Food photography props, especially if you’re on a budget, are best found in your own home, but don’t worry, if you’ve exhausted your own supply, keep reading, I’ve got a long list of food photo prop sources for you below.
Props are dishes, utensils, linens, or ingredients that you use in your food photography composition. You can find things to use anywhere really if you just keep your eyes open.
And you don’t want to use what everyone else is using.
You want your images to look different.
You want to develop your own signature and props are one way you can differentiate yourself.
Her shots are glorious but I think what really appeals to me the most about her work is that I don't see the dishes she's using anywhere else.
She uses a few dishes in her images that I don’t think I would run across at my local Homegoods store.
What Props Can I Find in My House?
Look in your kitchen, pantry, attic, garage, cabinets, closets, spare bedroom or in that old box of stuff your mother in law insisted you take the last time you visited.
You’ll want to start with things that are neutral so they don’t take away from the beauty of whatever dish you’ve created. At least go with neutral until you've figured out your style.
What can I use for food photo props?
Plain, white dishes, old silverware (the more patina the better), tea cups, pie tins, cookie cutters, cake stands, parchment paper, wax paper (for layering), linens, baking sheets, old wooden cutting boards or marble slabs.
Of course, the dish doesn’t need to be white or eggshell or ecru.
If your style is dark, you’ll want some dark hued dishes, deep gray or navy perhaps.
If your style is colorful, collect all the Fiestaware.
Free Sources of Food Props
The next place to look would be your mom or dad’s house or you grandmother’s or friend’s house, with permission of course.
Do you take walks? Keep an eye out. I’ve found some really cool rusted pieces of metal that I use as serving trays in photos (I line them with wax paper to protect the food.)
Finally, once all free sources of props for you have been exhausted, look into your local freecycle group--sometimes you’ll find those on Facebook.
I’ve found that Facebook groups set up for individual towns and cities to have great free offerings. One in particular I’m thinking of doesn’t allow buying or selling--which is great, residents post whatever they’re giving away or announce that it’s going to be left at the end of the drive.
Look in clearance sections of stores. They may sell one of something that used to be part of a bigger set. This is perfect for you. You’re not going to want full sets of dishes, for example, unless part of your style or your regular assignments are to photograph full scenes.
Where to find props:
- Your own kitchen or your mom’s or stepdad’s kitchen
- Your garage/attic/spare bedroom
- T J Maxx
- Target (especially the $5 section near the front of the store)
- Antique shops
- Thrift shops
- Natural food store or co-op (cheap spices to scatter)
- Your grandma’s house or attic
- Tag sales
- Estate sales
- The end of driveways
- the woods (no national or state park pillaging)
- the beach
- Grocery stores
- West Elm
- William Sonoma
- Commercial kitchen supply stores
- Grocery stores
- Facebook Marketplace
- Craig’s List
- Online specialty shops such as Wilbur and Wolf in the UK
- Crate and Barrel
- Pottery Barn
- World Market
- Dollar Tree
- Hobby Lobby
- Paper store (twine, etcetera)
- Tuesday Morning
- Garage sales
- Estate sales
- Bed, Bath and Beyond
- Pottery shops
- If you travel somewhere--look at local shops
- If you’re in Asia--I hear Daiso is an option
Really, anywhere you shop or find yourself you might find something to use in your food photos.
A word of caution, if you’re a new food blogger, use what you already have at your house before spending money.
To that end, one last source of food photography props are your right and left paws.
That's right, make a prop yourself.
My friend Lisa at Celebrating Creativity has a great tutorial on dyeing your own linens.
Lisa makes it look so easy!
I've thought about giving it a go myself but I suspect I would end up dyeing myself and both cats...
Have you ever made anything with clay? You could try fashioning your own plates if you dare.
Irvin Lin, cookbook author and food blogger, was a graphic artist by trade before launching his culinary career. Lin told me he decided to try making his own pieces after getting sticker shock at the price of ceramics and found the craft to be quite difficult. Lin said he understands now why the prices are what they are.
It may take you months or years to really figure out your photo style.