Sourcing Props for Natural Product Photography

It’s made me happy over the last few years that small business owners have moved towards a more natural product photography style that doesn’t require the technical know-how of a perfect white background shot.

That’s not to say that natural product photography doesn’t require any photography know-how, but I certainly think it’s easier to achieve in a small space and on a budget.

I covered some of the basics of natural light product photography here on another blog, but I think that styling the images is also really important. Sourcing props can be really tough when you’re a beginner – where do you go and what do you look for?

Wear Out Some Shoe Leather

My Dad has an awful lot to answer for. I think it was the volumes of Miller’s Antiques Handbooks that he used to always have stacked up in the dining room. I think (if the truth be told) he fancied himself as some kind of Lovejoy character with a keen eye for bargains. Since his own antiques career was over before it got started I’m fairly sure that this is why he’s keen for me to become an art dealer… but anyway, I digress.

I love going antiquing. Now, that might bring up some kind of elaborate idea of spending lots of money at auctions, but actually I’ve never been to one. Mostly I concentrate on boot fairs in the summer and charity shops, but I also love to go to antiques centres and interiors shops.

The first thing I have to do is give a huge shout out to Station Mill Antiques & Interiors at Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds. Almost every photo on this page was taken there during a visit last weekend. It’s a proper treasure trove of amazing things and worth going out of your way for a visit if you’re a photographer.

Truth be told, I’ve been missing Battlesbridge Antiques Centre ever since I moved to the Cotswolds from Essex but Station Mill certainly has stolen my heart! I still make the occasional pilgrimage back, but now I manage to sate my antiquing urges a little more locally!

The really great thing about Station Mill is that lots of the trader style their wares as if they were in your home or – and this is the useful bit – in a photoshoot. So even if you don’t find anything you want to purchase (I mean, that’s unlikely…) you’re going to come away with plenty of ideas for ways to style your product photographs in a very natural way.

Don’t Snub Reproduction!

Look, genuine antiques and vintage can be super expensive – and so can photography! It’s good to save some money every now and again, and thankfully there are loads of delightful interior shops out there selling new things that look old.

What’s important is that you create the look and feel of the image you’ve planned, not that everything is faithfully made in 1762 or something. There’s no reason why you can’t mix and match different time periods, places, and styles if the overall look is great.

The Secret to finding Charity Shop Treasures

I’ve been in an awful lot of charity shops. There are good charity shops and there are bad charity shops. Well, charity shops aren’t inherently bad but if you’re looking for photographic props then you’re after particular things.

Charity shops will generally reflect the area that they’re in. Obviously it doesn’t usually make sense for charities to ship items all over the country (although there are some specialist charity shops for things like books or wedding dresses where this rule doesn’t apply).

One of my friends buys lots of black tie evening gowns for her job, and I know that she makes the trip up to Primrose Hill in London to visit the charity shops there. It’s (apparently) a mecca for last-season’s dress discards from the wealthy of North London.

So there’s a reason that I venture out into the Cotswolds when I want to hit up some charity shops. Although Chipping Norton and Stow on the Wold are within a thirty five minute drive from Banbury where I live, the kind of items that they get donated are vastly different.

Choose Items You Love

It’s really important to me that I create images that are authentic to myself and my sense of style. I want to attract clients that love what I do so that I can work with images that make me happy.

Almost every prop I own for styling natural product photography images I could place in my home and be happy looking at. Indeed, many of the vases get used regularly when I pick up fresh flowers!

On the subject of fresh flowers – they can be expensive. But Sunday afternoon I regularly get big bouquets of Tesco Finest flowers marked down to 75% off, and in my early twenties I learned that my local florist got deliveries on a Thursday morning, so Wednesday evening would practically give away their older stock.

Happy styling!


Once again I can’t say how much I love Station Mill Antiques. Go there and buy all your styling props!Or just have a lovely cup of tea in their cafe and take in some inspiration. And follow them on Facebook!

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  1. Pingback:Natural Light Product Photography Ideas — Charlie Moss

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