Favorite Places to Prop Shop
As a Creative Director, content creation is a large part of the job. Every month I plan out, shop for, stylize and shoot 30 days worth of images for social media, web banners, brochures and whatever other images my brand needs. While sometimes just the product in my hand (or whoever's hand I can barrow from my coworkers!) against a colorful backdrop will suffice for a trendy minimalist #handinframe image...other times a lot of different props are needed.
Prop shopping has become a regular part of my job and definitely an enjoyable part! Who doesn't like to shop for fun things and be able to expense it all?! But while it's fun to shop with other's money, I have had to learn a few things about how to make prop shopping a little easier on my client's budget. While shopping for Halloween props this month, I compiled a list of my favorite places to find lots of materials for whatever you're shooting. Check out these spots in person or through the links below!
Your local Goodwill
Starting at Goodwill is always a good idea because you'll either find nothing at all that will work for your shoot....or EVERYTHING and it will be a whole lot cheaper than if you started somewhere else. It truly is hit or miss, but starting here ensures that you can at least count it out if they don't have what you need. If you do hit, and find a ton of great props you also get the added benefit of supporting an organization that supports your community. And who can't feel good about that? Be sure to check your local Goodwill for seasonal items, especially around Halloween. This year I just found all the same Halloween items from Target's Hyde and Eek! brand (new with tags and only slightly scuffed seconds) majorly discounted!
Best for: DIY projects! Shoes, accessories and clothing items in lots of different styles, household things like baskets, glassware, seasonal decor, and of course knick-knacks!
My shoots often require 'homey' looking environments and I've been able to source a lot of chic looking items from dollar stores. They have a decent glassware section too, as well as basics like table cloths, napkins and placemats, even generic looking makeup products and food items. The seasonal aisles have great holiday items (especially for Halloween) for both home decor and natural looking outdoor elements like rocks and foliage garlands. It's also a great place to find storage solutions for sorting all your new props after the shoot is over! And yes, everything really is $1, so expect to save a lot on your prop budget by shopping here.
Best for: finding allllll the kitchen items from cheap pots and utensils to fancy (looking) glasswares.
I mean, what beats 2-day shipping?? Honestly, most of my props come from Amazon because of the ability to search for EXACTLY what I have in mind. Sometimes photoshoot themes require obscure items and there's really no better place to try to find exactly what is needed, small, medium or extra extra large. But remember, you're buying new here, so even with free shipping items can run a littler higher-priced than if you find it from a pre-loved source. I've also ended up with a while box of 100+ plastic vampire fangs when I thought I was ordering 3, so be sure to read the descriptions thoroughly! Check out Amazon Handmade for more unique items made by artisans!
Best for: Last minute purchases and shipping larger items directly to you, because the less lugging props around the better.
Yeah, I had no idea that's what TARGET calls their aisles of $1-3 products either! I'm talking about the few aisles in Target right near the registers that hold shelves full of fun, kitschy items like wooden words, stationary items, pretty storage solutions, party favors and even high quality looking fake plants! Most of the items are small (I would say under 1 square foot in size) and generally lean towards kid oriented, BUT a lot are just very trendy items that work for all ages, or photoshoot themes. They change these products out seasonally, so be sure to check this spot out year-round if you're searching for anything holiday related from St. Patty's Day to Halloween!
Best for: Wandering these aisles and letting the products inspire your photos!
No matter where I shop from, I always have two options once I'm done with the extras from my shoots: 1) try to return as much as I can (save your receipts!!) to cut down on the expenses I'll have to invoice for, or 2) expense them and keep the items I know that I'll be able to use time and time again on site. In general, I prefer the second option, so I have been able to build a pretty significant 'library' of props to pull from, and therefore have less future shopping to do! If I have a prop that could work for what I need but might not be the right color, then it's nothing a little spray paint can't make work.