9 Creative Prop Ideas for Product Photography (and When to Use Each One)
Taking product photos is a little more complex than just making the product itself shine. To make your photos pop, add some creative props around them or in the background.
Following themes is an easy way to do this, but you can use props that don’t match the theme of your product with just as much success. If you want to know what prop ideas work and when you should use them, you’re in the right place.
1. Flowers, Foliage, or Plants
Flowers and plants are often their own subject in many photos, but they—as well as foliage—can be used as props for many products. Using floral items often evokes feelings of femininity, new life, romance, and seasonal changes.
Flowers are a great prop for perfume products, especially those that use the scent of the flower in use, or even a nice way to photograph jewelry. Dried foliage can add a rustic feel to your photos; this works well with masculine products more than fresh flowers would.
2. Food, Ingredients, or Kitchen Utensils
Taking photos for any food-related product goes hand-in-hand using food-based props. If you’re photographing a finished food—such as a smoothie or a baked good—use the ingredients as props to complement and inform the audience. For healthy food, consumers love to see healthy ingredients in the photos.
Adjacent to food photography is photographing toiletries. Many toiletries use food-based ingredients that evoke freshness and delightful smell—present those ingredients in your photos.
3. Books, Magazines, or Literature
Books and general literature can bring an air of sophistication to your product photos. If your product is aimed at a market of older, more put-together people, literature makes a great creative prop. It’s especially great for photographing smart shoes, eyeglasses, suave furniture, and the like.
Using magazines as props can determine the angle of your market. Make sure the tone and reputation of the magazine or literature suit your target market for the product shots.
You don’t have to keep books or magazines in their final form. You can use curated pages to tell a story—as literally as you’d like to. Or use pages to make a collage or a textured surface on which your product can sit.
4. Pet Products
If you’re shooting content for an animal product, whether it be dog food, cat toys, plush pet beds, or something else, then using other pet products as creative props will work.
Even if your photo’s subject is a pet product, you can set the tone by placing other pet items in the photo. A flat lay works well for this as your main product takes the spotlight in the center and your prop products can side the edges of the frame.
If your pet is well-behaved, you can even use them as a creative prop, although the results may vary.
We’re not talking about the studio lighting used to light your shot. Instead, you can use separate lighting as a prop. Of course, you can also light your subject with your prop light instead of another light source. Lighting is a fun prop to play around with as results change drastically with small movements or changes to your setup.
Fairy lights bring a sense of delicacy to product photos and shooting at a large aperture gives a great bokeh result with fairy lights. You can even pair props together—dainty lighting pairs well with traditional literature for a cozy feeling.
You could also use table lamps or standing lamps as props, even with the lights turned off. These props are great for home furnishing setups, interior real estate photography, or adding a homely touch to other product photos.
Stationery is a photographer’s best friend. You can use it to adorn product photos of technology, anything to do with organization, home product photos, and so much more. Who knew a simple pen was such a versatile prop?
Using paper of various styles and sorts is a lovely incorporation for many product photos. You don’t need it to look like a sheet of paper—you can use it as a background or an added color swatch. You might add stationery props to your graduation photos if you want to be more creative.
Adding stationery props is great for back-to-school photos, office products, or even photos of homemade arts and crafts. You can show off the tools you used alongside the end product.
7. Toys, Baby Accessories, or Clothing
Any baby product photos will always look better with props associated with babies. The same can be said for children’s products.
While not totally original, baby blocks are a common prop that doesn’t come off as too immature. They’re a sweet reminder of how children learn by playing. You can include other educational toys for a similar effect.
Be conscious of colors and materials when using baby products as props with other products. If you’re photographing a sustainably-made wooden child’s toy, for example, you won’t help the credibility of the product by using tacky plastic toys as props. The same can be said for props that suggest a different age range than the main product, or a different gender if your market is specifying one.
8. Tech Accessories
One of the biggest markets for product photography is technology. With new phone models being released annually, there’s always a need for high-quality product photos, and let’s not even talk about the other types of available tech.
If you’re photographing a smartphone, why not use its accessories as props nearby? Or use other Apple products alongside the main Apple product you’re photographing.
This isn’t strictly just for Apple, or cell phones, of course, you can use accessories as props with all types of technology products. Music products? Use headphones, earphones, or even vintage props like cassettes or CDs to highlight music’s history.
9. Human Features
Even though this list specifies creative props, and humans aren’t strictly props, it’s to be noted that a human touch can elevate product photography. The best way to show how a product works is by showing it in use. You don’t have to be so traditional with this, though.
Using human hands, even just holding a product, allows your audience to visualize it as a real product they, too, could be holding. You can be as artistic with this approach as you want.
You can use aspects of the body as props, too. Drape hair around a hair product or rest a pot of body lotion on a model’s midriff. You don’t have to show other body parts because these small areas are subtle enough for art but obvious enough for suggestive use.
Don’t Let Your Product Photos Flop
By introducing creative props to your product photos, you can show a product in use, suggest the feelings your product should evoke, and overall, you can capture your target market better. Some props are vastly overused, but these creative prop ideas can elevate your product photography without being oversaturated or boring props.
Push your composition skills with your prop ideas and see how much your product photography improves.