Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting food photography & styling, curating a collection of props tailored to your style and niche can bring your work to new heights - but what's the first step of building a prop collection, how to avoid buying unnecessary items, and how to evaluate and refresh our collection from time to time?

In this blog post, my collaboration partners and I will provide you with valuable insights into the art of prop selection, sharing ways that will help you build a collection that reflects your unique aesthetic and enhances your storytelling abilities - beyong following the basic rule of "less is more".

If you are hungry to learn about another subjects, make sure to check the previous episodes of the Pro Tips blog series here.


What is their pro tip for curating their prop collection?

Before you scroll any further, get comfy, grab a bowl of fresh fruit to snack on and get ready to dive into this inspiring read!

Pro Tips For Curating A Prop Collection Flyer - Photo & Design by © Reka Csulak - Three Pod Studio

"Follow color theory."

Shiela Cruz - CPG photographer and stylist


"Don't buy all the crap, or if you do, sell it urgently! Find your style or your favorite color and try to focus on this during each shopping trip."

Anita Zsirmik - food blogger, content creator


"I have many many props in different boxes all around me when I take a picture. Anything that I can find in the forest or anything related to nature. I have everything and anything at hand and I always choose spontaneously when I`m doing the setting for the shoot. It´s like painting a new canvas, I don´t like to think too much about what I will be using ... I like to be spontaneous and see directly what works or not with the dish."

Sophie Depetris - photographer, food stylist


"I live in a relatively small space with a limited storage room, so I like to go through the props at least every few months to clean it up and declutter. It gives me an easy way to navigate the tight storage space and remove whatever I don't need anymore. Having a friend to lend each other props helps too!"

Anja Burgar - commercial and editorial food photographer


"Start small with the basics such as a couple of decent backdrops, neutral linens and plates/bowls and cutlery. As tempting as it is to get everything - don’t do it!"

Kristina Cadelina - food photographer, blogger


"Always have more options to choose from. The one prop you thought would work might not look that great in the image, so it is great to have other options. For actual props flea markets are a great place to find for example old utensils etc that has some kind of patina."

Mikkel Jul Hvilshøj - photographer


"Recycle, put some of it away for 6 months or so and recycle the stuff to get variation."

Mika Levälampi - photographer


"Prioritize props that can be versatile across various types of food and photography styles. Look for items that can be adapted to different themes, seasons, and color palettes. Versatile props offer more creative possibilities and can be used in a variety of scenarios."

Melissa - photographer, blogger


"Keep your eyes open wherever you go! Don't use the same thing too many times."

Jason Wain - photographer, videographer


Photo by © Jason Wain

Photo by © Jason Wain

"Have the basics: white, grey and black color items. Most important, and afterwards you can start gathering more special items."

Kamile Kave - photographer


" Choose props that have a timeless quality, so you don't have to frequently replace them with new ones."

Sari Spåra - entrepreneur, food and wine photographer, recipe creator


"A key tip for curating a prop collection is to start by acquiring all the basic items. Then, remain curious and spontaneous, adding to your collection even when you don't have a specific idea for how to use a prop. This approach ensures you have a diverse range of items that can inspire creativity in your photography."

Peggy Cormary - photographer


"Look for items that fit your style of photography. I mostly like to shoot bright and colourful images so I lean towards lighter colours both in surfaces and props."

Snorri Guðmundsson - photographer, recipe developer, product development manager in the food industry


"I wish I had some. All my props are everywhere around my home, stored in different boxes and cabinets. I don't have a room to dedicate to my photo work only, so I don't have many options. I bought them on different occasions, for different projects, in different styles. I stopped buying things just because I like them, or at least I want to think so. :) And If I can use them more than once will be great."

Milena Ugrinova (Mim) - food and product photographer

"Don't buy to much! I'm a prop collector addict, so I speak from experience. Buy some neutral coloured plates and stuff, and some beautiful glasses and decide over time what you really want and need. Invest in some good backdrops and buy them too big rather than too small."

