Even if you're not photographing people professionally, you can still incorporate props. You don't even have to spend a bunch of money investing in them, because you likely have things that will be perfect for a "session" right in your own home! Today I want to talk about what you can use around your house that can act as props for a quick photoshoot with your kids.
Chairs/Swings: Child sized chairs are perfect for sessions for a few reasons- 1) It gives very specific direction to the child by saying "Okay, can you sit here for a minute?" Simple, direct, easy to follow direction. 2) It adds something to the image without overwhelming your subject. 3) It's something that you likely already have sitting around the house, but if you don't, a friend or a neighbor probably has one that you can borrow! Swings can be a bit trickier because kids tend to want to, well, swing. However, if you have an older toddler/preschooler who knows how to sit still (even for the 1-2 shots you want), they can work really well. PLUS, they can be rewarded by some playtime immediately after sitting for a portrait.
Blankets: Blankets are great because you can (again) give your child(ren) really simple direction to sit on the blanket or lay down on the blanket. When choosing a blanket, try to find one that isn't shiny or too busy. An exception to this rule are quilts. Quilts, especially ones that are heirlooms for your family, are perfect additions to your photos because they offer something personal and timeless to your images. Also, don't overlook your child's blanket. Their blankets are great for at least these two reasons: 1) Your child will feel more comfortable simply because their blanket is in their hands 2) Their blanket is something that you will forever associate with your child. Thirty years from now, you'll remember exactly what that blanket looks like. They are a part of their childhood and what better reason do you need to photograph it?
Toys: This is my oldest daughter when she was about 5 months old. She LOVED that exersaucer. On that day, when I tried to take her out of it and lay her down, she screamed because she didn't want to be out of it. Does your child have a favorite toy or lovey? Again, this creates comfort for your child and gives them something to focus on. You want a toy that isn't going to be distracting in the image, but will ADD to it.
Christmas Tree: The Christmas tree is a favorite backdrop for pictures of your children. It marks another year of their life and it is always amazing to watch the progression of images from one Christmas to the next. When photographing your children in front of the tree, have them sit about 2-3 feet in front of it to try to make the lights pop a little bit more. You can also take pictures of them hanging ornaments or "finding" ornaments on the tree. Kids are almost always in awe of the Christmas season. If you're going to do holiday setups with your child, please read my blog about safety first.
Leaves: These images are from when I got my very first DSLR and was still very much a momtographer. The leaves always remind me of what time of year it was and it made the images so much more fun because the kids (and my husband) had something to play with. The only caveat that I have with using leaves (especially because I live in the Northern Virginia area) is that after doing any playing in leaves/tall grass/woods, please make sure to do tick checks!
I left the leaves picture for last because I wanted to say this: Your images don't have to be professional quality. They don't have to have tons of editing or perfect lighting or cropping. They need to be of things that you love in moments that make you happy. There are at least 5 things that I would point out as being technically wrong in the image above, but when I look at their smiling faces? My Mom-heart doesn't care a bit and I smile away.