5 Prop Ideas for Your Personal Branding Photography

I feel like no one would fight me on saying that Pinterest is a fantastic source for finding inspiration - right? There's like millions of photos to use for ideas when you're planning personal branding photography, of all different styles and moods and it's super likely that you can find photos that reflect the style you're going for when it comes to your own photography in your brand. But the thing that's tough about Pinterest is that it's easy to feel like anything that you create in a photograph could be misconstrued as mainstream or like you're copying another creative.

5 prop ideas for personal brand photography

I can totally relate to the idea of not wanting to appear mainstream and worrying about the props and stories that you include in your brand photography so as to avoid that. Here's how I like to think about photography for brands and the fear of appearing mainstream - if you're a personal brand, you're already not mainstream. You're a unique individual and the fact that you are the person and face behind your brand creates your unique story of how you got to where you are, so even if you include the stereotypical coffee or laptop shot, you're still not going to look mainstream in the whole story you tell through your photography. 

With that in mind, it's time for the fun stuff - let's talk about 5 prop ideas for your personal branding photography session and how to use them to tell your brand story!


Deconstructed Mood Boards

I LOVE mood boards - who doesn't? They're a fun and visual way to map out the ideas you have for telling the story of your brand - and my favorite way to use mood boards is in a deconstructed and non-digital way. Basically what I mean by a deconstructed mood board is to use objects or physical items that you find inspirational and want to add to the mood of your brand - similar to a flat lay photograph. Using things like textures and materials from paint or fabric, photographs that you can cut out and organize in your deconstructed mood board, 3D objects like flowers or twine. Being able to touch and feel and physically move around the objects give you a new respect and connection with the items you're adding to be a part of your brand and cuts down on the "I dunno maybe I like this" items that you can easily throw into a Pinterest board and never use later.

Once you've got fun items that you feel represent your brand you can use the objects and textures to create flat lays that add more meaning and personality to your brand and use those photos on social media!


Food and Drink

The dreaded mainstream coffee shot... Yes, I think you should absolutely include food and drink photos in your personal brand photography (even the coffee cup shot!!) because without a doubt, they connect with your audience. Everyone can relate to food - there's no one in your audience who doesn't have some kind of relationship to food and drink and using these ideas for props to intermingle in your content marketing is a great way to build connections with those who follow you. 

You don't have to take these photos in a stereotypical way either - you can add in other personal objects or textures that relate back to your brand and make the photo more about your lifestyle and the experience your brand provides than about the food or drink included. For example, if you used just a singular coffee cup as your photo it would be a bit boring and wouldn't relate to your individual brand. But if you used your own hands with your coffee cup (like Leslie above), or you added in the bridal bouquet you were working on, or included your adorable cat - then the photo becomes more about your personal brand while still including the relatable prop of a coffee cup.


Tools of Your Craft

This is probably the broadest category of props to include in your personal brand photography because the list could go on forever. You can think of the objects, tools and items you use in your day to day life of being a creative entrepreneur - for ease, I'm going to share a list of ideas to source from based on what you do as a creative.

  • Laptop, phone, tablet

  • Paintbrush, calligraphy pens, scissors

  • Microphone, headphones, speakers

  • Vases, florals, dye

  • Magazines, paint swatches, books


The Process

I love these shots because these are the details that a lot of times creative entrepreneurs don't have the time or opportunity to capture while they're actually in the process of their product or service with a client. For example, I hear often from event planners that they never end up getting photographs of the set up for the days in advance of their event because they're just too busy to remember to do it. For these types of shots, it's so valuable to include them in your branding session because they're massive details and are a big part of the experience you provide but often times it's hard to visualize the process when it's actually happening. Being able to do the process for your brand photography session can help ease the burden of trying to photograph what you do for your clients when you're actually doing it.  

These photos can be the florist putting together the floral bouquets - cutting the stems, filling up the vases, organizing the arrangements. This could also be the interior designer choosing the materials for the dining room, or designing the 3D layout to show the client, or installing the items in the house the day of. This could also be a cake designer who creates a beautiful cake for an event where she's the one who cuts and serves to the attendees. Think about the process you do in your business and narrow down the tasks that you do over and over again and what items/objects/programs/actions you use to get that part of the process done. 


The Finalized Product or Service

Ahh, the final product - the culmination of all your efforts and energy that you put into the work you provide your client. This can take the form of an interior designer who's finished the design and install, this could be the calligrapher who finishes the brand design, or it show off the results from a make up artist on the day of a wedding. These are the portfolio shots that you use on your website to show your potential clients what they can expect to get when they work with you!

Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.