Props for food photography are very inspiring, because they bring all of our creative ideas to life. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that food photographers have A LOT of creative ideas. This means that finding the right props for personal and client projects is an ongoing process that takes time, money and space. So, how do you build a prop collection that doesn’t take over your time, budget and space? Let’s talk about it.
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What Are Props for Food Photography?
Food photography props are basically anything “kitchen-esque” that you can include in your food images. They are important because they help bring the food story to life by inspiring an emotion. Props can include things like:
- Cutting Boards
- Baking Sheets
- Parchment Paper
Where To Find Food Photography Props
Props are everywhere. You just have to keep your eyes open and get creative.
For example, one of my all-time favorite props is a very “seasoned” baking sheet that I
borrowed stole from my sister-n-law. 😉 She rarely uses it because I took it from her it’s old and tarnished-looking. I use it a lot for my food photography, because I love the texture that it brings to a food image.
See the image of flatbread with ricotta and pomegranate salsa below. The seasoned baking sheet became my surface and prop for this image, helping me create a dark & moody look that I was going for.
To the everyday eye, many things are seen as a piece of junk. To a food photographer’s eye, that piece of junk could be a beautiful addition to their next food story.
I find a lot of prop inspiration from the following:
- Garage sales
- Antique shops
- Friends and family’s kitchens
- Crate & Barrel
- The “scraps” area behind Ace Hardware
- Home Depot
- Prop Stylists
The Prop Problem
The “prop problem” that a lot of food photographers eventually run into is simply buying waaaaaaay more props than they really need. (I’m guilty of this too!) It causes photographers to overspend on props that end up collecting dust in their closet.
A lot of food photographers think they can never have too many props. But, when time, money and space is involved, you can definitely have too many props.
Prop shopping takes time. Sometimes a black plate is a black plate. But, other times, a black plate needs to be very specific size, shape and texture. How much time can you really spend searching for food photography props?
- Limit the time you spend prop shopping.
- Work with a prop stylist to help you find what you’re looking for. Prop stylists have it all and if they don’t, they’ll know where to find it for you. This saves you a ton of time.
Props cost money and the expense adds up fast when you’re inspired by so many options. What is your budget for your props?
- Stick to your budget.
- Any props that need to be purchased (or rented) for client projects should be billed to your client – not to you.
Props take up space in your home or studio. Make sure you have the space you need to store them safely and securely.
- Renting props is a great option to avoid having too many props taking over your space.
How To Choose Props For Food Photography
When choosing props for food photography, the one thing I usually ask myself is “Will I be able to use this multiple times?” Some props are so special that they really only hold their value for one photo shoot. When you use special props multiple times, they can start to feel redundant instead of unique.
I try to focus on building a prop collection that I can use in a variety of different ways without the props feeling too redundant. I do this by sticking to the basics and renting props from prop stylists when I need something more specialized.
My basic prop collection includes:
- Different sized bowls
- Different sized plates
- A few cutting boards
- A variety of glassware
Tip: Smaller sizes usually work better for food photography. For example, using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate can help your image feel less crowded.
Within my basic prop collection, I have a variety of the following:
- Black & dark tones
- White & light tones
- Neutral tones
- Colorful tones
- Different Textures
- Matte vs. glossy finishes
READ MORE ABOUT: TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITIONS
Food Photography Backdrops & Surfaces
Food photography backdrops and surfaces are an important “partner” to your props. They set the foundation for the image and can help guide the prop selection and placement. It’s important to have a variety on hand to work with – similar to your prop collection – so you can create different moods for your food images. And, you can always rent them from prop stylists too!
For my backdrop & surface collection, I also look for the following:
The backdrops I love the most are from Best Ever Backdrops. While there are a variety of options on the market, Best Ever Backdrops are not only beautiful, they’re a matte finish, offer good sizing options, super durable (including stain & water resistant) and lightweight. Read more about them below and if you decide to purchase, use my CODE REGANBARONI to get 15% OFF.
READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY BACKDROPS
Props for food photography are so important, but so is your time, budget and space. I hope this post helped you discover that there is a way to build a balanced prop collection that makes sense for your food photography business. And, when in doubt, rent from a prop stylist! 😉 Reach out with questions anytime!
READ MORE ABOUT: FOOD STYLING TOOLS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD HAVE
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2022.