding dress photos were taken at my parent's farm and they have a lovely old gate.  When I saw the colour of one of the dresses I knew straight away that it was perfect to go alongside this old gate and the Autumn coloured leaves in the background.
Coffee coloured dress and Autumn colours...perfect with the old rusty gate.
Using props is a bit of a trial and error kind of thing.  Pop a prop in the shoot and if it doesn't work you can always remove it.  Ahh...the brilliance of digital...just take more photos.  The key to using props is not to overdo it.  The whole 'less is more' thing really is what works here.  I also like to go for the unexpected too.  It keeps things interesting.  The other thing to do is trust your instincts.  If it looks wrong it probably is.

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