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March 24, 2017

Why I Don’t Use Props During Portrait Sessions

I get it. You were skimming through Pinterest and saw the most darling little photo shoot that had balloons, chalkboards, cake, life sized letters, colorful banners…the works. I actually love that stuff too, I think all of those things are adorable and make for great decor at birthday parties, bridal showers and baby showers. However, when it comes to portrait sessions, I prefer to leave all of those things out.

You see, I’ve tried incorporating those items into family portrait sessions before. Early on in my portraiture journey, I even went to the craft store and bought my own props to bring with me on photo shoots. But now, I honestly look back at those photos and dislike everything about them. They are obviously posed and forced and staged and in-authentic. The props were cute, yes, but they upstaged the people that were in the photos.

At the end of the day, it’s a trend. Pinterest will be a trend. All of the ideas on it will be a trend. What’s a shame about trends (especially fashion, am I right?) is that we always look back and regret. We look back and say to ourselves, “Honestly, what was I thinking?”

I want the portraits of your family to be more than that and to stand for more than that. Classic is the word that comes to mind – that is what I want them to be for you. People can sometimes derive the wrong connotation from that word. They’ll associate it with traditional, outdated, regressive, boring. But classic portraiture is none of those things – it is timeless, enduring, lasting, unfading. 

Let’s clarify another misconception – classic portraiture will not mean that every hair is in place, every outfit matches, or that all the snot is wiped clean. It will not be rigid or stale or dishonest. It will be perfectly you and the people you love. You have hired a photographer to capture the unique character and spirit of your collective family and the individuals in it, not the fads that were popular when your kids were growing up, so let them do that and you will not have regrets.

All that to say, there is only one ingredient that I am comfortable incorporating into a portrait session, and that is gorgeous, soft, glowing, natural light. Light is really funny – it’s beautiful on it’s own, but does it’s best work when it’s shining on others. It will not upstage you, it will only adorn you.

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@steph_annephoto