Maaike Zaal - food- and beverage photographer


"Shop around and look for bargains. Drop into thrift/ charity shops whenever you pass them as they are the easiest and often cheapest way to pick up unique props."

Jane Coupland - food photographer, food blogger


"Show all. No two images should be similar. Be dynamic. Never show images on the same height. Vary hanging heights."

Matt Wilson - photographer


Photo by © Matt Wilson

Photo by © Matt Wilson

"I sort by colour."

Jules Wilson-Haines - photographer, stylist


"I'm a bit of a magpie, I love wandering around charity shops for beautiful finds. When I find an item, I'll ask myself, do I need it, have I something similar (if so I'll only keep one of them), and what can I use it alongside?"

Sandy Wood - photographer


"Try to collect matching neutral, muted, matt props. Except if you have endless space - then I envy you :)"

Andrea Köver - food photographer


Photo by © Andrea Köver

Photo by © Andrea Köver

"Having basic props, made of quality materials. They can be used and photographed endlessly."

Anna Ilieva-Alikaj - photographer


"Get basics when you start or even better - learn to work with what you have around you. It’s a lesson in its own right. Once you start developing your personal style, buy selectively to reflect it. Take your time and curate, curate, curate. And remember, once you go big, you can always rent any specific props or hire a stylist."

Natalia Ashton - nutritionist, photographer, author


"I do have props. But I stopped purchasing them a few months back. The main reason is that i shoot mostly at restaurants on site. So usually I have the decorations of the locations. But that doesn't mean that I went prop crazy at one point. I have a bedroom full of props that I never use.So my suggestion is that you should buy props for projects, and not just to buy props because they're cool. It can get addicting, expensive, and takes up a lot of room."

Robert Alvarez - photographer


"Colour! I group everything by colour. I also keep my linen altogether in one basket as I often have trouble deciding which material I want to use so being able to grab what I need is helpful."

Leeanne Mason - food photographer, photo chef, food stylist, content creator


Photo by © Leeanne Mason

Photo by © Leeanne Mason

"Props play a big role in your pictures and its crucial to your style. Props shape your style! As time goes, I come to realise my style and thats how I select my props for my shoot."

Victor Chin - food photographer


Photo by © Victor Chin

Photo by © Victor Chin

"Don't buy sets of cutlery/glassware - it's not worth the money. Aim to look in charity shops or flea markets."

Emilie Dorange - photographer, designer


"It's somewhat similar to my closet. I have to weed out the pieces that 'do not talk to me,' the ones I never reach for. Those need to go to make space for 'new' ones."

Kata Endrődi - photographer


Photo by © Kata Endrődi

Photo by © Kata Endrődi

"When you are purchasing a new prop, make sure that it doesn’t only have one use. Can you use it in different seasons? Can you use it in different styles? Can you post an image with that prop two days in a row without the prop getting all the attention? These are all the questions I ask myself when buying props."

Julia Konovalova - food photographer, food stylist, content creator


"Stay up to date, follow the new trends and get rid of old stuff, just taking space. My old studio was completely overcrowded by stuff coz I was keeping everything, as it might be good for something in the future and I never used them again. Nowadays, most of the times I just buy specifically the items I need for the particular photoshoot and I return them after. If there is something I cannot return I charge it of client then keeping it for a bit then get rid of it. Also I have got this "3 times rule", if I use something 3 times I keep it, coz it means I like to use it and likely that I will use it in the future again."

Tibor Galamb - photographer, director


Photo by © Tibor Galamb

Photo by © Tibor Galamb

"I love making surfaces out of ordinary things. Like old wooden fence, scaffolding, corrugated metal samples anything I see textures, interest in unique patina really draws me in."

Mary Turner - commercial food photographer, stylist, chef


"Choose props that you can see yourself using more than once. Focus on quality over quantity and choose matte, neutral pieces that are versatile and fit your style and niche."

