Mad Props

Prop shopping can often be the most fun, or the most frustrating, part of food styling. Endless accessories to match any style are out there, waiting to be discovered; the thrill of the hunt can turn any outing into an impromptu prop acquisition mission. Though the food will always be the star of the show, it still needs strong supporting actors to complete the production, so it pays to have a sharp eye for design and for deals. Expenses are what prevent these searches from being carefree, as any blogger knows well. While those hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind serving pieces are obvious budget busters, it’s surprising to see how badly plain linens can eat through any allotted funds. Yes, I’m talking about fabric napkins, props that rarely get the attention they deserve. Adding pops of color while softening the scene, giving it motion with an effortless drape or order with a tight fold, napkins often pull the whole image together. Problem is, most napkins come in sets, because what normal person wants just one or two of a hundred little scraps of fabric? Rarely will more than two even fit on my set, not to mention the inflated price tag that comes with those matching bundles.

Thank goodness for online shopping. Current blog sponsor Dot and Army provides the perfect solution, packaging fun, whimsical fabric napkins in every color and design you can dream up, instantly giving you dozens of different ways to dress up your food photography. Don’t see a ready-made set that strikes your fancy? Custom packages are also possible. It’s like having your very own personal prop shopper who has impeccable taste!

Just imagine this image without either napkin in place. While they may be overlooked as a stylistic element by the average viewer, they add tons of color to this otherwise plain white background, while reinforcing the concept of a dainty tea party. All I had to do was explain my needs, and these two examples were part of the bundle I got from Jennifer, the talent behind this treasure trove.

This one is even less prominent, but take a gander at the vintage checkerboard napkin way in back. When I asked Jennifer to simply surprise me, this was one of the patterns she picked out, and it has already become an important part of numerous photos. Even if they aren’t the main focus of a shot, or even in focus, it’s those subtle touches that turn a fine photo into a memorable one.

Now, do I have a treat in store for all you budding and established food stylists… Jennifer has very generously offered to give away some of her fabric finds to one lucky reader! The winner can pick any 2 sets of 12 napkins, or choose a customized set to match their kitchen. Enter by commenting about your current favorite prop shop, be it local or online. For two extra entries, like Dot and Army’s facebook page and/or pin your favorite item from the shop on a Pinterest board. Be sure to come back and leave separate comments for each action you take if you want to make them count! You have until Wednesday, October 10th at midnight EST to get your entries in, so make haste and start commenting!

If you simply can’t wait to dive into all the goodies on display (and I sure don’t blame you) go ahead and add those treasures to your cart. When you checkout, enter the code “bittersweet” for a 20% discount on any orders (excluding custom orders.)

UPDATE: The random number generator has spoken, and the winner is…

Lucky commenter #52, Amy! Check your email for info about collecting your winnings, Amy, and enjoy your stylish new fabric napkins!

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82 thoughts on “Mad Props

  1. Wow! You are a photo magician- no wonder my food always looks drab! Course I’m not the best photographer anyway, props or not. You are inspirational though… and I have props from Ikea and Target that are looking better now! Those are probably my go-tos, along with the random local finds, but Dot & Amy’s stuff looks fantastic! A good start to making my food dreams come true!

  2. We always seem to come home from Ikea with several random pieces of kitchenware. The local thrift store near Chapel Hill, NC never seems to disappoint either! Love the Dot & Amy’s stuff!

    1. I live near Chapel Hill, NC, but I am new to the area. Can you please tell me the name of the thrift store that you like near Chapel Hill, NC?
      Thank you !!!

  3. I always scour thrift stores, because it’s so much easier to find solo napkins that way. But if I am shopping at a retail outlet, it’s generally this little locally owned homegoods store called Nest. They sell hand-sewn and printed napkins from independent vendors. If I am gonna splurge, I might as well support others!

  4. And…. I pinned the red vintage floral napkins. *drool*

    For the record, I rarely ever enter giveaways, much less go to the trouble to doing all the steps for extra entries. Thank you so much for posting this — I love all the ideas in the comments section, too!

  5. I’m on a tight budget so my prop shop is my closet at the moment. I don’t generally photograph food – but yarn and knitwear can have similar photo setting challenges so I find your photo pointers useful.

