When I started my bookstagram, one of my bookstagram goals was to have a bunch of cool props, including crowns and letter boards. Today, I have my letter boards, but I've found that they are one of my least used props. But, they are really one of the only props I have directly bought to use in my photos. I am a student, and I can't necessarily go out and buy props that I really don't think I can use past photos. So, I've turned to the things I've had on hand. In this guide, you'll see the top ten props that I like to use in my photos. Every one of these props are something you are likely to have in your home.
Baked Goods/ Foods
I love including baked goods into my photos. Sometimes, they help me tie the picture and the book together (like cookies and TATBILB), and other times, they allow me a blank slate to talk about whatever I want. I know that baking may not be everyone's forte, but other foods might be. I know of an account that features a meal and its recipe each day with a book. Everything looks delicious, and I get lots of meal inspiration. I never bake with the sole purpose of photo usage, but when there is a good looking outcome, I try my best to get it in the photo!
Candles! I have a lot because of book boxes, but I use plenty of candles from around my house.
I use them in a variety of ways: to fill the space, as a focal point, and to complement/bring out the colors from the item that I am featuring. Here, I am using the candle to make a connection with the title and cover as well as to enhance the gold tones found in the base of the fire on the cover and the gold chain. (This chain was also a find in my house that was almost thrown away.)
I don't use clothing too often, but I think that it is always fun to use it for a cover recreation! However, more often, I will use sweaters. It is far from the sweater season, but during fall, I love to make sweater stacks for a cozy feel or use ones with a more neutral color and nice knit as a textural element underneath the focal point. Sometimes, a corner of a sweater in the corner is all you need to as a filler or to tie it into the story.
I love to use my computer as a prop whenever I am talking about reviews or books that have a movie adaption. For one photo, I had a plate of cookies, some hot chocolate, the book, and my computer playing The Great British Baking Show in the background. It created such a cozy vibe and is, to this day, one of my favorite photos. This photo was for the release of P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix, and I got lots of good engagement from it. I also will show the keyboard in some photos as a filler.
This isn't a prop per se, but since I've started my bookstagram, I've relied on photo editing to add covers. My library is quite small in comparison with others; it can be difficult to find new ways to photograph the same books, especially when there is only a handful that do especially well. This is where editing comes from. I typically use it to edit on book covers that I've read on my phone as it never photographs well. In this case, I ended up adding the twitter page and the book cover. I'd read the eARC of the book and wanted to use my phone as a prop, so I needed to photoshop the cover on top of a physical book. I know of plenty of others who will add in extra elements in the editing stage or duplicate other aspects. There are a wide variety of apps out there, but I use Fotor. Let me know too if you'd like to see a tutorial of how I do this!
Fairy lights are the only prop that I frequently use that I have for the sole purpose of photos. They are relatively inexpensive, and for all the use I get out of them, I think they are worth it. I got two sets of them from Target for photos like these.
I have a white background, so it can be hard to keep photos interesting or have depth when I just have a stack of black books, like this. Sometimes, I'll weave the lights through books in the background, or I'll hang them down from the top of the blankets. I keep one of the boxes that they came in, so they stay organized in my prop box.
Plants are easily a favorite of mine too! I get all of my fake flowers from the dollar tree. I have a handful of different types for different seasons, as well as ones that I can use year-round, like these white ones. Typically, I use flowers as a filler, to add more color, and/or texture.
I also like to use dried lavender in photos and my succulents. Drying the lavender was super easy (it is a bit fragile now) and free from my garden. I did buy the succulents, but they were pretty inexpensive. The one I use most often is my zebra plant, as it is super easy to keep alive and quite photogenic.
Necklaces are my most used type of jewelry. I have some colored pieces and some neutral ones. Typically, I use them to tie back into the story or with the colors. For one photo, the girl on the cover had a heart necklace, and so I was able to use a heart locket I had to connect with the cover. In this photo, I knew I needed color as the title page and background are flat. So, I added the extra book and a candle with pink/rose colors to tie into the rose part of the title and then a star necklace to tie into the constellation part. It was easy to set up, and I think it came out pretty well.
Mugs and Coffee/Tea/Hot Chocolate
If you look at any bookstagram feed, the chances that you'll see a mug and a drink are 100%. Drinks and books are a common association and are the perfect props to give a cozy vibe or create a more realistic like setting. I also like to use them as a blank slate for photos. Like the one you see here, the only theme is Christmas/wintery. I now can use it for any winter themed blog post as a cover image, or I can talk about whatever I want on my bookstagram. I also love being able to show off my favorite mugs that I have, like Starbucks locations on mugs.
More often than not, I will use other books in my photos to bring out a certain color or as a filler. I tend to stack my focus book on top of a hardback and go from there. Sometimes, I'll have a book stack with similar colors to the focus book in the corner. Other times, I have a book opened. I've been using other books as props for so long now that I know for the majority of my books, what they look like under their dust cover. And that saves a bunch of time.
If you take anything away from this post, know that you don't need to break the bank for bookstagram photos. A crown may seem like the one prop you need to have, but the chances are, you'll only use it one. Or maybe it is a dagger or a letter board or a typewriter. And I don't want to discourage you from buying those items, but I just want to say that they aren't necessary and that you have more props at home than you think you do.