If you’re starting out in product photography and you’re not working with a props stylist, it can feel overwhelming when it comes to building out a props collection. Here are my go-to props for laying the foundations of a versatile collection so that you can save money and space and speed up your workflow.
Blocks and Plinths
Blocks and plinths are commonly used in product photography to add height, depth, or draw attention to a particular item. I’ve used them in past shoots to drape necklaces over or to place small bottles on. The best thing about them is that they are super versatile and can be used over and over for different shoots simply by repainting them.
In the UK, homewares store B&Q has a color mixing station where you can get bespoke paint samples created. Simply give them an image or reference of the color(s) you need and you can get a small sample pot for just £3. These small pots contain more than enough paint to go over the plinths in a few coats.
I bought a set from Mad Props, but you can also find a variety of shapes on sites like Etsy.
Pinch Dishes and Side Plates
I’ve collected a variety of small to medium size pinch dishes in a range of materials from ceramic to glass over the years, and I use them in the majority of my photoshoots for varying reasons. For instance, for a beauty photoshoot, you might use a pinch dish to hold ingredients that you want to highlight visually, such as rose petals or chamomile flowers. Adding in small plates to layer up your scene is a great way to quickly add some visual interest and draw attention to your hero product.
Books and Magazines
Collect a range of books and magazines to add height and background interest into lifestyle scenes. I love chunky coffee table magazines to stand candles on or in front of. Similarly, vintage books found at flea markets and thrift stores can suit the aesthetic for photoshoots with a nostalgic or vintage feel.
I can’t tell you how many times linens come in handy, tucked in at the edge of the frame or propped under a plate, bowl, or mug. I have collected a range of linens in different colors, from pastels through to darks. You can use a small, handheld steamer to quickly get rid of major creases before adding to the scene.
It depends on the client you’re working with and the aesthetic that’s been set, but a lot of my clients have loved incorporating dried flowers into their moodboards and briefs. The great thing about dried flowers is that you can reuse them over and over, whether that’s putting a few stems in a small vase or a whole bunch in the background. You can match the palette to the season with beige, cream, and burgundy tones for autumn and winter or yellows, pinks and whites for spring and summer.
Whenever I’m out and about, If I see something that I know would be useful for my props collection, even if I don’t need it for the next shoot I have in my diary, I try to take it home with me if I can see that it will be versatile. Sourcing props is one of my favorite parts of the job, and they can be found anywhere, from local independent shops, flea markets, and charity shops to Etsy or homeware stores like H&M or Zara Home. I'd love to know what props make up the foundation of your collection!