When you’re putting together a new session, props can really make a huge difference. They allow you to bring a story to life within the photoshoot, and they bring a lot more fun too. And they’re not just for portrait sessions in the traditional sense – you can use them to spice up a booth at a wedding or special event, to decorate announcement photoshoots (like tiny baby items for pregnancy announcements!) and so on.
But there’s just one question: where do you get all of these props? Well, never fear, because we’re about to give you a list of all the places you’ll want to shop to really bring some flavor and color to your shoots.
Etsy is a wonderful place to shop for all kinds of things, and custom items are definitely up there. You can buy items that are handmade in bulk to decorate your studio, or you can order something in for a really specific purpose. Either way, there is bound to be someone on Etsy that can make what you’re after – so if you don’t see it, just find someone who works with the same materials and shoot them a message with a custom request.
Your local craft store is definitely a place to shop for props. They will often have props that were actually specifically made to be used in photoshoots, as well as for other purposes. For example, a papier mache bunny made for decoration at Easter can definitely become part of your Easter sessions. The other great thing is that if you can’t find what you need, craft stores will supply you with the items to make it. Try supporting your local independent craft stores, if they’re still around, before you check out national chains or online options.
Yes, the hardware store can be a great place to shop for props! They have plenty of raw ingredients to make your own things as well as ready-made options. Wallpaper and wooden panelling can become a new backdrop, reflective white plexiglass can be turned into a background for product photography, and you can switch out your setting in an instant by creating a number of boards in different styles.
Yes, garage sales in your neighborhood! Have you ever attended them? This could be a chance to find some really special items. People tend to put low value on things that have seen some wear and tear, but these could give the perfect dash of rustic character to a photoshoot. Chairs, trunks, suitcases – these are great props that every photographer will use at some point, so pick them up cheap in your local area. Flea markets are another similar option that often offer a great range of variety in one place.
Just like in garage sales, thrift stores carry a lot of great items that have seen enough prior use to give them some great character. Pick one that is run by a non-profit organization in order to support a good cause at the same time as shopping.
With the searchable ads on Craigslist, you might be able to find something that matches exactly what you’re looking for. And if you aren’t, you could just post an ad yourself outlining what you want and how much you’re willing to pay for it. This could save you a lot of time if you want something specific, which is unlikely to fall into your lap by coincidence at any old garage sale or thrift store.
If you want to find a variety of items that are cheap and cheerful, Amazon could be the place to go. You’ll be able to find themed decorations and props, most usually centered around specific holidays. You might be able to find specific photography props too, like photobooth kits with lots of items for your guests to wear or hold in front of their faces.
AliExpress is usually best for business owners who are shopping in bulk, but if you know that you are going to use certain disposable props over and over again, then why not? You might also be able to pick up some good deals on single items that you can keep for longer.
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well, eBay is sort of like that! Someone might be getting rid of a lot of old props – maybe someone who’s retired from photography, for example. This could be your chance to swoop in and pick them up at a reasonable price, especially if they are listed in an auction that isn’t going very fast.
People often list things on Gumtree totally for free, so you could be in luck if you’re willing to drive to their location and pick it all up. You can also find items for sale, and sellers are often open to a bit of negotiation to help you get a good deal.
Both Facebook Marketplace and Facebook groups are good places to look for props. Photographers often sell old equipment, so keep a look out – and consider posting a request for what you want. If no one has something to sell you, they might at least be able to recommend a place that can.
Your local superstore
Surprised? It’s true – even places like Walmart will sometimes have a dedicated section for photography props if they’re in a big enough area. Or you might just wander through the seasonal goods aisle, the homewares section, the toys, and so on to find something that fits your requirements.
Finally, if none of these options seem right for you, or you don’t have a storage for a bunch of props, Summerana Academy might be the perfect solution for you! We offer a myriad of digital overlays that can be popped right into your image in post production to give your photo the magic it needs. Members have access to fairy wings, dinosaurs, crowns, smoke bombs, bubbles, rain, and much more! Feel free to check out our free resources to get you started.
If you’re already a Summerana Academy member searching for more ways to incorporate props into your image, be sure to watch our Creating in Studio Props tutorial by Kimber Greenwood of Water Bear Photography. There you will learn how she uses everyday items to draw inspiration for a budget friendly studio photoshoot.
So there you have it, the ultimate list of where to buy photography props! Do you have a favorite source that wasn’t listed here? Share in the comments below!