Emily Miller - food photographer, recipe developer

@resplendentkitchen +

"Don’t overbuy. Look at what you have and create a list of what you’d like to add to your prop collection. Whenever you’re shooting, if you find yourself thinking, “I wish I had [insert prop]” take note of that. You can even populate your list with screenshots of the props you’d like to acquire. Gradually, as you develop your style you might realize certain props don’t even fit the aesthetic you like to create so you might remove them from your prop list."

Murielle Banackissa - food photographer, food stylist, cookbook author and blogger

@muriellebanackissa + Savoring

Photo by © Murielle Banackissa

Photo by © Murielle Banackissa

"Less is more."

Sanja Alisic - blogger, food stylist


"Shapes, forms, different cultures."

Nicolas Newmark - professional photographer

@thedarkfoodshot + @newmark_photo

"Thrift shopping is my favorite activity for curate my props collection, go with neutral colors, and natural textures, don't spend too much money on one single piece, my rule is: if it can break, and it's more than $10 I won't buy it."

Karen Loza - food photographer and stylist


"Keep an eye on a good basic collection with simple plates which let the food be the star of the show."

Lara Virkus - food photographer


"Try to build a base for your props collection. Things that works well together. Handmade ceramics is really beautiful in photographs and I prefer when they're not to shiny. I love bold colours but photographing food on a very colourful plate or a plate with a distinct pattern often makes the food disappears. Don't use to big bowls and plates, everything looks bigger in the photograph."

Ulrica Krii - photographer, blogger


Photo by © Ulrica Krii

Photo by © Ulrica Krii

"My props are selected on versatility and therefore they are quite neutral. No bold colours or busy patterns (depending on your personal style of course). So the food is the hero en never the props itself. And I have a wide range of colours; from white to black so I have something for every mood, story or season. They are also mostly matt finished so I don't have to much unwanted reflections. When buying props, do buy 2 or 3 pieces of the same plate or bowl. This will sometimes be very useful to build up a nice composition instead of just one."

Anoeska Vermeij - photographer


Photo by © Anoeska Vermeij

Photo by © Anoeska Vermeij

"Hire a prop stylist instead and focus your investment in your photography equipment. Having a prop stylist keeps your space tidy and invites another professional with tons of skills and experience to provide input on set. That's priceless (though they'll still charge you 😉 ). Investing in a storage unit is overhead you don't want to have to cover, so if you are intent on making your own prop collection NEVER buy anything you don't immediately need and always keep an inventory with photos and receipts so you know what you have. Also regularly purge your props, trends change quickly, no sense in paying rent on something you won't use."

Suzanne Clements - photographer


"As much fun as colors are, neutral props will always be in style. Out of the 100+ napkins I own, the same dozen neutral napkins get used most."

Joanie Simon - photographer


"I would say having a prop collection of things that appeal to your personal taste and look and feel is a must. Also shopping at local second-hand shops can lead to some pretty great finds!"

Aline Ponce & Mike Hulswit - professional photographers


"Be patient. It takes time to build a prop collection. Visit the local flee markets, antique shops. Avoid props with a lot of patterns, because their use is quite limited. Try to collect props with natural colours and minimalistic design, so you can use them in different images. Avoid shiny surfaces, instead buy matt glazings."

Susi Bálint - stylist, photographer, writer


"The first is to find your style or choose which style you have to take the photos. Then you can buy the props. White pops is very good to start. But be careful, there are a lot of types of white colours. Always choose which is in harmony with your cakes, cookies or pies... etc."

Emese Balog - food blogger


"Thoughtfully select and collect props that align with your unique style of photography. While props can enhance the visual appeal of your portfolio, it's important to be selective to avoid clutter and maintain a cohesive aesthetic. Consider purchasing props from cost-effective sources, such as thrift stores, and explore the option of donating them after use. This approach not only keeps costs manageable but also contributes to sustainability."

