Working With Props

So. Props. The added element that can add a lot or totally distract from a great shot. I’m frequently asked how we manage to not only make the dancers look their best but also effectively use props. I’m in creative mode at the moment, so this is something that I am currently playing around with. Since the question comes up a lot, I thought now would be a great time to give you some tips on how to make props work for you!

Dancer: Xing Ying

These are some steps to follow that I find are helpful when choosing what props to use and how to use them successfully:

1) Visualize and test the prop. Have an idea of what you want the props to look like in the shot before you start working with your dancer. How you want the prop to behave will indicate a) where you need the dancer to be b) how you will handle (toss/throw/ripple) the item you are using c) know whether you need an extra assistant or two to get the job done.

2) Focus on the dancer. Once you are set on what you’d like the prop to look like, it’s best to leave it alone and start working with your dancer next. Without using the prop, spend a moment to fine tune the movements or energy of the dancer.

3) Nope, it’s not yet time for the prop. Next, fine tune the light on your dancer.

4) Mark and Test. Now it’s time to test out the dancer with the prop. Have them mark their movement with the movement of the prop. Decide if you need to add more light or take some away, giving your prop more dimension.

5) Now you are ready to go! Allow for just as much time to get that prop to look right as it does to get the dancer’s movement and tone. Sometimes it takes several shots just to get something where they work in unison and create the composition you were going for.

Dancer: Lola Rae Crist

If I had to give only one piece of advice, it would be to exercise patience. Shots with props can really take some time to get right, but when you do, they are so worth it!

We’ll have a new video out soon on using props that will go deeper into this process, but in the meantime, get creative in the studio!

Dancer: Kaeli Ware

You can check out the resources we currently have on our website, including video tutorials covering other important topics in dance photography. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest, and if you have any questions or are interested in more information from me, please email

Robyn Jutsum

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