The Guide: Photo Styling Tips for Working at Home

I thought this was a great post to write because it’s taken me A YEAR to get organized in our new home. Plus, I live in a real house now and not a half apartment/half photography studio. These are my tips for organizing and keeping sane when you manage a small prop collection from your home. Most of my experience with props and surfaces is renting them for photo shoots. You get to walk into these huge prop shops and select what you need, and they’ll pack it up and send it to the studio for you. Easy right? Yes it is! Prop shops make everything super easy for shoots with a great prop budget, but if you are a blogger or coordinating a shoot on your own chances are, you don’t have a big budget or may not have prop shops right around the corner to source for your photo shoot. So you start collecting. Then the props are everywhere… I mean how many wooden cutting boards do you need? How many marble surfaces? It’s like prop-zombie take over of your home. Here’s how to live with it and not go crazy.

When we lived in our loft, it was no biggie. I was used of living in a half photo studio with our props everywhere and on a few shelves. We’ve lived upstate for about a year, and I’ve been working out of boxes, which is really unproductive and annoying. Talk about feeling out of sorts. We’re in the process of setting up a small shooting space for our blog on the third floor of our house, and the first thing I want to do is unpack my props. These will eventually land in a different room, so moving them shouldn’t be too painful when we’re farther along with the renovation of the space.

Here’s my tips and some pictures of our un-renovated third floor. (Don’t be scared, it will look great one day!)

Keep all your props in one or two areas, on shelves or visible in drawers for smaller items.

Consolidation is the magic word here. Make sure you can find props when you need them. I have stuff hidden all over the house and it’s so unproductive, it’s painful. I recently purchased a shelf and put all my props in one location. I lined my plates with felt to avoid chipping. Some of the plates I have are expensive, and delicate. If you have a serious monetary investment in your props, make sure you protect them by storing them correctly. Felt for lining plates was about $5 a yard, and each yard is enough for about 10 large plates.

HOB_PropRoom_shelves_RoomMy brand new shelf!

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Felt lined plates. I quickly hand cut circles to line between plates. 

Cover and store all surfaces when not in use.

Surfaces are a big investment. Pick up some cheap-o moving blankets, or even felt at the fabric store, to wrap and store your surfaces. We have some really delicate surfaces that use plaster and chip really easy. We use moving blankets if the surfaces are transported to a shoot. The felt tears too easily if you are transporting, go with the moving blankets for sure.

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Plastic bins with fabric organized by color. I Have a bin for light, dark, and pattern.

Keep all fabric in plastic bins and hang large items if possible.

I love plastic bins, and I sort by color. I drop a dime on fabric and keeping it clean and dry is critical. Make sure you spot clean after shoots (especially if food spilled on the fabric). If you can store your fabric on rolls, I think that’s ideal. But I imagine setting that up and the space required would be pretty hefty, and add up for the smaller pieces of fabric. I generally buy flats in 2 yard sizes. I’m ok with plastic crates, but make sure all your fabric is clean, dry and organized.

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Fabric in locking lid bins. 

We use plastic crates with locking lids for storage and transportation.

I like this very specific type of plastic bin that has a locking lid. These are a bit more expensive than bins with a non-locking lid, but well worth the investment if you travel often. I use plastic bins for transporting breakable props to a shoot. If you are short on shelf space, these are get to store props in and worked for me for a year. A shelf is ideal, but these crates are a close second.

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Packing paper ready to go in bins. 

Keep packing supplies handy if you travel a lot.

Sooo, funny little apartment dweller to house dweller story. I’m not used to having multiple floors to run up and down (our apartment was one floor), and we have three floors in the house. There is nothing more annoying than having to run down three flights of stairs for packing tape. I keep tape, bubble wrap, prepared packing paper and used and new newsprint available to pack for a shoot. I tear up and crumple news print in tiny pieces because it makes a pillow like cushion. You need a lot of this, so while you watch a TV show one night, start tearing and crumpling away. I never use newspaper because the ink rubs off and can stain delicate unglazed white pottery. I learned the hard way. I also store my newsprint flat, I never leave crumpled paper in a bin, I always flatten it out and stack it. The reason for the extra work? It’s so easy to miss a tiny glass or flat wear piece if you don’t unpack a crate properly. Be weary of crumpled paper, I stick to the torn paper, which is too small to wrap anything in.

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My favorite crates. 

Photograph all props with your phone and make an album if you can’t have them out on shelves.

If you are short on space and have props in a few locations, or packed in boxes, make an album on your phone and take a quick photo of everything you have. And I mean everything. Yup. If you use a lot of plates, be sure to hold up a ruler so you know the size of the plate for scale. White plates can start looking like a bunch of white plates if you don’t have anything for scale. iPhoto and Evernote are easy solutions.

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*We would love to know what you think about this new series and what questions you would like us to tackle for you. 

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March 10, 2015

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