What to buy at a craft store to create your own customised photo props

Post by
Chrizelle Monique Sta. Cruz
What to buy at a craft store to create your own customised photo props

One of the biggest challenges in conceptualising product photography projects is how to achieve premium looking visuals without spending a fortune on props and backdrops. Luckily with some clever workarounds you can still get a luxury look without having to restrict your creative vision!

Achieving professional-looking product imagery, without needing to spend a lot of money, simply requires a trip to your local craft store for materials to create custom-made props

Here are some ideas to get those creative ideas flowing for your next product shoot using 5 basic craft materials that are inexpensive and easy to customise.

1. Paper and cardboard

There are many ways you can incorporate coloured construction paper or card to achieve commercial effects in product photography. It might even be the holy grail of cheap and versatile materials for your next shoot! Here are some of our favourite ways to use it:

Monochrome layers

One of our favourite techniques is to create eye-leading angles by making use of the corners of the paper to draw attention to your subject. You can arrange layers of the same colour at different heights to create intriguing shapes and depth through shadow. For more paper styling ideas, you’ll love reading our top ways to achieve commercial photography effects using just paper.

Embrace the curves

When rolled, paper can have a beautiful curve that you can use to add interest to your image. These examples from Erica from @ferraronierica show us the impact that embracing your paper’s natural curves can have in both still life and flatlay style photography. The result is both effortless and sophisticated - we love the look of the natural paper texture as well.

Cut out some custom shapes

Getting crafty and cutting out paper shapes isn’t just for kids! It can be a fun, creative way of producing custom props for your next shoot. Paper is a simple way to build on a colour story and make unique props to add to your scene like in these examples created by Creatively Squared for Pure Paw Paw.

Fun product imagery by Creatively Squared
Flat lay product photo by Creatively Squared

Add some punch

This is a fun and impactful effect that you can create using paper. Start by cutting a small hole in your paper then tear sections outwards until you can fit your hand through. You may want to experiment with how you create the punched-through effect and leave the edges looking a little rough for added impact!

Drinks photography by Nikki from @revisededitionstyle
Product photo by @m3linda_lee

Create a fake window

Got a huge piece of cardboard? They can be the perfect prop to create a lifesize fake window like this amazing example by Anja Burgar from @useyournoodles. Simply lay out the window on the cardboard with a pencil and then cut them out using a cardboard cutter. Now you can use them to create dramatic shadows from a window side scene!

2. Foam balls and blocks

Whether you purchase them from the store, or repurpose leftover packaging materials, foam balls and blocks can have new life on a photoshoot and create imaginative and surreal visual effects.

Create surreal floating shapes

Polystyrene balls are a versatile medium to use when you want cheap, repetitive shapes as props on your shoot.  Check out the surreal floating effect created by Jemma (@styledbyjemma) who used an acrylic glass to give the appearance of balls floating in midair.

If you don't have a sheet of acrylic or glass on hand you can also try suspending balls or objects using sticks and just remove them afterward in post-production.

Make it more fun with foam balls

Have fun with your set design by incorporating foam balls. Take this image from Marissa (@marissaaldencreative) for example where she spray-painted different sizes of foam balls into the same colour palette as the product for a simple yet fun setup.

Bring some balance with blocks

Another way to create a unique and surreal effect is by using artfully arranged foam blocks. Watch how Ana Gubca from pulled off a fun balancing act for her product shoot. Her secret? Just pure Photoshop wizardry!

Float your ideas with floral foam

This malleable medium is useful for positioning and suspending items - upwards or down! In this example creator Izabela from @foto.dzungla has used it to help position the cap of her product to appear like it is levitating.

3. Craft ribbon

Ribbon is something many people would have on-hand at home already and has plenty of creative uses as a photography prop. In the first example below, Ruth from @r2productpixels created an architectural wave by taping a wire behind the ribbon and fixed it to her set using blu tack. Or you can simply give it a little stylish twirl like this image we produced for Lakme.


4. Fabric

Integrating fabric into your product shots or still life photography is another super simple way to add interest, texture and depth. You can even use clothing or linen from home such as bedsheets and tablecloths! In this example we swirled the fabric around the subject matter to create lines that lead your eyes right to the focal point.

For more creative ways to use fabric in product styling check out our blog 5 creative ways to use fabric in product photography

5. Gift Boxes

Don't have any specialised platforms or risers to use as props? No need to buy any - you can simply use an assortment of affordable cardboard gift boxes to customise instead. Simply purchase a selection of different shapes and sizes and paint them the perfect colour to complement your shoot!

See the full DIY process of Julian (@soy.mishi) here: Step up your product photography game with these resourceful DIY risers

Customise your creativity!

As you can see there are lots of arts and crafts materials that you can use as a prop to produce amazing photography effects on a budget. You'd only need creativity, imagination, and resourcefulness to achieve this.

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