There are tons of posts out there about blog props and how to use them effectively.
They’re not bad lists. But I don’t think that I’m the target audience.
‘Go to Home Depot and buy flooring samples or remnants for photo background. They’re cheap and easy to store.’
I think Mid would kill me if I started dragging home pieces of random flooring. We’d have to hang them from the ceiling, and sometimes I think that what I call cheap is not the same thing that the rest of the world calls cheap.
I have started using more props in my photos, and these are the tips (or guidelines, I guess) I use for props when you’re short on both time and cash.
1. Set a budget
I won’t spend more than $3 on any prop. That doesn’t mean that what I use in my photos are necessarily worth $3 or less, or that I even spent $3 or less on anything in my photos. It means that if I’m spending money on a prop just to have a prop, I won’t spend more than $3 out of pocket.
2. Shop Outside the Box
So how do you stick to a budget like that? Garage sales, thrift stores, and the dollar store. I’m in the dollar section of Target every time I go to that store. Look in clearance bins. Ask for stuff when people move (I have cast iron that I like to use in pictures that someone gave me when she moved).
3. Don’t Buy Single Use Items
Don’t buy an item if the only thing that it can be used for is a blog prop. My blog dishes are only used for blog dishes, but if I had to, I could use them to serve guests. When you’re short on space, don’t buy piles of props just because you feel like your photos are flat without some sort of seasonally appropriate background.
4. Pick a ‘Feeling’ and Stick With It
At some point in the recent past I took a picture on a cookie sheet that was lined with two different colors of parchment paper and really liked the way that it came out. For right now anyway my go-to background is white parchment paper over tissue paper in different colors. I like the way that it shows up in my favorite filters. Plus, tissue paper is easy to store and doesn’t challenge Tip #3 because I can use it as actual tissue paper. If you want to stay with the Home Depot flooring tip (which actually isn’t a bad idea, I just don’t have the space for it) get a piece or two that you like and stick with it.
5. Use What You Have
I have a lot of packing material on hand for BPAL packages and stuff that comes in my wool orders. The crumpled up paper that comes in the packages makes some interesting textural backgrounds. One of the easiest ways of literally bulking up items in a bowl is put a smaller bowl upside down in a larger bowl and making sure you cover it. I use sauce bowls in a larger bowl which means I don’t need 3 pounds of jelly beans in order to look like I have a full bowl of candy.
6. Solid Colors, Natural Textures
Buying your props in similar solid colors and natural textures like woods make it easier to use a small amount of props in multiple combinations. Pick a color theme and stay with it (all blues, all warms, primarily whites or blacks, lime green, whatever). If you want to get a few patterned pieces make the patterns either very, very bold (a really vivid floral on stoneware or the like) or very, very simple (a small scale white polka dot) and make sure it matches your overall color scheme. Keeping everything in the same color family and with similar textures means that you’ll be able to have a fairly small prop box that can be mixed and matched.