When I first started blogging, one thing I really struggled with was choosing the right props. Either they were too expensive, they didn’t match my other props, or I thought I needed them, only to have them sit unused for months.
So to help other bloggers and food photographers out there, I created this handy guide on where I source my food photography props on a budget. Because you don’t need to have hundreds of dollars to create a cohesive, well-rounded prop collection. In addition to sharing my top places for sourcing budget-friendly props, I’ve scattered in some tips throughout the post that should help you make the right choices when it comes to choosing props. Happy propping!
1. Antique stores are your best friend
Some of my favorite props have come from antique stores. The trick is finding the right antique store. When I go to high-volume antique stores, the prices are dramatically inflated. I’ve found that the best budget-friendly finds are from antique stores in the middle of nowhere. I got this sifter in northern Michigan for $8, this antique scale outside of Boston for $30, and this pie tin from a hole-in-the-wall place in Western Mass for $5.
One reason antique props are so good for food photography is that they add a weathered element to food photos. Clean, mass-made ceramics don’t evoke the same feeling as a banged up enamel plate that quite literally shows years of use on its surface.
The best antique props I have are metal-based. I just love the rusty, worn look they add to my photos. Next time you’re at an antique store, look for background props, opposed to just plates and bowls. Cookie sheets, scales, and pie tins are versatile and totally worth it.
2. So is Etsy
Similar to antique stores, Etsy is a great place to find older, shabby-chic props. Some of my favorite Etsy pieces include this ice cream scoop ($9), this antique tray ($5), and a variety of antique utensils. Similarly, independent prop sellers like Propped have phenomenal, one of a kind pieces sourced by professionals, for professionals. I just recently sourced the pink glass plates below from Propped, and can’t wait to shoot a spring cake scene with them.
Etsy is a great alternative for those who live in areas where antique stores don’t have good selections. Plus, it’s great to be able to communicate one-on-one with sellers. Often, if you find a store that you like, you can reach out to the owner to ask if they have more items they haven’t put up for sale yet. Score!
3. Crate & Barrel has the best linens and mugs
70% of my linens are from Crate & Barrel. They are cheap ($5-10 each), and come in a variety of muted neutral colors that work well for food photography. Linens are a low-cost way to instantly add texture to food photos without taking away from your subject (I used the Dark Natural Linen for these muffins, the Grey Striped Linen under these pancakes, and the Indigo Linen in this cake post). When in doubt, throw a linen in there.
In addition, Crate & Barrel’s wedding section has gorgeous plates, bowls, and mugs, all of which you can buy individually- just ask a sale’s associate. My two favorite collections are Welcome Dinnerware ($5-13 per peice) and Wilder Dinnerware ($8-13 per piece). I typically get 2-3 of each piece so I have a variety of looks for a fraction of the cost.
4. Scope out World Market for Cake Stands and Glassware
When it comes to World Market, I’ve found that their glassware is some of the best-looking for the price. These glass jars ($3.99 each) are perfect for things like pots de creme. And I put milk jugs in the background of about everything (similar here).
World Market is also a fabulous place to get unique cake stands. All four seen below were purchased from World Market, though they weren’t available online when I searched for them. When looking for cake stands, keep size in mind. I don’t like bigger cake stands, as they end up looking bulky and awkward in photos. So I stick to cake stands no wider than 9 inches in diameter. And I almost always go for a neutral color so that my cake stands out.
5. Target is a goldmine
Ever since Target introduced the Threshold Collection, I make regular Target trips to check out their goods. The entire collection is slightly rustic but still minimalist, making perfect props for a food photography collection. I recently used these bowls ($4.99 each) to shoot Ambitious Kitchen’s Golden Turmeric Soup. I haven’t used these serving bowls ($32.99 for a set of 2) yet, but I absolutely love them.
Things to be on the lookout for at Target: ceramic bowls/plates, utensils, and larger items like cake stands and salad bowls. Target also has gorgeous condiment/dip bowls. I use both this marble one ($8.99) and this wooden one ($5.99) all the time (seen here in my DIY Facemask post).
6. Amazon has surprisingly good stuff
Did you know that Amazon has some awesome food photography props? I’m love shooting this glass caddy (similar found here for $25). And I recently shot these enchiladas for Skinny Taste in this enamel roasting pan ($29).
The trick is finding props you really like that are made by multiple companies, then searching for them on Amazon. For example, that glass caddy was $40 at a nick nack store in Boston, and only $25 on Amazon. You can find similar enamelware from places like Falcon for two times the price, but if your’e just using it occasionally, Amazon is the way to go. So if you’re willing to do some searching, Amazon is a fantastic source for cheap props.
7. Store it all on an IKEA shelf
I have two metal shelves from IKEA that make for perfect prop storage. I absolutely recommend making a home for your props, as having ample room to spread everything helps to visualize your shoots. Plus, it makes for a pretty awesome statement piece.