Following his previous column, where he consider what should be removed before a photoshoot, Neil considers how you can dress your property using props to really make your photos pop.
It’s good to create a lived-in look, like someone has just left the room. Try to approach each photo as a story. Think about what the person or people have been doing before they left and dress the scene appropriately.
When I turn up on a shoot, I always take plenty of interesting props but it’s not always easy to ensure they are the right fit for the property.
If you have decorated and been responsible for the interior design of your property, you can choose exactly what will work best. Items that I always pack include:
- Candles. Useful in Dining rooms, Living rooms, Bathrooms and also outside.
- Fairy lights. They add atmosphere to outdoor shots.
- Interesting fruit and veg which add colour.
- Pastries for breakfast scenes.
This is the room for relaxing in so, again, try to make it look as though someone has just left the frame and that they have been enjoying a relaxed evening.
What is the story you’re trying to tell?
Has there been a group of friends in here, maybe they’ve been playing cards or chatting over cheese and wine. If so, you’ll need some cards laid out on the table, or some cheese on a board next to a bottle of wine and a few glasses.
Has there just been one person sitting on the sofa reading a book with a cup of tea? If so, place an interesting book, a pair of glasses, a tea cup, maybe a plate of biscuits.
A couple of other things to include:
- Throws and blankets – you’ll often see them draped over sofas or on the back of chairs in professional photos. They break up the image and add interest but don’t overdo it.
- If you have an open fire or wood burner, light it. They are a major feature and always make the place feel warm and inviting.
- TVs – I know that many of your guests will actually be watching TV in the evening, but don’t ever take photos with it switched on and, even if it’s the most expensive TV on the market, don’t make it the main focus of your photos. Prospective guests are looking for an aspirational lifestyle and watching TV like they do at home is not something most people will get excited about.
I like dressing the kitchen as though a meal is being prepared:
- For breakfast, try including plates of pastries, coffee cups, a cafetiere and maybe some juice in glasses (not cartons).
- For dinner preparation, get some fresh and colourful vegetables, vine tomatoes, peppers. Place them on a chopping board and possibly cut one in half to add interest.
If your kitchen has unusual surfaces or features, take close-ups of that area. Not all your photos need to show the whole room.
Dining rooms can be difficult.
I sometimes lay the table with a full set of plates and glasses etc., but without food, it can look a bit odd. Much better to pick and choose a few choice props to display.
A vase of flowers is always a good start. Add some bowls, glasses, jugs and maybe a chopping board with bread and cheese on.
Make it look like the table is about to be set for dinner to give it an informal feel.
Think about the kind of food you like to eat on holiday. It’s not generally a 3-course meal. Bread, cheese and salad, cream tea, tea and cake or biscuits; these are good choices that bring to mind pleasurable holiday dining experiences for your potential guests.
Bathrooms are generally the trickiest. They’re often small and don’t have much light.
Don’t panic if space is tight; try taking details of certain areas.
Clean, full bottles of expensive looking toiletries (no cheap shampoo bottles or half used soaps) add a touch of class. Clean, folded towels on shelves soften things up, as can a small vase of flowers.
However, sometimes you don’t need to dress the bathroom at all.
Focus on the outdoor seating.
Outdoor seating can look a bit stark, so think about using throws over the backs of chairs and using cushions.
Think about the story.
Has a couple just been having a glass of wine at sunset? Add a bottle of wine and two glasses, maybe a small vase of flowers or a bowl of nibbles.
Is there going to be a family meal or BBQ? Add some plates, glasses, maybe a bowl of salad.
Think about moving any attractive potted plants into shot and, if photographing at dusk, put some candles and fairy lights out.
As a rule of thumb, less is more.
I sometimes have the bed neatly made up and other times it’s nice to make it look lived in (but never messy)!
Throws and extra pillows or cushions are a must.
Drape the throw over the bed or fold it neatly.
The area in the bedroom that needs dressing is the bedside table. A book and a pair of glasses or a cup of tea is usually sufficient.
In kids’ bedrooms you can add a cuddly toy or a children’s book.
If you have a tray with a kettle and tea/coffee making equipment, remove it. I know they are useful, but it just reminds people of cheap hotel rooms.