Essential items for your Prop Styling Toolkit

Whenever I go to style an image there are always bits and bobs that I reach for no matter what I’m styling. 

Of course there are a tonne of props which I keep handy when styling but this post isn’t really about props. It is more about the things you need to make sure that your props are straight, you capture the right angles of all your products and ensure you get a top quality image!

So now when I shoot an image I always take my Stylist Toolkit with my camera kit too. It’s been very handy because not only does it save you from running back and forwards and accidentally tripping over props or camera cords, but it also makes my styling process way more efficient! 

So here are my favourite things in my Stylist Toolkit at the moment:

1. Bluetack 

At Christmas I remember styling some glass baubles on a window sill. I had everything in place so I jumped behind my camera to take the shot. Seconds later, a bauble started to roll. Then smashed on the floor. Of course this caused an avalanche of baubles rolling onto the wooden floor. It looked like a glitter bomb had been set off with tiny shards of glass all over the floor. 

I had no one to blame but myself! I usually always have a stack of bluetack (and whitetac) around to avoid these kind of situations! Not only does bluetack help keep round items from rolling, but it also helps if you need to stick pages of a magazine together or picture up on a wall. There are bits of bluetak literally chilling all through my house in case of a bluetack emergency. Genius - couldn’t live without it! 


2. Fishing line

Are we going fishing? Well no - but there is a catch! 

Fishing line saves the day when you are hanging things from the ceiling. For example, I have a hanging plant next to my desk which loves to swing around at the slightest mention of a breeze. This isn’t great when you want the ‘nice side’ of the plant to be in the photo or when you are taking shots with slow shutter speeds (it gets blurry!). I’ve also worked with baby mobiles and paper pom poms that also drive me crazy when they don’t stay still.

But don’t despair. You can tie the fishing line to the moving object and then tie it or tape it to the wall or an object close by. This ensures the object doesn’t move and you can’t see the fishing line either. Magic!


3. Sticky hooks

Without sounding like a engineer, I think sticky hooks are a revelation to the hanging world! 

I always have a box of sticky hooks close by when I’m ready to move my prints around the house. They are also great for prop styling on sets when you have fake walls or need to have a piece of art or a hanging plant to help fill the frame of an image. You just pull down the strip down and the hook comes straight off the wall. That means no need for drills and putty to patch holes. Hallelujah!


4. Rulers

If you have OCD then you’ve probably already got a ruler in your styling Toolkit. I use rulers to help me line up my props to make sure they sit in a nice straight row. It drives me to distraction when I take a photo and I can see something that is slightly off kilter!

If you want to get super serious then a t-square can help you line up your flatlay to your backdrop. I haven’t crept into this territory yet but I’m sure there are definitely benefits of using one!


5. Bull Clips

If you look at a lot of my photos you will see I use bull-clips all the time. But not ugly bull-clips… pretty gold ones of course! 

My gold bull clips help to keep pages of magazines and books open (often with a little bluetak too!) without looking like an eye-sore.


6. A-Clamps

A-clamps are the uglier but more heavy duty version of bull-clips. You can use them to hold backdrops up, clamp backdrops down and hold reflectors upright. They also have flat clamps so they don’t damage the items you clamp and can also sit flat so they helpful when you need to balance cardboard backdrops. 


6. Background

Hmm… I couldn’t decide if a backdrop was actually a prop or part of your toolkit. Having said that, I’ve included them because there have been so many times where I have turned up to a styling job or a studio where there are no surfaces suitable to act as a backdrop. So now I always take backdrops with me wherever I go to style just in case. 

Katie from @katiejanestylist wrote a fabulous blog post on using backdrops to change the aesthetic of your image which you can read here - Back in Focus - How to use backdrops to change the aesthetic of your flatlay 


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7. Cleaning Supplies

A steam iron to a fashion stylist is what some micro-fibre cloth is to a prop stylist! 

There have been so many times where I have pulled out a prop, taken a photo and then realised when I’ve come to process if that there is dust ALL over it! Bigger specks can be removed in photoshop but oh my word it does take a huge amount of effort and time! 

Style your pic and then wipe down and dust all your props before you take your final picture. I usually style first then clean second because inevitably while I’m styling there are fingers prints going on everything. 

Without sounding like Martha Stewart, here are some of my favourite cleaning items: 

  • Micro-fibre cloth for screens only for cleaning screens (you shouldn’t use anycleaning products with these as they can remove the anti-glare coating)
  • Dust cloths. A revolution in my life in general! Dust your product first and then if you need to, put some multi-purpose cleaner on it. Saves you from wiping dust back on forth!
  • Multi-purpose cleaner + micro-fibre cloth

8.  Washi Tape/ Sticky Tape

Washi tape almost gets me as excited as bluetack!

One day I had run out of sticky tape and so I resorted to washi tape. I found that it was much easier to peel off my props and walls and stuck just as well, if not better! 

The other great thing is that there are so many fun varieties of washi tape these days. So you can actually use it as a prop or a to stick up a picture on the wall without it looking ugly (I’m looking at your sticky tape). 


So they are some of my favourite bits and bobs in my Styling Toolkit. Hope they were helpful in building your toolkit. If you have something you love in your toolkit please do let me know! 

Jinny (@theurbanquarters)

Website: theurbanquarters.com

 

Further reading: 

  1.  Essential items for a food-bloggers toolkit - Dummies
  2. What’s in a Prop Stylist’s Set Kit? You'll Be Surprised - My Domaine
  3. Lessons in Styling, Styling Kits by Annette Joseph
  4. Back in focus: How to use backdrops to change the aesthetic of your flatlay - Creatively Squared