First things first…when you build a prop stash, you need to make sure you shop like a stylist. Pick props that are basic as well as pick props that are unique. You should have a complete color wheel of fabrics and napkins to coordinate with plates and bowls of all sizes and colors. I keep buying white and natural napkins which I do not need! Don’t be like me! Shop for what you don’t have, and when you see napkins to add to your collection, grab them. My message here is don’t keep buying the same napkins (or props) over and over again.
The numero uno rule of being a professional stylist is to be efficient and organized. Once you start to seriously collect your prop inventory, you will find that storage is key. It’s important that everything is easy to access and most important is that you see everything displayed clearly. Pay attention to this tip!
*(I will never forget looking into an (ex) assistant’s van and seeing everything thrown into the back and all over the backseat like it was garbage, when in fact they were gorgeous props. Message here? Be organized…even in the backseat of your van, treat every prop like it’s a treasure, because it is!)
Utilize amazing storage! Having a great place to pull from when you need accessories to style a room or to prop a recipe is key. I use metro fixtures which are available online or from The Container Store. They are sturdy and affordable. I also use vintage bakers racks. As long as you have a centralized location for your prop stash, you’re in business.
For example: here is a great collection of unique props. Store them all together, in a safe location on your shelves. Here’s another tip: use them a couple of times and then trade them with another stylist or antique dealer. I keep the ones that are so special I will never come across them again and rent them to other stylists. Having a unique vintage scale is a must, old pitchers, and a stash of vintage bake goods. Store these items together. When thinking about organizing, store like with like. In other words, I store all my galvanized props together, and plates stacked by color and size. Think like a retail store and create color stories and stories by material.
For storing fabric: I think airtight see-through boxes are an easy solution. I stack the boxes on shelves and they are organized by color. Because I can see through the boxes I know which color napkins to pull down for a shoot. (*Remember to air them out regularly to prevent mold and mildew and wash them after every use.) A dresser will work as well for this kind of storage just make sure to colorize your napkins and tablecloths and remnants.
Here’s how I organize my prop stash: I have shelves in my garage, and I merchandise my shelves neatly by color and material. I also purge regularly. Just like styling a photograph, it’s important to edit your props as well. I try not to use a prop more than twice, you’d be surprised how many people notice when you use the same prop over and over again. You don’t want to be that photo stylist; you’re a pro.
My prop room looks like this:
I store all my flatware in a filing cabinet, with narrow drawers Like this one from the Container Store.
I like to store trays and surfaces stacked in a rack and store small things in jars and vases.
Remember you are spending lots of money on your things (even if you’re shopping flea markets… it adds up!), so take good care of your prop stash. Let me know if you have any organizational questions in the comments below, and I will be happy to answer them. Happy Shopping and Propping!
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