Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

“I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I make them for myself first and foremost – that is important”— Jacques-Henri Lartigue

They may not be the subject of the portrait but props and backgrounds will not only enhance a photograph, they can improve your image with your clients. But you need to light it appropriately. In a portrait of a child sitting on a Victorian bench in a environment created entirely with background and props, the background can become almost be as big a part of the image as the subject but, using that same background, unlit and barely visible, the subject becomes highlighted and the background is reduced to a supporting role.

Anything can be a prop. Even an old lamp bought at a thrift store can add just the right touch to your next portrait session. The secret: Make sure that your subject interacts with the prop. Lighting for this oh-so-retro photograph was made using a Dynalite SP2000 power pack and a four-head setup with two large Chimera lightbanks on the subject and two raw heads pumping light onto the background. Exposure with EOS D60 and EF 85mm f/1.8 lens was 1/125 second at f/11 and ISO 100. ©2011 Mary Farace

Updating Props and Backgrounds on a regular basis gives your customers the variety they are looking for and keeps them coming back but using the same props and backgrounds year after year, just sends customers to your competitors. You often hear photographers saying, “I can’t buy any new props and backgrounds because I don’t have any more room.” I have two words for them: eBay. Without regular change in the way their photographs look, that photographer won’t have any income either.

Successful photographers understand that after backgrounds and props have been used for a couple of seasons, they’ve paid for themselves and it’s time to purchase new props and backgrounds. And don’t toss the old backgrounds and props away! Put them on Craig’s List (or whatever) and sell them. OK, you won’t get top dollar but it will help get you started on your next batch of new props. You’ll get more creativity for your dollar by investing in versatile, durable props and backgrounds that enhance all aspects of the finished portrait.

Joe Farace is the author of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” the second book in a planned trilogy from Amherst Media. It’s available now in all the best bookstores as well as

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