When starting out as a food photographer, it’s tempting to go all out in prop shopping. You may end up spending an absurd amount of money on delicate handmade props thinking that they alone will turn our photos into something spectacular.
We’ve all been there: thinking that the more accessories we have, the easier it will be to take great photos. And yet, there is an element that we often forget: look at what we already have at home!
Not only are the accessories found around your home very cost effective (essentially free), but they are also some of the most versatile pieces you can find. Below are six props you can use to enhance your food photography that you most likely already have.
I was hesitant to use bed linen in my photography until a very recent Mother’s Day photo shoot for a client (see above). My goal was to recreate the comfort of a bed, but on a stable surface. I took some white bed linen and placed it on my shooting table. It worked so well that I ended up experimenting with more colors and using it as my new favorite background.
It makes perfect sense. Photography backdrops can be expensive and bedding is already here waiting for its moment to shine! No one will know that you used a handy accessory from your own home.
Don’t bother ironing it – the more texture the better. One final tip: to avoid an accident, be sure to use at least four clamps to securely attach the bedding to your shooting table.
Plants, herbs and flowers
Another accessory that I never tire of are plants. When shooting food, creating a seasonal mood can be a challenge, especially when you’re just starting to get familiar with lighting and editing.
Plants and flowers help you create that seasonal vibe so easily, but they also serve as ingredient clues.
take my hot chocolate with rose water shoot (above) as an example. I used a beautiful bouquet of fresh roses and dried petals to make sure the viewer makes an instant connection between the roses and the drink pictured.
However, you don’t need to go all out and buy expensive flowers. I like to use small succulents or herbs that are already growing in my house, or you can grab some dried flowers and use them over and over again.
Your grandmother’s cutlery
Granted, not everyone’s grandma has a fancy collection of vintage cutlery, but almost everyone has amassed older kitchen pieces that can be used for photography.
Old teacups are the perfect example, as are old plates. These are often much more textured and patterned than modern dinnerware, making them the perfect addition to your photos. Just remember to use them sparingly as their intricate designs can be a little harder to incorporate into your photos. Stick to a balanced combination of old and new!
I also like to use old cookbooks or notes like in the image above – they are so unique and can add a nice rustic feel.
Jars of pickles and nut butter
I can already hear you asking, “Are you sure the pickle jars are going to wow the viewer?” Listen to me.
Once you remove the labels and clean them thoroughly, the pickle and nut butter jars make the perfect photography prop as they are minimal and sleek enough to be easily incorporated into almost any scene. I prefer to stick to smaller sized jars and use them as cups (like in my iced coffee session above) or use a label maker to decorate them with a little text that helps give context, like flour, cocoa powder, etc.
There’s a good reason why candles are huge when it comes to decorating homes: they look brilliant and instantly add that cozy feeling.
So why not use them in food photos?
Opt for small or medium-sized candles; these won’t distract from your hero subject, but will still add an element of interest. I love using them in seasonal shoots like Christmas, Halloween, Mother’s Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, or other festive scenes.
If you’re really trying to impress, find candles with unusual shapes; twist and bubble candles (pictured above) are a perfect example.
White parchment paper (baking)
This list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most popular props, a staple in my collection: For crisp, clean photos, I like to use a sheet of brand new, smooth parchment paper.
However, most of the time I just take a sheet, crumple it up in my hands, then put it back on my shooting surface (as above). It adds incredible texture, while its slight transparency ensures the white isn’t too overpowering or distracting.
3 tips for a better accessory collection
As a full-time food photographer and food blogger, I’ve learned that keeping things simple is sometimes the best approach. When building my accessory collection, here are the things I keep in mind:
Cut: I deliberately keep a small collection of accessories, which makes my eating style faster and pushes me to reinvent the same accessories over and over again.
Variety: As I shoot content for various clients, I need a certain degree of versatility in my props. Most of my pieces are minimal and neutral, with a few colorful and heavily patterned pieces sprinkled in between. Stick to neutral accessories, but don’t forget to add some from time to time!
Source: If you can, try to get your accessories used. It’s so much better for the planet, but it also costs less and leaves you with more unique accessories! It’s a win-win situation!