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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Instagram "props" that will up your Insta-game

Have you ever taken a picture of your coffee, only to be disappointed because it looked a bit, well, boring? If you have, then I totally relate. Before I got serious with my Instagram game (or my "Insta-game" as they call it), I used to post half-assed photos. You know, photos that you just take without considering proper composition, edit by simply applying a filter, and then post. 

But, after practicing for a really long time, I discovered some tricks that made any Instagram photo stand out. Nope, it doesn't involve buying an expensive app or investing in a fancy camera. It's actually pretty simple.

You just need props.

Why do you need props?

Props complete the picture. You aren't just taking a photo of something here. You're taking a photo that's selling the experience to whoever sees it. Taking a picture of your coffee cup against a wooden background is pretty typical, but it's kind of boring. If you want your Instagram photos to shine, you'll need to tell a story, and you can do that with the right props. Instead, you might add sunglasses and a newspaper with your coffee cup. That tells a more interesting story. 

Now, there's a difference between "a cup of coffee" and "a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning while catching up on the news." You don't just want that coffee because of its pretty latte art. You want to be in that moment as you imagine yourself in the shoes of the person who owns those sunglasses and newspaper. Basically, you want to project a certain lifestyle and vibe with your Instagram photos.

What props do you need?

It really depends on your subject. If you're taking pictures of food, sort of like food photography but not quite, you'll need props like plates, cutting boards, picnic blankets and cutlery. If you're taking pictures of clothes, you'll need smaller accessories (be sure they aren't the same size as your main item of clothing to emphasize your subject) such as earrings, hats and shoes. But, if you just want to "up" your Insta-game, which means being able to snap quality photos anywhere and anytime, I have a few prop suggestions. 

These props are versatile; use them whenever they seem appropriate to give your gram that much-needed boost.

1. Textures

I personally like working with faux fur and satin because they look feminine and classy, but I also have different textures such as wood, paper, and gold foil. When working with different textures, you need to study how light affects each. Some textures are more reflective than others, so be sure to do a couple of test shots before buying the fabric or textile. 

Another tip is to make sure your subject (aka the thing you're photographing) isn't the same texture as your chosen texture, or else it'll look flat and uninteresting. If you're taking pictures of a silk dress, DON'T put it on top of silk sheets. Contrasts, people!

2. Plants and flowers

These are fake flowers, but they can look "real" if you use them as background props, or if they're out of focus. ;)

AKA, the ultimate flatlay prop! There's really no other reason for using plants and flowers -- they just make your photo look more vibrant and alive. Usually, plants and flowers are used in flatlays but you could also work with them when shooting at a 45-degree angle. Just make sure they aren't overpowering your photo. ALWAYS make sure that emphasis is given to the story you want to tell, and not to the props around it.

3. Sunglasses and other accessories

These are very useful especially when you're going out and you suddenly want to take a picture of your food or whatever it is you're doing. What's great is that it takes ZERO effort to bring these props around -- you can just make them part of your outfit. My tip is to look for accessories that go with the aesthetic of the place you're going to. If you're going to a cafe, chances are, you'll need a pair of brown/gold sunglasses and a gold watch. This is because most cafes have the wood thing going on, and gold looks great against wood. Going to the beach? Find colorful accessories like beach hats and sunglasses that stand out and give a playful vibe.

4. Coffeetable books

Subject: Iced coffee
Props: Fur, LOTS of coffeetable books, hands, sunglasses and an acorn

I love using books as flatlay/photography props because they can quickly fill the empty space in your shot. Look for coffeetable books that have nice or artistic covers if you plan on showing them (make sure they match your aesthetic, too!). But, if you plan on opening the book and showing its pages, you really have no problem! Do remember to make sure your book title makes sense with the rest of your photo -- would you use a book about murder in your makeup flatlay?

Yes, some coffeetable books DO cost quite a hefty sum of money, but my tip? Buy used books from Amazon. 

How should you arrange the props in your photo?

If you have a definite subject, make sure it's occupying MOST of the space. If you just want to take a flatlay of stuff to tell a certain story, such as a flatlay of makeup to show that you like makeup, let the props SURROUND your main items. 

Subject: Eyeshadow palette
Props: Roses, pictures, coffeetable book, rings

Another tip is to use props of different materials. Don't use all matte props. In the same way, don't use all shiny props (that'll look so weird especially under artificial light). Using props made of different materials will give your photo more depth.

What's my number one tip?
Practice. I know it sounds so typical, but it's the only way you can get better at anything. If you have to, BUY products that you want to photograph. But don't just buy products that look good on camera -- challenge yourself by buying the UGLIEST products. If you can make them look good, you can pretty much take pictures of ANYTHING.

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