Maxine Lock - photographer

Photo by © Maxine Lock

Photo by © Maxine Lock

"Be practical with your ceramics - a few neutral pieces will get you much further than something exciting that only fits a few dishes/looks."

Sam Robson - food photographer


"Avoid shiny props if possible. Reflections distract from the food and can be difficult to remove in post-processing. Matt ceramics and vintage cutlery that has lost its shine work well."

Birgit Mayled - photographer


"Keep gathering and also keep moving things along and get rid of things too so you don't get too stuck."

Dorothy Porker - food writer, photographer


"Everything is not a prop. Everything will not look good in a food photo. Do not buy props that you think might look good in a photo. Buy props that you've wanted to use multiple times but did not have on hand. Don't buy props to create a collection, buy props to fill the gap in your collection."

Dyutima Jha - food photographer, food stylist, podcaster


"I really don't have many props, to be honest, most of the time I shoot on location, so they have all the stuff there."

Maurizio Previti - photographer


"It's difficult for me to answer this question, considering that for the last two years, being temporarily in Romania, all my props fit into a large supermarket bag. I almost never buy new props as there is no place to store them now, and bringing them back home also seems to be a challenge. Shooting when props are scarce is difficult but realistic."

Halyna Vitiuk - food photographer


"When building your prop collection, it's beneficial to focus on items like small plates bowls, cups, glasses, or cutlery that exhibit unique textures. Ask yourself if each prop aligns with your style and serves a purpose in your work. I recommend avoiding overly shiny props, as they can pose challenges during photography. This strategy ensures a thoughtfully curated collection that enhances the visual appeal of your work."

Alessandra Zanotti - food photographer, food stylist


Photo by © Alessandra Zanotti

Photo by © Alessandra Zanotti

"Choose your props wisely and in line with your photography style."

Elisa Marina Orani - food photographer


"My collection is too small."

Mihails Pavlenko - food and product photographer


"I go with neutral shades and with black colored props. No set rule, but I go for circular props and lighter linens."

Shwetha Elaina - food photographer and stylist


"Do not try yo buy everything at once, you are not gonna use all at once anyways so start collecting the most important once first for example few plates and glass wear in plain or neutral colors - avoid glossy or shiny props as it will be distracting and will be reflective to light. Build the prop collection according to your style, if you are someone who shoots lifestyle / high end dining photography start collecting the props that matches to that style Try to improvise, sometimes you can find so many things from nature that you can use as props and sometimes you can use same props in multiple ways, you just have to be little creative."

Anjala Fernando - food photographer, food stylist


"I kept collecting props as and when the need arose. I used to check for sale and offers and bought accordingly. Prop collection needs to have a combination of everything. I have a separate collection for rustic shots, white and bright shots, dark props, wooden props, brass and copper for traditional Indian food scenes."

Gouthami Yuvarajan - food and product photographer


"Look for more versatile items, like ones with neutral colours and tones. Also look for smaller plates and cutlery. Putting food on smaller plates can make it look more abundant. But also be on the lookout for any really unique pieces!"

Felicia Chuo - photographer



  1. Always have a few basic matte plates in different sizes and shapes.
  2. Several wooden elements including cutting boards in different stains, sizes and shapes.
  3. A few statement items, like etched glass, patterned service pieces, bold colors etc."

Anisa - photographer, recipe developer


"Choose accessories for specific sessions. This makes it easier to determine later what we are missing and what we have in excess."

Monika Grudzińska - photographer, food stylist


"I loooove the props. When I started to photograph food, I bought the props I liked (with patters and really colorful), but then I realized, it is better (at least for me) to use more neutral colors and not too shiny ceramics. So for sure, it depends on your style. I am going lately in two directions.

  1. I like to be more sustainable, so I really think if I need new props and I try to use what I have at home already;
  2. if I buy new props, I am looking for neutral colors which are usable for different occasions and also I buy more pieces (as I like to make also the wider table scenes, it is better to have collection of same plates of same style)."

