We all Start Somewhere

When I first began my newborn photography journey I remember being so overwhelmed with the initial cost of everything. I wanted to invest as much in education as possible which didn't leave a ton of wiggle room for props and gear. I've successfully built up quite the collection of props and a decent gear set up over the last two years. I'm going to share some of my favorite money saving hacks with you. I have far more wiggle room when it comes to investing money back in my business then I did two years ago but with two kids at home and the pandemic slowing things down I still try to stay mindful of what I'm spending. That being said by far the best choice I made that allowed me to invest in my business was raising my prices. One of the biggest mistakes I made was investing in props that I would never use. I highly recommend getting a feel for your style before purchasing a large amount of any type of prop. In the beginning less is more, a few simple colors that are interchangeable between genders are a great idea. Prior to even charging I did my fair share of model calls and for that I needed at least the basics. So lets get into it!

The Best Camera Is The One You Have

Truly the best camera is the one you have. I started my journey with a Nikon crop sensor and a 35mm and it got the job done. The equipment you use isn't nearly as important as how you use it. That being said I've had awesome luck with secondhand gear. My go to camera is a Nikon full frame I purchased secondhand from MPB with a low shutter count. It has been a superb camera, I paired that with a 35mm 1.8 from the same site and the set up works quite well in my small space. I've added other lenses as time passed but time and time again I find myself reaching for the 35. MPB grades their gear with ratings like excellent or like new. I've stuck to the like new rating and have yet to be disappointed. So if your in the market for a new body or piece of glass and you cant quite swing something brand new, I highly recommend checking out the selection on MPB. If you want to learn how to properly use the gear you have enough cannot be said for YouTube. It truly is jam packed with awesome videos to help you nail everything from exposure to focus. On top of that I highly recommend Kelly Brown's Getting it Right in Camera, its affordable and covers a lot of ground. My lighting set up from the start left a lot to be desired. I began with a set up of cheap Amazon constant lights. Overall they were not terrible though. I've saw people produce superb lighting using the exact same Amazon lights, again how you use them plays a huge role. I've since upgraded to a Godox setup but honestly I still have miles to go when it comes to flawless lighting. If all you've got is a pair of Amazon lights or a cheap OFC you can definitely make it work. Just do your homework and use them to their fullest capabilities.

A Simple Posing Set Up

I firmly believe a lot can be said for space saving alternatives to traditional beanbags. My space is small and I had to face the fact early on that fitting a full size posing bag into my space wasn't going to happen. I went with a mini all in one poser that folds away for storage from Etsy. It ran me around $100 minus the fill. When it came to filling the bag I hit up local thrift shops and Goodwills for old beanbags, then UPS for packing peanuts. Yes packing peanuts work as an alternative to pricier beanbag fill and they work quite well I might add. I cut open the old beanbags and used the fill for my bag then filled in the rest with the peanuts. It's the same set up I'm currently using and I have zero complaints. Traditional bean bags are far from the only way to go for posing. Many photographers have moved to dog bed set ups and even tables. You can grab a dog bed for around $45 add a few dollars worth of PVC for a frame and you have a solid posing set up. If you prefer something taller a folding table will do the trick. I've noticed people use these with and without PVC frames. Either way you go its a super affordable option. If you want to go super small I've saw a few photographers successfully pose on saucer chairs, while I haven't tried this myself I have witnessed them create stunning images on them. With the posing set up you'll need posing pillows. The possibilities here are endless. Rolled up cloth diapers or receiving blankets work quite nicely and are super affordable. If you want to step it up a notch fill a variety of different size socks with leftover beanbag fill and you'll have some great posers. I've included a photo of different posers I've used over time. The large ones are back pillows from Amazon and honestly they worked perfectly and were super affordable. The small pillows are super firm decorative pillows from Dollar General and I still find myself using those in buckets and bowls from time to time. My absolute favorite posing hack of all time? That honor goes to a piece of foam pipe insulation, yes I'm serious. The piece of foam has a slit already cut in the side and it slides perfectly onto the edge of buckets for a chin on hands pose or onto the back for a shot from above. I use it every session, I believe you can grab a long piece for a couple dollars, I found mine in the corner of my dads kitchen so I'm not completely sure. There's no need to spend a ton on a posing set up right out of the gate. For my first few model calls I used a toddler mattress in combination with rolled up towels. As long as the surface is firm and safe you can make a variety of things work.

