Use Props to Differentiate Your Business!

by Debi Gomez

Branding is largely about differentiating your business – separating you from the competition … and unique props can be one way to do that!

I am not a prop-fanatic, mainly because my small studio doesn’t have the space to store a lot of stuff… in fact I’ve been in business for 9 years and until 3 yrs ago I had hardly any props. For those first years, THAT was my differentiator – simple, focused, no props.

Then I found myself accumulating some simple props… I purchased several angel wings and tutus as I was working on my annual charity project.  The following year, I bought some knitted hats and was offered cocoons and my now-beloved “baby net”.

I knew the props were popular when I hosted “Little Angels” and 3 years in a row had a waiting list… but I still didn’t use props often for my regular sessions. Then I noticed how many potential clients were contacting me to ask about a prop they had seen on my blog and how many of them told me “when I saw that picture of the baby in the net, I KNEW we would be hiring you to do our newborn pictures”. They loved my work but the props were catching their eye!

I could summon my “Inner Artist” and be offended that they were being drawn to my studio by something other than pure artistic vision/talent/whatnot, but I have a business to run and this caught my attention! Let’s face it, if mom REALLY wants a picture of her baby in an antique wooden bowl or vintage scale, she’s likely to pick a photographer who has one.

I realized… the right props can be a very wise investment for a portrait photographer. In an industry where it can be difficult to stand out from the sheer number of competitors, sometimes the edge comes in small investments. The competition has cameras – heck so do the clients! – but most are not able or willing to invest money into props and backgrounds and equipment.  If they aren’t priced properly, there may not be much to invest!

PROPS GENERATE BUZZ AND BOOST BUSINESS

At Photo Prop Floors & Backdrops you’ll find an almost limitless array of backgrounds and faux floors for photographers, and owner Jen Rinaldi sees daily how props can change a photographer’s business. ”I’ve received email after email from photographers telling me how happy they are that they found us.  I hear countless stories about photographers booking new portrait sessions after featuring their new backdrops on their Facebook Pages.  They even get special requests to ‘photograph my children with the barn door backdrop, etc.’  “  To Jen, the portrait subject is always the focus of the photograph, but using props gives that extra special finishing touch to the image.   And using props to tell a story can set you apart from your competitor.  “Anyone can lay out a black muslin and set their subject in front of it, but a beautiful newborn baby in front of a great vintage wallpaper-patterned backdrop, in a gorgeous basket, snuggled in a soft blanket will really set you apart!”

©2010 Jen Rinaldi

For some photographers, props can even boost business. “The use of props with my newborns and babies has TOTALLY made my business EXPLODE!!! People love that my images change – the blankets, hats/headbands, the baskets, the trays, baby beds, etc. I have people request certain items when they book their sessions and my sneak peeks generate a lot of buzz based on which prop I’ve included – and I love it! Always looking for new things, it’s somewhat of an addiction!” ~Amanda of Kimberlin Gray Photography

©2010 Kimberlin Gray Photography


PROPS RELFECT YOUR BRAND

While props can be used to generate buzz, it is important to choose props that reflect your style. I am not suggesting that you buy vintage scales so all the vintage scale seekers will call you – you want to attract them with props that fit YOUR style, YOUR vision.

Tracy Joy, creator of the popular PropInsanity, agrees that her props help set her apart from the competition. “Many lifestyle photographers don’t invest in props… they are not always easy to travel with and can cost a “pretty penny”. The chain photography studios have props but they can be “hokey” and repetitive for every customer, year after year. I find that investing in unique props every few months keeps me ahead of the game and in with the latest trends. 90% of my photography is done with a prop of some sort… they lend unique characteristics to my work, and my clients LOVE them! One of my client’s favorite parts of the session is going through my “prop stash” to see what’s new!”.




PROPS OFFER VARIETY FOR SALES

Props also give opportunities for additional sales. One pose can turn into several different images when you include 2 or 3 different props – different enough that the client can purchase one of each.   And it creates a unique set of images for each client.  I use blankets and wraps and cocoons, usually by special order so they aren’t the same as everyone else’s, and my favorite find – the antique wooden bowl replicas that I now offer to other photographers!

{All these samples are simply baby laying on her back and could be incorporated into one session for additional sales or used for different sessions to make it unique.}  Following images ©2010 Life’s Images Photography

Farrah Jobling uses props to make each session unique. “I get a lot of clients through word of mouth…friends of friends, who don’t want the exact same photos on their walls as their friends. Different styles of hats and wraps allow me to mix it up enough to give something unique to each client. I also like to use new props to keep the creativity flowing.”

©2010 Farrah Jobling



So when thinking about that all-important Branding of Your Business, consider how investments into unique props that reflect YOUR style can help generate buzz, create more variety for your clients, and differentiate YOU from the OTHERS!

See more of Debi’s portrait work at www.lifesimages.com
and her antique replica wooden bowl props for photographers at Marketing and Props for Photographers