Using Props to Convey Seasonality in Your Product Photos
For many products, interest and demand will fluctuate from season to season – with some times of the year being particularly good for the sale of one product, but less so for another. Coinciding a marketing push with annual events such as holidays and celebrations, or even just the changing seasons themselves, can be a great way to generate extra sales.
But in order to do this, you’ll need to clearly explain to shoppers how your product is relevant to them, and why they should buy it at that particular moment. Props are a great way of achieving this.
Products that are inherently seasonal (think Christmas cards or Easter eggs) will benefit from being shown with appropriate props in order to remind prospective customers of the fun and excitement associated with both the seasonal celebrations and the items themselves. Meanwhile other products that may not be automatically associated with a specific season by consumers can nonetheless be linked to a seasonal event by means of clever prop styling.
As the seller – and perhaps even the designer or producer – of a product, its value and benefits will be very obvious to you. However, not all your customers will be quite so imaginative or creative. Often the potential of a product needs to be underlined for the consumer by means of good photographic imagery – showing the product in use, or simply in a flattering and stylish context.
For example, a white vase seen on a white studio background will give off a clean and fresh feeling, but seen in such a sterile and lifeless context the full potential of the vase likely won’t be communicated. Instead you may want to show how this simply-designed object is the perfect accompaniment not only to the flowers that will be placed in it but also to other interior design elements in the customer’s home or workplace.
The creative use of props can be one of the best ways of bringing such product photos to life. Seen in the context of an attractive but credible background or location, and accompanied by appropriate props, the product is transformed from simple merchandise into a desirable, useful, and perhaps even indispensable item that potential customers can easily imagine incorporated into their own lives.
But the relevance and potential of a product is rarely fixed. Instead the ways in which customers may want to use an item will alter over time. This is particularly true with the changing of the seasons. Take, for example, the image of Charlie’s Trout above. Here the addition of Christmas-themed props creates a classy and romantic atmosphere, making a desirable seasonal treat out of a product that in actual fact could just as easily be enjoyed year-round.
Or let’s return to our example of the simple white vase. An item such as this is effectively a blank canvas that can be transformed by clever styling. The product’s value or “meaning” will shift according to the time of the year and the manner in which it is presented: when seen filled with snowdrops and crocuses on a rustic wooden table, backlit by spring sunshine flooding in through a farmhouse window, the vase is clearly something that most customers can imagine using in springtime. As such, it might make a nice gift to give at Easter.
But place the same vase on a mantelpiece over an open fire, and style it with snowflakes, pine cones, fresh holly, and other winter greenery. Now shoppers will easily be able to imagine using the very same item as a central element of their Christmas decorations. The product hasn’t changed, but the context and presentation have, providing the product with a new, seasonal, lease of life.
Creative prop styling can help to keep a product fresh and relevant year round. For example, when shooting a necklace, we might place it alongside a rose to remind buyers that jewellery makes an excellent Valentines Day gift.
Alternatively, an item appropriate for giving on Mother’s Day could be styled with a bunch of flowers, such as in the example above, where we shot earrings next to spring daffodils.
Meanwhile, certain other products may genuinely be of interest only at certain times of the year. But in this case, too, the product might well benefit from being creatively styled so as to stress the importance of buying the item in this particular season – as in the example above.
When thinking of seasonal props you can really let your imagination run wild. Which season do you associate with different sights, sounds, and smells? Close your eyes and think of a season. What do you see?
Fresh shoots and buds; blossom and flowers; herbs; citrus fruits.
Strawberries; cream teas; deck chairs; sand; buckets and spades; picnic baskets and tablecloths.
Blackberries; golden leaves; mushrooms; pumpkins; earth; tweed.
Frost, ice and snow; candles; woolen scarves and sweaters; open fires; holly and mistletoe.
You will likely be able to think of many others of your own too.
What’s more, you needn’t necessarily even show these items, but might simply choose to style your shoot using a seasonally appropriate color palette: nothing says summer like ice-cream pastel tones.
By providing context and scale, or by suggesting possible uses, props help to inform prospective buyers about the value of an item. But you should also think of props as a way of telling a story about your brand and product. Helping to make it more desirable.
However, it’s extremely important that the props you use always remain complementary to the product, rather than competing with it. Otherwise the story risks becoming one in which the prop, rather than the product, is the main protagonist.
As with supporting actors, props are meant to “prop up” or support the leading role, not steal the limelight. For this reason you may not want to show the entire prop in the photo, but rather position the prop so it creeps into frame at the edges: just enough to be recognisable and work its narrative magic, but without dominating the scene. Otherwise the risk is that an over-dominant prop can distract from the product. Or, worse still, cause confusion about precisely what is being offered for sale.
One other very important thing to keep in mind here is that the props should never look overly forced or contrived when shown together with the product. Just as with actors in a movie, props need to behave in a convincing manner, with a credible motive, if we are to find them believable.
Additionally, you should also consider your brand image. It’s all very well that pale pink, cream, and pistachio might conjure up memories of seaside holidays, but if this is not in keeping with the look of your brand then you should probably continue brainstorming until you find something more appropriate.
Essentially then, good use of props is about suggesting to the consumer ways in which your products are relevant to their lives. If you can add some seasonal urgency to this, so much the better. The tricky part is doing this in such a way that the props don’t look contrived or begin to interfere with the product itself.
Here at Photography Firm we have many years of experience of working on seasonal photography campaigns for a wide range of products and clients. If you would like to get in touch to discuss a seasonal-themed photo shoot, we would be only too happy to hear from you.