Fabric, Fabric, and More Fabric

I'm going to let you in on a secret. To this day I can count on one hand how many posing fabrics I've bought from vendors. The fabrics I have bought from vendors are superb quality and I love them but posing fabric is a super easy place to save money when buying props. I find posing fabrics in a variety of different places and I have a ton I'll post a picture of my main stash below. Hobby Lobby, Michaels, JoAnn's and your local fabric store are all obvious places to look. The seasonal fabric section in all of these stores are amazing. You want to look for a 4 way stretch jersey or sweater knit material. Basically make sure it stretches vertically and horizontally, in my opinion the thicker the better. Don't forget to visit during sale week's or take advantage of their coupons. For my small posing bag I need around 2 yards, which I'll then cut 1/2 a yard off of for a matching wrap. A lot can be said for online fabric stores like fabric.com and stylish fabric as well. The absolute best place to score a bargain on stretchy fabric? The Wal-Mart discount fabric bin! A year ago I would have never recommended Wal-Mart for quality stretch fabrics but that all has changed. They stock a wide variety of different stretch materials in that section and sometimes the quality is superb. It's hit or miss for what they have stocked at any given time but sometimes you get super lucky. I scored three yards of a beautiful blue fabric there last week that may be one of the highest quality pieces I have. It's thick, stretchy and insanely soft best of all it was $3. This all obviously applies for wraps as well, if your only in need of a wrap just grab 1/2 a yard and you should be good. If your budget is tight and your in the market for posing fabric my best advice is to visit one of these places and find a couple white or cream fabrics. You cant go wrong with white or cream, its interchangeable between genders and timeless. I say a couple because if you plan to photograph baby without a diaper the likelihood of one getting soiled before you finish your shots is high.

Posing Fabrics Galore

Get Creative and Crafty

The number one way I was able to add to my prop collection from the beginning was by handmaking things myself. I tend to pick things up from vendors a little more frequently now but I still handmake a lot of the things I use. Prior to my interest in newborn photography I had no craft skills whatsoever. I now am a fully capable of knitting, crochet, needle felting and even some sewing. I highly recommend acquiring at least one of these skills and if I had to pick one it would be knitting. You may think your not crafty or creative enough but you totally are and you can learn any skill you set your mind to. For knitting I recommend starting with hand knitting and there are more than enough YouTube tutorials to teach you. A lot of the bump layers used in sets are handknitted using super bulky yarn. You can find it at Hobby Lobby or Michaels but by far the best selection is on Etsy. To start I would grab a skein of white or cream super bulky yarn from Hobby Lobby and turn on YouTube. Its surprisingly simple and most likely wont take you long to master at all. Once you've got handknitting down you'll have the basic understanding of how knitting works. Then move onto needles, find a YouTube tutorial for a simple bonnet gather the supplies and get started. For a simple bonnet you need to know 5 simple things, a long tail cast on, knit stitch, purl stitch, a simple decrease and how to cast off. Once you've got the hang of it there's no shortage of fun bonnet patterns on Etsy. My favorite purchase that helps me create props has been my Addi King knitting machine. Its a rather pricey purchase at $200 but if you think about it when you complete your first 4 knit wraps it will have paid for itself. You can even make bonnets on it! The best part? You do not have to know how to knit to use it, using it is quite simple and Youtube will teach you everything you need to know. Not quite ready to take on knitting yet but still need something to fill your baskets? Grab some of the same super bulky yarn I mentioned and tear it to shreds. You'll have an instant fluffy basket stuffer that looks great! Start with white or cream for a gender neutral prop. Faux curly layers are my favorite and they take little to no skill to make. There are several tutorials available that will show you how to make one. My hack? Most of the tutorials will tell you to use Homespun yarn, a yarn you have to pull the strings out of. This isn't necessary any bulky yarn will work, just cut it into strips and pull the strips apart, then follow the rest of the tutorial for how to felt it. Don't be afraid to get creative and try something new. I find all of these crafts to be quite relaxing now but in the beggining I had plenty of extra time to master them.

