15 clever ways that everyday household items can help you produce more creative photographs

Post by
Chrizelle Monique Sta. Cruz
15 clever ways that everyday household items can help you produce more creative photographs

Next time you feel like getting creative on a photoshoot simply look around your home for inspiration or items that can help create atmospheric effects. Who would’ve thought that many tools for creating incredible images were already right under your nose!

Many everyday household items can be cleverly repurposed into a photography tool or prop. All it takes is a little creativity and imagination to see the potential of your basic possessions!

Sometimes resourcefulness is borne out of necessity (photography equipment and accessories don’t come cheap after all!) and clever creators find workarounds and hacks to create using items they already have on hand.

We've witnessed so many great ideas and ingenuity coming from our creator community that we've compiled all of our favourites into one post. You'll be amazed at the everyday items being put to work to create incredibly polished and professional imagery.

1. Add dramatic atmosphere using a steam iron

Want to add mood and atmosphere to your photo? Suddenly you'll be looking at your iron in a whole new light! Simply place your subject on a table and with an iron underneath to produce rising steam—and voila! You can make it extra dramatic by covering your light with a colour gel and setting up a backlit glow. For more details on how to achieve this effect you can see a quick tutorial by photographer Julia Wharington from @paddock2pixel

2. Create a rippling water texture with a hairdryer

There's no denying that water effects are a hot product photography trend right now. To create realistic looking water movement and ripples without making a mess you can simply blow the surface of using a hairdryer. To master this technique for your next shoot check out the behind-the-scene video from creator Karen Baker (@karenbakercreative)

3. Use a hairdryer for a natural breezy portrait

The humble hairdryer has multiple uses on a photography shoot. Another way to implement this handy household item is to use it to add interest and movement into your portraits. As you can see in this behind the scenes video from photographer Khushboo Soni from @mother.of.reinvention, blowing the hairdryer in different directions can create a glamorous wind effect.

4. Create fun video transitions with a Swiffer mop

Have a Swiffer mop at home? Thanks to its swivel head, they can make great low-budget stabilizers and fake drone effects too! There are a number of fun video transitions and creative shots you can conquer as demonstrated in this Instagram post by inspiring creator Karen X Cheng. Much more fun than just cleaning your floor don't you think?

5. Add shape and texture to a still life photo with a sponge

Creating an artistic still life photo doesn't require you to invest in expensive photography props. Basic kitchen items like this foam sponge can make an interesting textural prop like this photo from talented photographer and stylist Erica Ferraroni. You could also experiment with different styling techniques such as using a sponge as a riser or platform.

6. Style a colourful abstract composition using assorted household items

One fun thing about household cleaning items is that they usually come in an array of vibrant colours. Product photographer, art director, and stylist Nikki Astwood has demonstrated in this Insta post that even the most random things you can find at home can turn into something beautiful. Raid your pantries, drawers, laundry room, or even your child's room and grab any objects with matching colours. Then, you can start arranging and styling them in unique and creative ways.

7. Fake a hot steamy drink using an incense stick

When shooting hot drinks, capturing a fresh rising steam effect can be a challenge especially if you need to keep boiling water over, and over again. You can save yourself the trouble by implementing this workaround from inspiring photographer Khushboo Soni. Simply grab an incense stick, light it up and position it behind your glass to capture steamy tea that looks like it's freshly poured from the tea pot!


8. Grab some kitchen utensils to create interesting texture swatches

One of the most important techniques for skincare product photographers to master is the perfect textural swatch. Resourceful product photographer Blazenka Harvey watched what tools chefs use for artistic plating techniques and learned to raid the kitchen drawers to create smears and swipes of product. Watch how she uses kitchen utensils, such as a palette knife and spoon,  to create these beautiful textures in this Instagram post.

9. Create your own stair risers by repurposing a spice rack

Product photography props, such as geometric risers, can be expensive, luckily there is usually a cheaper substitute you can use instead. Product photographer Kate from @aestheticsocialsmedia showed us the potential in a basic kitchen item by creating her own stair riser using a spice rack. Kate spray painted the wood to white to make it more polished and versatile on set.

Want to know why white props give you the most mileage in set? Check out our handy tutorial to learn how to convert white items to any colour you need in Photoshop!

10. Fake a rippling underwater effect using a document tray

Water can absolutely make beautiful patterns and add some serious beachy vibes to your image. To achieve an underwater effect you'll need a glass baking dish from your kitchen or a transparent document tray from your office. Just put your product on a plain background and position the tray with water on an elevated position under sunlight so the shadow falls on the product.

11. Achieve a whimsical bokeh backdrop using aluminium foil

Ever wanted to achieve a bokehlicious and dazzling background in your photo? Here is a simple styling hack that you can do at home. Head to your kitchen and get a roll of aluminum foil and cut it to a decent size. Next, crumple it and stick the sheet on a wall or table. You can now let your camera do its magic by adjusting the focus while you hold your product in the foreground.

12. Get rid of reflective surfaces using packing materials

Taking photos of subjects with reflective surfaces can be frustrating. However you can use packing materials like card or styrofoam boards to tone down reflections and highlights. This simple tip by talented photographer Ruth Robinson shows that putting white styrofoam boards on each side of your subject can make a huge difference to your shot. Check out the before and after here.

13. Use a mirror to create a dreamy sunset without leaving the house

Ever wanted to harness the beauty of nature for a product shoot but the weather just didn't deliver? There's a simply way to capture the most brilliant sunset for your next product shoot without ever stepping foot outside. Simply placing a mirror onto your laptop allows you to project any background you like onto your product! Here's the full tutorial and handy video demonstration to see exactly how it's done.

14. Raid your pantry to add drama and atmosphere using flour

Bake some magic into your image by creating billowing plumes of flour. Talented creator Katya Ozler has shown us how to use a balloon pump and flour to create an incredible textured sky behind her subject. To see the full workflow behind creating this image you can see our detailed tutorial and be inspired to pump some flour-power into your next photoshoot!

15. Convert your hair conditioner into convincing fake ice cream

Photographing ice cream before it melts can be a real challenge! A simple solution is to make your own replica dessert that’s made to last on set. To create fake ice cream, simply mix cornstarch with hair conditioner until you achieve the right consistency. Once the texture feels right, add food colouring to create your desired colour. Finish it off by using a scoop to place it on a cone and add any decorations you like on top! Check out this hack by Katya Ozler.

Just remember that it doesn't take a collection of commercial equipment to create amazing photographs - if you need any more proof of this then you may enjoy our post Luxe for less: How we recreated premium commercial photography effects at home. Next time you want to get creative you now have 15 amazing resources in your very own home to draw inspiration from!

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