  6. oh my .. those are some gorgeous napkins! i need to win this! i usually shop for scrpas here and there or sometimes some napkins in the kitchen section of any store will catch my eye. i have so many single napkins.. that hubbs gets irritated when he cant find a set of 4 or 6 when we are hosting a dinner ;)

  7. I get many of my props from local thrift stores or goodwill….it’s amazing but true “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

  8. I absolutely need to get my hands on some real napkins! I’ve been using classic French striped dishcloths for a lot of my photography (such as it is…ha) but more options are always great. Plus, we’d definitely use them as actual napkins too! No unitaskers in our kitchen. :) My favorite prop shop is…Goodwill! Their glassware selection can be spectacular. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  9. Another lovely post! Although budget is certainly a concern, my favorite prop shops will always be my local thrift stores, which means that kitchen/blog-stuff storage is sometimes even more of a problem than budget– yes, I’m even having storage issues with my growing pile of napkins and blog-background placemats. That said, I’d still love to win this giveaway : )

  10. Great pointers! And I LOVE that Dot & Army are San Diego-based, too, since that’s my hometown. I’m definitely going to check out their Etsy shop and support a local business.

  11. I am definitely going on a prop shopping spree now! Thanks so much for introducing me to this great shop! Usually I go prop shopping at little odds and ends stores…often they have good prices on random props.

  12. Wow, all of their napkins are so cute! Even though I don’t have room for the ones that I have, I can always use more! My favorite places to shop for props is at a local thrift store, anthro, or west elm.

  13. I don’t even know of a single prop shop! Can I say my parents’ house? That’s where I’ve found most of my props for blogging… ;)

  14. Oh wow! Those are gorgeous! I’m just starting to get into props. So far, I’ve liked what I’ve found at World Market and at a thrift shop.

  15. They are beautiful! Thank you for sharing the site. I am currently using flea markets in my area for prop shopping but great fabrics are still alluding me. Thanks Hannah!

  16. I love the napkins. I just built myself a lightbox. SO far all go my props have come from Target. Would love to branch out.

  17. The right props totally makes the image, love the blue one! I don’t go out of my way to shop for props but if I ever see anything that would make a good prop that’s reasonable priced – it’s mine. :-)

  18. I love coming to your blog Hanna, I always learn something new. I usually look for props in stores in the old part of Amman. There are little stores that are full of plates and props of every kind,vintage and new and I could spend a fortune there if I had one lol

  19. New to food photography I am; but I just discovered a once/week treasure trove for props: a little church thrift shop in an upscale Neighbourhood nearby. It’s AMAZING, and everything is literally under $5 – all donations from the mostly elderly and wealthy congregation. Id love some gorgeous fabrics though, not much of those around!

  20. This sounds crazy, but my favorite place to go is Home Goods! They have random awesome finds and everything is usually really high quality. From bags of organic white chia seeds to pretty napkins and utensils. I even found a flower shaped vegetable cutter for 1.99! I always find hidden treasures that I didn’t even know I was looking for.

  21. Ah yes prop shopping… That must seriously be one of my favorite addictions.. The problem with prop shopping is that before you know it, you are prop shopping all the time! There is a little treasure to be found around every corner… Love the sound of Dot & Army! Checking them out now!

  22. Looks like they have some beautiful stuff, thanks for this awesome giveaway! My current favorite prop is simply the wood board I’ve painted to look like a table top :)

  23. Finally working on my first cookbook that will include photos (after 2 without) so I feel your pain. I actually went prop shopping today. I think it’s fun but what a learning curve. You never know when you will need an obscure piece of fabric or plate. Hannah, where/how do you store all your props? I have been keeping mine in a cupboard just for my cookbook/blog. I never eat my dinner from those plates, LOL

    1. Good luck- Once you start collecting, you can’t stop! My prop collection has pretty much taken over the lower floor of the house… I store them in the kitchen, a walk-in closet, a hallway, and half of a second (large) room. It’s a little bit out of control, and still I wouldn’t dream of slowing down! Can’t wait to see how those photos in your cookbook come out. :)

  24. It’s amazing how much a linen can make a huge difference in the overall styling. Love etsy for all the inspirations and props, of course ;)

  25. My favorite prop shop isn’t just one place. Garage sales are where I love to find one of a kind items that already have some story attached to it.

  26. I never win anything!! I am so excited they arrived the other day in the mail. Off to play with them and then post about them. Thanks for the contest.

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