Prop 15 Challenge – Enhance Your Prop Collection | Cheese Photography 101

Competent photography is an essential for skill small businesses. For all but the largest companies, there is no budget to hire a professional for everyday shots but there are simple things you can do to improve your chances of getting a good image.

One of the best things you can do to improve your efficiency and provide inspiration for shoots is to build a prop collection that is ready at a moment’s notice.

If you are like Macklemore, a veteran at “pop(ping) some tags,” you’ll feel right at home with this part. I often do a flash visit to my local thrift store to check out the latest donations. A quick scour of the housewares section often yields treasures for just a few dollars and I encourage you to give it a whirl.

Upon my arrival in Sacramento for the recent American Cheese Society conference, I gave myself a little challenge. Knowing I’d need some new pieces for the Cheese Photography 101 session I was teaching later in the week, I gave myself a challenge: spend less than 15 minutes and less than $15 to add a few new props to my collection.

My dear friend came and collected me from the airport for lunch and a thrift-store visit. I found three great items which have already come in handy for recent shoots. You can see the bronze plate in the Best of Show 2014 shoot and in the feature photo above.

Prop 15 Challenge copyAfter returning with an incredible array of cheese scored from the Cheese Sale, I went to my local shop and found a few new things to inspire some shots with the high end cheese assortment living in my fridge. See the results to the right.

These pieces cost about $11 and are incredibly versatile. Perhaps my favorite find was that gnarly old baking sheet. The patina will make a rich and interesting shooting surface.

So what should you look for when you’re out shopping?

Top Tips for Scoring Great Cheese Styling Props

  • Non-shiny is best – glare is not your friend (though there are ways around it, like dulling spray)
  • Natural surfaces like wood and slate are lovely
  • Hammered (non-shiny) silver and metallic is nice and often has lots of detail – they are favorites in my collection
  • Look for items with a bit of age and patina. Well used baking sheets/pizza stones are awesome for depth and dimension.
  • Placemats and fabric are great for shooting surfaces and adding pops of color
  • When selecting glassware, look for low-profile, small stature pieces which are easier to shoot with smaller wedges
  • Small stature rule applies for knives and other servingware. Look for age/patina, here too.
  • If you plan on eating the cheese, be sure to wash surfaces well or use cheese/parchment paper to shield your cheese from dubious surfaces.
  • Check back often and definitely make it a point to look for items in areas rich in history. I found the most incredible pieces for a song while visiting Chester County, PA.

Take the #Prop15Challenge: Spend 15 minutes and less than $15 to add 3-4 new pieces to your prop collection.

Post your finds to the Cheese Chick Productions Facebook with the hashtag #Prop15Challenge. Submitters of the top three most “Liked” photos by September 15th score an ACS Best of Show poster.

Sign up for the e-news for more tips from upcoming shoots and inspiration to help your cheese photos shine!

Want to learn more about cheese photography? Register for Cheese Photography 101 – Classes begin September 8th.