Bump Layers Many of Which Were Made By Me

All Props Made By Me and a Basket From Dollar General

Is That a Prop?

My next tip? Look for props in places you wouldn't expect. Anything that's marketed as a prop is going to have a mark up. Rightfully so given the time it takes vendors to make the props or hunt them down to resell. When you start all you really need is one bowl and maybe a basket or bucket. Some of my favorite baskets came from Dollar General. There seems to be two different types of Dollar Generals, one geared more towards home decor and one towards clothing. The home decor stores have the best baskets and they are rarely priced at over $10. I've included a photo of my favorite DG basket above. Places like Hobby Lobby and Michael's are obviously great for finding these types of props as well but some of my favorite finds have came from second hand stores like Goodwill or flea markets and decor stores like Ross and TJ Max. My best Goodwill tip is to get there early in the day before everything is picked over. Another great item to nab at Goodwill are wraps and layers. Our local Goodwill always has a great scarf selection in the fall and winter months. I've found numerous beautiful layering pieces and wraps in this section. Hitting up stores like Ross at the end of the winter season for clearance scarves is also great. If its an infinity scarf just cut it along the seam to make a wrap. If your searching online for something like a posing bowl try searching for dough bowls as opposed to using the word prop. I scored my favorite dough bowl on eBay for $30. You can regularly find buckets at home repair stores, spray them with a coat of chalk paint and you should end up with something nice. I have a special love for those pearl layers/wraps everyone seems to have. The best deal I've found on those was by searching pearl hijab on Ali-Express. You have to be mindful when ordering from Ali because some vendors on the site regularly steal photos from reputable vendors and sell cheap knock offs. Keep an eye out for stolen photos and ALWAYS read several reviews before making a purchase. Also be prepared for a long wait for your item. The one item I cannot make myself and always buy from vendors are tiebacks. Try as I might nothing I make comes close to the beauty's my favorite vendors create. There are vendors out there who regularly have great sales or offer free shipping. My favorite tie back vendors are probably Birdie Baby Boutique and The Pink Lily Store. I'm going to share another hack that works great for me this one is for floor drops. There are some great vendors out there for these items and their drops are typically worth every penny however its understandable that when you start out you may not have hundreds to invest in good floor drops. Menards, Home Depot and Lowes all sale wall paneling. One panel will run you $20-$25, cut it in half and you have a floor and backdrop. Use upside down command hooks to attach it to the wall. The picture I attached above is shot on paneling from Home Depot. The remnant vinyl flooring also works for floors as well as snap together wood flooring, though its a little heavy for a backdrop. One thing that seems to be a staple in every photographers stash is a good flokati. I will add a disclaimer, nothing compares to the quality of good Luneberry flokati. That being said when your first starting out a faux long fur throw or fabric still looks nice. You can find them on Amazon just make sure the fur is long not short.

Trench Bowl from Destash Group. Wrap and Layer Made By Me. Tieback- Baby Birdie Boutique. Floor- Home Depot Paneling

Faux Fur Throw - Amazon, Wrap & Bonnet By Me.

Trench Bowl -Destash Group. Yellow Layer - Goodwill, Outfit - Little Miss Atasha


This article is not intended to deter anyone from purchasing things from vendors or to knock vendors. It is simply to help lessen the initial financial burden of starting out and to help pinch pennies along the way. I fully support the job prop vendors do and make purchases from them myself. I fully admit you can get great quality that is unmatched from reputable vendors with items that are worth every penny.