Alena Prichystalova - photographer, blogger


"Don’t buy random stuff only because it’s cute. Also, pay attention to sizes. The camera sees differently and it might be hard to style a dish on a huge plate. Small is usually better."

Veera Rusanen - photographer


"Buy the props that matches your style. For example, I like to use vintage props in my Indian dishes so I am constantly in look out for those old, vintage pots and pans and plates. At the same time, I like to take pics are modern and contemporary. So buy the props that matches your style."

Sangita Bhavsar - food blogger, photographer, stylist


"Find special props to use at thrift shops for example."

Massiel Zadeh Habchi - food photographer and stylist


"Props are definitely a question of style. It depends on what you shoot. A rustic pasta dish like in an osteria or a vegan smoothie bowl. A mixture of neutral-colored props and a few colorful, unusual props are a good basis to start with."

Carolin Strothe - professional photographer, food stylist, stylist, art director, author


"Sometimes less is more. When I buy some props I always ask myself:

  • Is it something I’ll use easily ?
  • Is the size convenient ?
  • Do I already have something similar?

Also, I always pay attention to 2 main things:

  • the finish of the enamel, whether it is matte or not,
  • and the size. I always favor small pieces.

Most of my props have neutral colors and can be easily used in most of my work."

Constance Ibañez - food stylist, food photographer, food event creator


Photo by © Constance Ibañez

Photo by © Constance Ibañez

"Focusing on colour schemes and textures is a powerful duo to build a prop collection that works for you for a long time and for different projects."

Saara - photographer


"Neutral colored plates/ bowls and linens are always a safe choice. Smaller is better in this case, as you’ll always need more ingredients to fill the plates/ bowls than you think you’ll need. Shallow bowls are ideal for soups as it shows the ingredients beautifully .When picking the props, too much textures/ loud colours can compete with the hero ingredients so be mindful as you want the props to support your story, and not outstage it!"

M. Aimee Tan - food photographer, videographer, stylist, content creator, recipe developer


"Have a variety of styles on hand, some modern, some vintage - it helps to have options when clients have different visions."

Lauren Short - food photographer


"Wash everything by hand and make sure that the props are stored in a closed cupboard."

Marika Cucuzza - food photographer, content creator, recipe developer, food stylist


"Consider your style (more modern, more rustic…) and buy accordingly. Consider also if you’ll use that prop often or you just “like it”. Sometimes you really like something but maybe you’re not gonna use it enough and it would be a “waste”."

Roberta Dall’Alba - photographer


"A lot depends on a good accessory. During purchasing and building my toolbox, I try to make sure to have a big variety of colors, shapes and style. I love to use unique things during my photoshoots – for example I have a handmade ceramic set that really brighten up my pictures."

Liliána Tóth - food photographer


Photo © Liliána Tóth

Photo © Liliána Tóth

"To start with, I recommend sticking to a natural and neutral colour palette such as white, beige, grey, natural woods and natural fabrics such as linen. In terms of textures, I recommend matte props with an interesting surface that does not cause glare. Starting with such a base makes it very easy to build scenes and brings out the natural beauty of the food."

Katarzyna Anders - food and product photographer and stylist, recipe developer, content creator, blogger


"Make sure you have enough space for it before you buy it! I'm currently battling some spacial issues since my prop storage room is getting a bit insufficient for my needs. I think it's time to say goodbye to some older props I don't really use anymore. This is the hard part though, as prop shopping and especially when I travel, is one of the highlights of this career for me. :) In general, I'd recommend to start slow, with a few neutral pieces, and as you're developing your style over time and seeing what type of work you like to create, what color schemes you seem to enjoy leaning into, adding new and more interesting pieces indefinitely. A few unique ones are enough as those tend to take too much attention away from the subject."

