The power of props: elevate your content & craft stories through styling
'Hi, my name's Sophie and I'm a propaholic.'
Who wouldn't be? The excitement of searching through second hand stalls and junk shops for hours in hope of finding a rare treasure is the best!
Admittedly sometimes I come back empty handed, but at least I know I haven't missed something super special. FOMAP (fear of missing amazing props) is real for a stylist!
One-off, unique and vintage items are scarce and every body's after them. Ask stylists where they go on holiday and you can probably correlate a map of the worlds best brocante markets and local crafts.
Why are vintage props so popular?
Old, worn items generally have more character and 'sit back' better than shiny new items.
Yes modern props have their place too, it all depends on your creative direction of course, but modern props can bring the risk of your potential customer being diverted to find the other items in your content.
And if they're branded or so well known that they are recognisable it can confuse the viewer about who's content they're looking at.
Props should play a supporting role, and that's just easier with vintage or little-known handcrafted pieces.
Props are one of the best ways to elevate your styling and content and build deeper connections with your audience.
Using props to support your hero - whether that's food or products - tells a much more interesting story than your hero alone, captivating the imagination of your viewers so you make a lasting impression.
Show your process with 'doing' props.
A used zester to conjure up the zingy flavour of lemon curd, a whisk with little fluffy meringue peaks still attached tell the process of a recipe.
Equally a craftmans tools or offcuts, say the shavings of dry clay carved away while turning a pot or the natural sponge used to dab water while you work, help tell the viewer about the care that goes into your work.
A simple cooling rack elevates and frames our subject while the utensil shows that we have dusted the pastries with icing sugar for that final hit if sweetness. Shot on the 'Salt' backdrop.
Props are everywhere and can be anything - just ask yourself this question to sanity check them - does this elevate and connect or overtake and distract?
As well as telling the story of your process, props can create a sense of time and space.
Do you want the scene to feel at home or in a cafe, what props do you need to convey this?
And who lives or eats here - are you using props that your ideal customer will connect with?
What time is it? Does your recipe or product suit a certain activity or time of day? Props (as well as food) are the perfect way to set the tone.
Do you want to connect with a season? Natural props like foraged flora and fauna will place your content in a certain time of year - pine cones and mixed nuts in their shells are always handy to have when Christmas content is required in the summer. (Along with a small potted Christmas tree or faux pine branches!)
Seasonal food is a key feature in my work so I love using natural props to connect with the time of year further. Shot on the 'Aston' rust effect backdrop.
And how would we compose and lead the eye without props?
Props can be used to balance your composition, creating movement and flow around the image in a way that leads the eye back to the focal point.
Or perhaps you prefer to use props to clearly define the main subject - a book, a board or a linen are great ways to frame and quickly identify your food or product as the hero.
Using props as layers or leading lines, elevating the subject closer to the camera, letting props drop off the edge of your shot all give a greater sense of an ongoing, natural scene while establishing your hero as the main focal point.
I hope this has inspired you to use more props in your styling!
I have curated a collection of vintage and modern props for sale here, with new items added every Thursday at 7.30pm (UK).
They have all been selected for their soft beauty, to support rather than grab attention. They are not too big, not too shiny and not too grabby so you should find them easy to work with too!
If you'd like to learn more about food or product styling and how to source the most useful props for your subject check out my online courses and resources at www.sophiepurser.co.uk
Thank you for reading! Please comment below if you'd like to chat about props!