Sunday, November 20, 2011

Photo Props

 Not every picture's worth a thousand words.  We've all seen product photos on online sales sites that detract from the product or leave you still wondering what you're looking at.  One of the things I like to do with my etsy photos is to add something to the photo besides the product I'm selling.  These added items are photo props.  I always try to ask myself what props I can use to add information, color, interest and relevancy.

This kitchen utensil holder was made by John Spiteri spoons by TB
cup and spoons by TB

Props are important in photographing work for my etsy shop. On the internet I don't get the same interaction with customers that I can have in person at a show, so I try to plan my photos to go with my description and to answer questions.  A photo prop can give a sense of scale to an item. I have found that most people will misjudge an item's size in a photo without a known scale to judge it by. Recently I took a snapshot of a snake and showed it to people at work.  Only the snake itself was in the picture.  Most people thought the snake was up to twice as large as it really was.

Another reason to use props is to add color to the photo.  You want
to add punch and interest, but you also have to be careful that you're not distracting from the item being presented.  Pottery seems to go hand in hand with the spoons that I make and I have enjoyed pairing pieces together.  I've also used food like bright green apples which attract the eye faster than the brown of the wood.  Once the brain catches up and notices what the eye is looking at, then the quality of how the photo speaks about the product is important, but the color served its purpose by attracting attention.

Yunomi by Hanna Nussmeier, Oak Burl spoon by TB

Shino bowl and Cherry spoon by TB
Another good reason to use props is it allows me to show someone what the item would look like in use, or how they could display it. I've done art shows where people come up, obviously interested in an item then they ask me what they could do with it.  It's funny.  It's not enough to make a good product and put it where people can buy it.  I also need to show them what they can do with it!  When I pair a hefty cooking spoon with lentils or a serving spatula with a piece of sushi I help people imagine the quality of experience they can enjoy with a well made wooden spoon.  I often show a pottery tool in my hand or a ceramic vessel with a suggested use.
Shino jug and Osage spoon by TB

Fake Ash platter artist unknown spoons by TB

My job when planning a photo goes through quite a checklist beyond lighting and focus and exposure.  They’ve got a thousand words to say.  I need to make sure they’re saying what I need them to say. 

You can see John Spitteri's kitchen utensil holder at his Etsy shop Blueparrotpots


  1. Well done Troy. The photos look great.

  2. You've brought up some good points about props and color, great photos.

  3. The spoons and the pots are both beautiful, we can tell your love of both clay and wood. You make some good points, thanks.

  4. I believe that the fake ash platter was made by Richard Aerni. I love your work...and photography...!

  5. Thanks Dan, all I remember is that I bought this platter and some other pieces from him in Ann Arbor, Michigan about 10 years ago.