I’ve been asked the question - "what are the best props to start with for food photography?" a few times. That's why I've decided to share my experience and some tips regarding props.
Props and backdrops are essential in food photography, but not the most important.
Remember that it's still about the food, storytelling and beautiful light. I know that many of you feel confused about how to choose and where to look for the best props for food photography. Please bear in mind, that every single photographer struggled with the same questions at the beginning of their journey with food photography.
Throughout the years, I bought many props and I thought I would use them a lot, but in the end, I used them just once or not at all. In the beginning, I was buying plates and bowls just to have a variety of dinnerware, but I didn't think about how I will use them. Also, I didn't read about it, I didn't even know what props are and how important is to have a really nice, and not necessarily big collection. With time and experience, I've learnt what props I need and like, and what props I use the most. Only because I have space for a pretty (too) big collection, I keep them. Of course, I have my favourite props, but I find it difficult to get rid of some I don't use very often.
Food is a hero
As I mentioned in the beginning, it's about the food, not the props. When you have too many props, you might forget what props you actually have, trust me. When you have fewer props, you are more creative.
I'm not the first who will tell you: Think twice before you'll buy it, especially in the beginning, when you build your collection and you don't have clients yet. It's better to have a few all-purpose items, like good quality pair of jeans, that you can wear over and over again. Beautiful, neutral bowls or plates can be used in many scenes and tell different stories.
Give yourself time!
Be patient! You don't have to have all kinds of plates and bowls in a month or two. Invest in essential props and build your collection slowly. In the beginning, many of you are still looking for a style you want to represent, so spending too much isn't a good idea. It's also not about how expensive props are. You can find beautiful pieces in charity shops, flea markets or even chain stores eg. H&M (props in 1st, 2nd and 3rd photos) or Primark (last image).
Before you buy...
It's easy to buy and spend money because we always want more, and it's never enough, right?
So before you buy another (or first) plate or bowl ask yourself a few questions:
How often I will use it?
Is it neutral enough?
Do I really need it?
Isn't it similar to...?
Do I like it or do I want it?
Do I have space to keep it?
What you’ll need to collect
When you choose bowls try to find dishes you will be able to use for different purposes. A big and deep bowl can be used for a salad and pasta, medium size bowls will be perfect for soups or salad, small and shallow bowls will be perfect for desserts eg. ice cream or oats and granola and finally don't forget about small pinching bowls for eg. for herbs.
It's also good to look for all-purpose plates in different sizes and shades. You should get a serving and large plate, dinner plates, medium plates for salads and desserts and small side plates.
Cutlery and serving utensils
It's good to have a couple of forks, knives, tablespoons and teaspoons. I'm sure you have a wooden spoon, a spatula or a wine opener you can also use at the beginning of your journey. Maybe ask your grandma or your mom if they have some vintage cutlery they don't need anymore.
Besides knives, forks and spoons look for:
ice cream scoop,
cake slice and small sieve.
From the beginning, glasses were my favourite to buy. I found drink photography really enjoyable. My glassware collection is really big but in the beginning, you need only a few shapes of glasses. The good thing about the glasses is that most of us have water, wine or shot glasses at home.
Glasses can also be used as dessert bowls.
chopping boards and tins
You should invest in some tins and chopping boards which you can use in many scenes.
Look how the same tin (1st set of photos) or chopping board (2nd set of photos) works great for different purposes.
If you are not sure where you heading and what your style is, you should invest in backdrops in neutral colours, grey, for example, works perfectly with many different colours.
Cream, beige and brown backdrops are also great choices for beginners.
It's also good to have one or two vinyl wood and tile backdrops.
And finally, the linen. Cotton, gauze, muslin and other soft fabrics are the best to style. Typical napkins are usually stiff and hard to work with. The good thing about linens is that they can also work great as a backdrop.
Where To Buy Food Photography Props?
There are many places where you can look for props, starting from charity shops, flea and vintage markets and shops, chain shops (H&M, Zara, Next, Primark) and even supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury's, Target in the US).
Other spaces are Etsy and eBay, try finding local ceramicists or find them on Instagram.
My favourite ceramic places:
My top prop shops:
You can also look for a prop rent place, I can recommend 2 in London, but I'm sure you can find one in your area as well:
My favourite backdrop places:
And finally, check what you already have at home.
If you have any questions or struggle with any subject, send me a DM on my Instagram or email me. I will do my best to answer and help.