One of the best things about working in food and photography, is prop shopping!
I do love it, but must give credit to Michael for his excellent prop sourcing and board and background making. Developing your prop collection is a little like developing your style. You will eventually develop a sixth sense of props that you are drawn to and cultivate a collection that you can rely on again and again to shoot with.
Some tips for when you are buying props for photography,
Avoid shiny things, ceramics that reflect the light will cause glare and reflections that will be problematic, detract from the image and are really hard to remove in Photoshop.
Matt or unglazed ceramics work well, in whatever colours suit your style and photography.
I also use and source cutlery that is matt, lots of vintage cutlery is aged and has lost it’s shine, perfect for photography.
Fabrics, I collect fabrics! At the moment I’m very much into linen, the weave alone creates such a beautiful texture and when it’s crumpled, it is just a joy for me to photograph. You can use napkins in the scene or hang a table cloth as a backdrop.
Pewter - I love grey so matt pewter dishes and platers are always something I’m tempted to buy!
Vintage plates, I love a vintage platter, matted with age and washing and maybe even sporting a crackle in the glaze. All these wonderful textures and interest just in the crockery before you add the food. I find sometimes, food will almost photograph itself when placed on a vintage platter.
Backgrounds, I use tiles, floor and bathroom ones, we’ve painted large pieces of wood in the colours we’ve needed for a shoot. You can buy tongue and groove floor boards from DIY shops, nail them together and paint them to have a faux table top in the colour of your choice.
You can have loads of props or you can have a select dozen that you reuse and rely on. When I started out, I hired props from my local prop shop and figured out what I liked and what photographed well before I (and Michael) went on a shopping spree.
I’ve listed some resources at the end of the section.
Resources - My Little Black Book of Prop Shopping!
Prop Hire Locations
The one’s I’ve used are London based. But I’m sure if you google Food Photography Prop Hire, there will be something near to you. This is an expensive way of doing things but you can just go and have a look (some you need to make an appointment so check first before turning up) it’s like a real life Pinterest Prop Board! But do be professional if you go, this is where you’ll find prop stylists propping for shoots, and all the prop houses I’ve been to, have a bit of a library type vibe. So no shouting or loud talking! If asked, say you are propping for a Test Shoot.
Kempton Antiques Market - I love this place! Great for everything and more.
Nutley Antiques, High St, Nutley, Uckfield TN22 3NF - they don’t have a website but a fab place to look, I often find treasure here.
Station Mill Antiques, Station Rd, Chipping Norton OX7 5HX - another place I’ve visited a couple of times and found a few lovely things.
Lewes - Lewes is near Brighton and they have lots of incredible vintage and antique shops and also the beautiful and curated Closet & Botts - it’s worth a day trip to Lewes.
Overseas, whenever I travel, I try and find out if there are any flea markets, or antique markets near where I’m staying. I found some beautiful french linen in France for next to nothing and fantastic platters in Berlin.
Linenme - great colours, very reasonable
H&M Home - love their table cloths
The Linen Works - I’ve been using their aprons and napkins for years
Kathryn Davey - a little more pricey but beautiful, natural dyed linens that come in alternative colours
Charity Shops - If I pass a charity shop I pop in, 95% of the time I find nothing and actually dislike that old clothes smell but that 5%? Oh I find gold!!
Ebay - We used to find a lot of amazing things on Ebay there are still lots of amazing things but they are so pricey now! So we don’t buy from them so much.
Instagram - I’m always searching for ceramics and follow a few wonderful people on Instagram, at the moment most of them are out of my budget but I keep an eye just in case they have a sale!
Maybe you have an amazing prop place or source, maybe we could share them in the FB group? Because who doesn’t need more excuses to shop?!