As you scroll through your Instagram feed, it can be overwhelming seeing all of the talent and beauty that photographers capture. How in the world to make your own photographs stand out in that big sea of imagery?

I am here to tell you that you can! And you don’t have to break the bank to do it! All you need is your camera, a willing subject (your kids are a great option), a little imagination, and a few simple props. 

These five props are items that can be found in every home, backyard, or big box store. With just a little preparation, you will be creating styled portraits that shine!


A literal blank canvas, paper can be used in countless ways. Inexpensive and extraordinarily accessible, this prop is one that I find myself using all the time in multiple applications.

Use paper for interesting backdrops. Paper can be used for creating clean backgrounds in any location. You can use wallpaper, gift wrap, or any large roll that will cover the area you need. Simply place your subject in front of it and marvel at the studio you have created right where you are.

In the photo above, I crumpled simple craft paper and created a beautifully textured background that adds visual interest to the portrait. Play with patterns and textures and see what results you can come up with!

Create three dimensional props with paper. Origami is fun, relaxing, and the results can be incredibly beautiful. Even better, simple origami takes only 3-5 min to fold and the paper is readily available and inexpensive. YouTube has countless videos where you can learn to fold flowers, birds, and just about anything else you can imagine from those little squares of paper.

Create interesting frames. You can create interesting framing elements in your photographs with simple cuts in paper. They add layers and geometry can act as playful props for your subject to interact with.

Plastic film

Plastic film has long been a favorite tool of photographers for the artistic touch it can add to photographs. Stretched over a lens or added to a light to diffuse it and/or add color, film is a versatile tool for special effects.

My personal favorite way to use film is to capture it in motion. When dancing, running, or spinning, the film flows in the air and catches reflections. Lighter than most fabrics, film will stay in the air longer allowing you to make numerous interesting shots in one movement.


Fabric can add texture, color, and movement to any photograph. Whether you hang it for a background, wrap it around your subject for clothing, or let it blow in the breeze, this is another versatile prop that has major visual impact.

In my experience, I have found that the more fabric the better. You don’t want any bare spots in the background or on your subject! Whether you go to the fabric store or use sheets or curtains, get more than you think you will need.

Tulle is a favorite among photographers for how easily it moves and how versatile it can be. However, other materials can be used with equally beautiful results.

Petals, feathers, and leaves

You can find one of my very favorite props right outside your own front door! Lightweight, colorful, and dainty, versatile feathers, leaves, and flowers are as perfect for fluttering through the air as they are adding texture to flat lays.

I like creating photos with atmosphere. So, I often use the “levitating objects” effect. This kind of photo magic immediately stops people in their tracks!

To achieve this effect, it is helpful to have a tripod, remote/timer, and an assistant while you shoot. And you will need some patience as it always takes a few tries to get it right. Take several shots every time you toss your petals, feathers, or leaves into the air to capture them as they drift down.

I love flat lays with feathers, leaves, and flowers. To add a special twist, I love to paint my leaves, flowers, and feathers a color that wouldn’t occur in nature. Just spray or brush a color onto your leaves, feathers, and flowers that works for your set-up and you have a unique prop that is customized for your flat lay.

Fiber filling

This is the fluffy material used for making pillows and stuffed toys. You can easily find it in most craft and sewing shops.

It’s the best material for making artificial clouds. It’s so fluffy and light that it looks like it can float right through the frame! Its shape is easy to change and mold into whatever forms you want for your scene.  And a bonus tip: you can get a colored hairspray to add color to your clouds or dye your holofiber with fabric dye for a deeper color effect.

Props can reinvigorate your photography but they don’t need to be terribly fancy or expensive. These five simple items can keep your creativity filled to the brim for ages! And the best part? your kids will LOVE taking pictures with these fanciful props. So get ready to have fun and create the photos of your dreams!