TEN props to make beautiful instagram photos

One of the main reasons I love instagram, is that it allows me to practice styling. You see it quite often in magazines and blog editorials – stylists aren’t just limited to clothes.

I absolutely love adding props and creating little dioramas, collecting props and displaying them in a pretty way. A lot of photos you’ll see are staged and I guess some people may feel a little cheated at this. But just like makeup can enhance a face, adding extra bits to a scene can make that photo go from a good, to a great. I know a lot of artists have ‘prop boxes’. For me though, I just use what I have dotted around the house, but charity shops and car boot sales are a great place to look for ornaments and props that don’t break the bank. Here are ten ideas for how to style your photos.

1. Plants

Adding greenery is a great way to add extra colour and freshness into your photo. It adds an element of life and growth, as well as being pretty! Vases of fresh flowers or even just cacti and succulents, they add height and vibrance to a plain photo.

2. Drinks

I love adding a mug of tea or coffee to a shot, and it’s a great excuse for drinking an extra cuppa! This adds in a human element too – it reminds the viewer that there’s a person behind this photo and solidifies your brand as being personal. You don’t have to be limited to hot drinks either (though a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows definitely looks comforting!) Tall cups, beakers or glasses also look nice in the background of a shot – especially for that ‘lived in’ look.

3. Snacks

I feel like the inevitable comes after drink – food! Cake is always a beautiful thing, and when added to a photo it just makes the whole shot even more scrumptious! Obviously not all food looks appetising, but things like cookies, fruit and sweets add colour to your shot and won’t melt while you’re playing photographer!

4. Ornaments

This one is definitely one of my favourites! This is quite a broad category but a great way to add some of your personal style into your photos. Things such as book ends, photo frames, ceramics, patterned boxes, vases and candles look lovely in the background of a photo. I usually use these to dress an image that just needs something else – usually to enhance the main focus of what I’m trying to shoot, but have that soft focus interest in the background.

5. Your hands!

Just like the drinks, this definitely adds a human element to your photos. I like to do this now and then, because it shows I’m the creator behind the profile – and as someone who is a little camera shy, this is enough to show viewers I am there! I was in a twitter chat the other month and a couple of creators said that photos with hands showing results in more likes – so it’s definitely one to try if you haven’t already!


6. Notebooks and books

I really like this one to add some height into the background of an image. It’s good to have things on multiple levels, and books in the background add interest, colour and depth. I try to choose books that don’t have distracting covers, and often line them up with spines showing, or have them lying down in a stack. I also use plain covered notebooks behind a piece of paper, or have it lying open to show some of my scribbles and notes.

7. Stationery

Ahh, another fave! I’m sure we all have plenty of stationery lying around that can be added to a shot. I like to add this when shooting a desk scene, showing works in progress or behind the scenes. I often like to use media that have been used when creating the artwork, such as coloured pencils or tubes of paint places strategically to the edge. Pots of pens and pencils add colour, as do the many rolls of washi tape we all hoard. Mini binder clips and paperclips also add interest. You can also draw the viewer’s eye to your point of interest if you place it around the edge of the focal point.

photo styling props

8. Wallpaper samples

A bloggers secret staple – using wallpaper for backdrops! Don’t worry if you don’t have any pretty work surfaces – any grubby old table can be hidden using these. You can get lots of different wallpaper styles from DIY shops and many look like wood, brickwork or even lining paper if you’re after something plain. I like to use clean white surfaces for styling products, so I bought a white table top from Ikea that I grab whenever I need it and it can easily be placed by a window for good lighting. Plus, I don’t have to rearrange and clear my messy desk every time I want a photo!


9. Seasonal items

When Christmas comes around, I love adding in candy canes and baubles to style up my photos. You can also use love heart sweets (and heart shapes in general, of course) around Valentine’s day, seashells in the summer and crisp coloured leaves in the autumn.


10. Lighting

Not a prop but an essential element when photographing, is lighting. Just like a prop can add interest and emotion, so can lighting. A dark, moody photo can dramatically change the look of an image than a brightly lit one – even if the subject is the same. Harsh shadows can be used to your advantage if you’re after a sultry, mysterious photo. Though I tend to go for light and airy, instagrammers such as Sara from Me & Orla and Marte Marie Forsberg do this wonderfully.

It’s totally up to you and your personal choice as to how many props you want to add when styling photos. You can pair it back if you’d like your focal point to really stand out, or add lots of items if you’re showing a specific scene.

Is there anything I’ve missed off the list? I’m always in awe of the variety of photos you see on social media and how intuitive people can be when showing something off!