When should we use family photo props to enhance our image? Photos fill Pinterest with inspiration for fantastic family images utilizing everything from fake flowers and balloons to ladders and chairs in the middle of a field. The possibilities are endless when it comes to curating a family photo with props. However, props can make or break an image, even more so in lifestyle photography.
As a Spokane family photographer, I often chat about what to bring to a session. A few years ago, I would have laughed and said nothing. A lifestyle family photography experience with me is about real connection, soulful photos, and unscripted moments. Props can often deter from what we are crafting together. However, as I’ve gone along, I’ve come to find a place for occasional additions. Read on to find out how I occasionally use props in my family photography.
Examples of when I use props in family photos
My goal with every session is to set it up for a genuine connection to unfold. That occasionally means bringing an item along to further that connection in the images. I had a newborn session where the big sister wanted to share her newborn photos, which turned out to be the perfect addition. It helped further tell the story that day.
Another example is a security toy or blanket for children. That one toy they NEVER put down. Please don’t make them leave this in the car. It’s a part of their identity and something they have a solid connection to.
They can be great additions when props are part of the story and encourage meaningful interaction and connection. The images below almost don’t need a description because they tell the story of this family celebrating Dad becoming a firefighter and how proud his boys are of his accomplishment. This image is when props become a win.
Props I stay away from
In general, you will not see balloons, confetti, straw bales, or chairs in fields at my family sessions. I avoid things that are decorations or pull away from a connection with another family member. Toddlers should be crawling on Dad and NOT on a vintage tractor toy. Likewise, I’d rather have brothers whispering secrets than looking at balloons.
Less is more. If a family wants to bring more than 1 or 2 things, I’d probably inquire if they were all needed additions.
Nothing new. New items tend to steal the attention of family members and don’t feel natural in a scene. If you have to buy it, you probably don’t need it.
Let me reiterate; I’m writing this from the perspective of a photographer who leans towards documentary. There is a style of photography where balloons, chairs, and confetti make killer images. However, for lifestyle photography, I tend to avoid them. You can read more about Lifestyle Family Photography session here.
Do you really need props in your family photos?
No. I fully believe your family is ready to go without an addition. However, some items hold significant importance to one’s life that shouldn’t be left home. As I’ve grown as a photographer, I’ve come to realize certain additions can level up the meaning in photos.
I’ll end this with a photo from a recent session where I got to take a few images to celebrate this little one graduating from a feeding tube. It’s a great example of how these specific items were part of a storytelling session family session.
MB – I’m a Spokane photographer who helps families and entrepreneurs (along with their dogs!) document everyday adventures with modern photos that showcase real connections.
If you’re interested in talking about how one of these storytelling sessions might be right for you, drop me a note or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org