At the beginning of a photography journey, nobody believes they can take beautiful photos. Neither…
When you start with food, still life and interior photography, it’s difficult to find the right props for your photos. I know, when I started, I fell in love with so many styles and moods I found on Pinterest and Instagram. I wanted to shoot in all sorts of styles and have a fantastic prop collection.
That wasn’t possible. Not only because props can be expensive but also they use up a lot of storage in the house. So I had to be really sensible about how I managed my prop collection.
Perhaps the biggest problem I faced during my prop hunting was to find myself. What I mean is to find my style that I felt comfortable with and I truly loved. Of course, when you work with clients, they may want a completely different style to your preferred one. For this reason, I bought one or two sets of props of the less liked styles (for me that means modern and minimal look) and I pushed myself to practice with those props as well and achieve different looks.
However, in my experience, you may learn easier and faster if you work with props and styles you like.
Therefore, I would encourage you to start a prop collection you love.
But how to find your style?
It’s difficult. What you have to consider is that it will take time. Not just to avoid an enormous expense at once, but to give time to yourself to learn more about what you like and what you don’t.
I’m sure there’s a romantic soul in every fellow female photographer and we have thousands of styles in our heads we love. For example, I absolutely love rustic, cottage type of props but I also love elegant crockery and cutlery. The two could clash and I often asked myself the question: which style is me? Which reflects my personality best?
It took me a while to understand that it’s OK to love more than one style.
Yet, it took almost a year to clarify what main styles reflect my personality best. So my second piece of advice I can give is to give yourself time. It will come, trust me.
What also helped me was to work with props I was emotionally attached to. Once I realised I could use my Mum’s old utensils and crockery, I couldn’t wait to put my hands on them. Since I try to incorporate at least one of my beloved Mum’s props. Working with an object that brings back memories can lift the spirit and inspire more. Don’t be afraid to look around your house or even your granny’s flat and find props you could use for your photography and styling.
What to do when you need props for one photo only, but you don’t want to buy them?
Well, believe it or not, I ask my neighbours. Since I’ve explained to my old lady neighbours what I’m doing, they’ve become my allies in my styling. They enjoy looking around in their apartments and are thrilled when they can lend me something I can work with. Isn’t it a win-win situation?
For buying, though, I put my no-waste and recycling hat on and I’m very frugal. That means I buy things mostly second hand in antique and charity shops. These, however, can be expensive, so I also keep checking eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Etsy. Regularly, I shall add.
When I find something I like online, I save it and sleep on it. It usually helps to clarify whether I really need that object. Most of the times my list is reduced by the following morning. On top of that, I often get an offer from the sellers which can come handy. Don’t worry that you missed something, there will be always nice props available. Also, with time you will know what sells like hot cakes and you have to buy it instantly and what can wait. This process helps to keep your cash flow under control.
If, however, you’d like to buy brand new props, below I can recommend below brands and websites. Keep in mind, that props from these shops are very popular, so probably many food photographers use them. To stand out, unique props are best from the above mentioned resources.
Yes, IKEA. For accessories and glasses I think IKEA is a very good choice and value for your money.
Although H&M is a bit more expensive, you can buy some really nice props there like spoons or bowls or even linen table cloths. It’s worth checking their website every now and again to see what’s new.
Zara Home is very good for ceramics like bowls, vases etc.
I like the contemporary country look of their products whether tableware or garden accessories. I bought some coffee cups at sales and I love them.
Although on the pricey side, the contemporary look of the White Company’s tableware is brilliant. I would definitely consider them for a restaurant photo shoot.
Their ceramics have natural look and I have been looking for a small dish for ages. I was so pleased when I got one from them at last!
With many European products their products are definitely different. So if you need something different, it’s worth checking their website.
If you need something quirky or unique, the best store to have a look at.
For some Scandi, rustic and shabby chic this store will be your favourite. I bought bowls, candle holders and candles from them, and I love them all. Especially the brand Ib Laursen.
- Give yourself time.
- Keep your eyes open when you are on holiday or walk around somewhere. You may find a treasure in a secondhand shop.
- Check online shops (eBay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace) regularly and save items you like. Then sleep on them and decide later whether you really need all of them.
- Ask your family and neighbours if you need specific props. You can avoid buying them.
- Listen to your heart. Your style will be the one you love deep in your heart.
You don’t need to buy a lot to get started. What you have to keep in mind, that your collection will grow along the way. And potentially it will even change as your taste will change over the years.
To get started, just use a few props you really love and you’ll love the photo as well.
Happy prop hunt and creating.
BEFORE YOU GO…
If you’d like to learn how to take stunning food and still life photographs, visual storytelling and creative editing, my 1-to-1 in person photography and styling workshop is for you.
Join the waiting list to find out when the registration opens. This doesn’t mean commitment for attending the workshop.