Andrea Gralow - professional commercial and editorial food photographer, videographer


"Honestly I don't think there's any pro tip here. Props are something you invest over a period of time. There's no such thing called too much props. Pro tip here would be keep collecting props you may never know when you will need them."

Indrajeet Nishad - food photographer and stylist


"Keep it organized! I personally am very far from a "pro" on this matter..."

Jella Bertell - food blogger, photographer


"Curate your food prop collection thoughtfully by selecting versatile items that complement various dishes. Opt for timeless pieces with different textures and colors to add variety. Keep an eye on scale and proportion, ensuring your props enhance the presentation without overpowering the food."

Anna Janecka - photographer, food stylist


"Choose props that can work across a variety of styles and themes. Opt for neutral colors, timeless patterns, and classic textures like ceramic, stoneware and marble. This ensures that your props remain relevant and can be used in different settings, giving you more flexibility in your creative choices. Be sure to pay attention to the size and scale of your props in relation to the food or subject you're photographing. Props should complement the main focus rather than overwhelm it."

Darina Kopcok - food photographer, educator


Photo by © Darina Kopcok

Photo by © Darina Kopcok

"It comes with time and I think some bad purchases is impossible to skip. Start slowly growing the collection. Pay attention what props you like the most while looking at photos of other creatives that you like. Anyway, it helps to walk around the world with open mind and open eyes. Your candle holder with some plate can be a great cake stand. An old book can be a great backdrop. And a flea market is a great source for adding props with a soul to your prop collection."

Mojca Klepec - food photographer


"Regularly reviewing your props is a smart practice. If you come across items that haven't been used in over a year, it's likely they won't be used in the future. Consider to declutter them from your collection. When acquiring new props, avoid random purchases without a clear purpose. Instead, think about how they complement your existing collection. If you need something for a specific shoot and are unsure about its long-term use, consider borrowing from friends, family, or fellow photographers. This not only saves money but also helps you maintain a more efficient and organized storage space."

Melinda Bernáth - food photographer



I prioritize high-quality piece that are versatile. I try to select props that can be used in various contexts and complement each other harmoniously. I invest in timeless pieces, but I'm also open to unique finds that can add character to my setups."

Anita Zivkovic - food photographer, photography coach


Photo by © Anita Zivkovic

Photo by © Anita Zivkovic

"I regularly organize my prop collection according to color and texture on open shelves in my work space. This serves as inspiration and a reminder of what I need and do not need when shopping for vintage materials and dishware, which are my preference."

Terri Salminen - blogger, food culture researcher


"Use DIY props instead."

Harsha Sipani - commercial photographer


"Don’t hoard! Seriously- it sounds counter-intuitive but make sure you think twice and thrice before adding props to your collection."

Yashaswita - photographer


"I really like the color sorted prop room, but usually you still need like all cutting boards in one place etc. Guess most prop rooms look the same – glasses in on isle etc."

David Pahmp - commercial advertising photographer


"Use neutral coloured props such as cream, light grey so that the main focus becomes on the food not props."

Dina Hassan - food photographer, videographer


Photo & BTS by © Dina Hassan

Photo & BTS by © Dina Hassan

"I wish I knew at the beginning that props should be bought thinking carefully about the shape, texture and and colour to fit my photography style and more importantly, to compliment the food I capture. I have bought so many beautiful props but they turned out that they would never work in my photographs. It’s very important to have sets, not just one white plate and the rest of white.and of course they would go nicely together. And sometimes less is the key, if you are in doubt, remember to let the food be the star of the frame."

Monika Jonaite - food- and product photographer, food stylist, recipe developer


"I have an extensive prop collection with multiple hundreds of items. Many props are designed by me in order to provide uniqueness to my projects. I store them by category and have a system in place to keep things in order and make it easy to oversee and pick items for each project. "

Reka Csulak - photographer, mentor


Photo by © Reka Csulak

Photo by © Reka Csulak