Being photographed alone is HARD. Like really HARD. Many of the sessions I photograph involve multiple people and I always start with the big group shots first. This gives everyone time to relax and ease into it before we move onto smaller configurations. But for many personal branding shoots you don’t have the luxury of a significant other, child, baby or other family member to interact with. It is just you and the camera. Scary. One thing that can really help when being photographed solo is to bring along props.
Props can add interest to your images. They can tell a story. A prop can give you somewhere to look other than the camera. They can give your hands something to do. Here are some of my favourite props. Some are obvious. Some not so much so.
1. A Journal or Notebook and Pen
These simple items can be used in many ways. I often use writing (or pretending to!) as a good warm up series of shots for the first set. I have my clients look at the pages, before looking up and off to the distance then finally looking straight down the lens. Beyond these shots a notebook can give your hands something to hold onto for standing full length shots. It can also be used to ‘block’ body parts you might not love such as your hips or belly.
2. Your Business Card
A playful shot, that takes the pressure off, is to have the subject hold out their business card in front of them. Focus is placed on the card and the subject falls into soft focus behind. This kind of shot again allows you to gently ease into the photoshoot without being the centre of attention. These images can be handy to have in your catalogue as a background or banner image.
3. A Talisman
If you have some sort of good luck charm BRING IT. It can be played with using depth of field in a way similar to business cards and they can be great for getting close up hand shots. If it is small having it in the palm of your hand, if this is something you might ordinary do, can help relax you in what can be an intimidating scenario.
4. Something That Isn’t Work Related
If you have a hobby or interest that is not related to your work but may speak to your ideal client bring a symbol of it. Maybe it is an instrument or your tennis racket. Maybe your bbq apron or favourite book. Perhaps it is an indoor plant if that is your obsession. These kind of shots can be useful for your about me page which is a chance to show you are more than just your job or career.
5. Your Favourite Beverage
Whether it is coffee in a travel mug, a cocktail or a healthy fruit smoothie there is something likeable about someone holding a drink. It is almost like you can imagine yourself sitting opposite them and engaging in conversation and banter. This kind of casual shot is perfect for social media posts wishing your clients a good long weekend, notifying them you are heading off on holidays or for celebrating a business milestone or achievement.
6. Your Pet
Nothing makes you seem approachable quite like a pet. And if you are an animal lover nothing will put you at ease quite like having your feathered or furry friend by your side – there is a reason therapy dogs are a thing. Having your pet in a handful of shots is great though it can be handy to bring someone to look after them once their moment in the spotlight is done.
Love it or hate it technology is for most of us central to our lives. In fact we often feel panicked when we realise we’ve headed out without our phone or have put it down somewhere. If this is you some shots with your laptop, tablet or phone may be very fitting to capturing the working you.
9. Raw Materials or Components
If any part of your work involves making or creating don’t just bring the finished product as a prop. Bring some of the parts that go into making it. This can create real intrigue and help tell the story of your work. If you’re an optometrist bring some lenses. If you sew bring the spools of thread. If you work with wood bring sandpaper.
10. Something That Reflects Light
Photography is all about light and if there is something you can bring that plays to that it can make for super creative photos. Maybe it is candles. Perhaps a mirror. It could be something metal or glass. Maybe it is the window of your business. All these can add an element of interest to your images.
11. Another Person
Just because you are a solopreneur doesn’t mean you have to be alone in every image. If your business or industry has a people focus don’t be afraid to rope in a friend or family member to come along and be a mock client or customer. This can be particularly useful if you are in a health, helping or teaching profession.
12. A Hat, Scarf, Bag or Bare Feet
A full outfit change or two can certainly add interest and versatility to your gallery of images. The addition and subtraction of accessories like jewellery, jackets and shoes is a super quick way to really mix up the number of looks that can be captured during your session.
13. Something That Evokes The Senses
Whilst a picture tells a thousand words it is even more amazing when it can make you really imagine what it would be like to be there. One way to do this is to include elements that evoke senses other than sight. The sense that brings back the strongest memories is smell so if there is a prop that has a well known and familiar scent this could be a winner. Likewise sound can be powerful so if your profession involves say bells or music this could be the way to go. Taste is obvious, show off those ingredients and food items. And finally touch – think of items with a familiar or inviting texture that the viewer can envisage holding.
14. A Quirky or Fun Item
If you have something a little offbeat or left of centre that really captures your personality bring it. Maybe it is a kitsch memento or souvenir. Perhaps it is the framed, inspirational quote from your office wall. It could be the red lipstick or nail polish you are known to wear absolutely all the time. Maybe it is the fun sunglasses or slogan tshirt that just sums you up.
15. Something That Shows Your Beginnings
Nostalgia brings a real sense of connection so think about where you’ve come from and how your working life has been shaped. If you are from the country maybe it is the akubra or gumboots you grew up wearing. If you are from a migrant family perhaps it is something that represents your culture. If you are now a doctor and grew up playing doctors and nurses maybe it is that toy stethoscope or kid version of your now adult tools of the trade. Maybe it is a book or magazine that inspired your career path.
These are all ideas only but hopefully they’ve got you thinking. Focusing on props can help with photoshoot nerves, both in the leadup and during your session. Whilst not every prop may end up being used, or featuring in your chosen images, the process of selecting and playing around with them is all part of the process. They can help relax you, assist in getting a variety of expressions and help in releasing tension from the body so even if they end up being out of the frame they serve a purpose.