The Unofficial Guide to Bookstagram Props by BlueStockingBookShelf

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Ah, bookstagram props. The unsung heroes of our little bookish community. All it takes is the perfect latte or the most beautifully staged backdrop to completely transform a book photo from meh to amazing. But, what happens when you run out of ideas? Do you turn to Amazon and stock up on crap that will clutter your house for the next ten years and make you a prime candidate for the show Hoarders? Absolutely not. Fulfilling my mission in life as a cautionary tale, I used to purchase waaay more props than I needed for my book photos, and often I would only use them once. Now, I get creative by repurposing items I already own and even borrowing props (no clutter!), so I can spend that money on what really matters in life: books. To hopefully provide inspiration, I’ve listed some of my favorite book props from my photos and from the accounts I follow.

1. Craft Supplies: I get questions about my backgrounds all the time, so I’m finally here to clear it up: it’s just wrapping paper. With two sheets of high quality wrapping paper, I have a bright, patterned background for my photos. Going along with the gift-wrap theme, often I like to add ribbon or twine or paper flowers to my photos to complete the look. Before you get rid of odds and ends like feathers, buttons, cute boxes or scrapbook paper, consider using them in your photos. If your house is anything like mine, it’s hiding a fair amount of photo-worthy items waiting to be uncovered.


2.Flowers/Plants: Whether you take photos indoors or out, I’m always excited to see some green on my Instagram feed. Flowers and plants are incredibly photogenic, so these types of photos are beautiful and simple to create. Additionally, if keeping plants alive is a challenge for you, artificial greenery is always an option.


3.Food: Obviously I have to mention this one because, as a proud millennial, I’m addicted to photos of food. I don’t photograph my meals much (probably because I’m too busy eating them) but I swoon over photos of books and food because I honestly have no idea what more someone would want in life. Desserts and pastries are eye-catching and easy to pair with books, but, as long as the food is colorful and fresh, I’m not complaining when you share a photo.  


4.Drinks: I struggle with photos of alcohol because, by the time I’ve made a cocktail or poured a glass of wine, I’ll be damned if I’m going to take the time to photograph it before drinking. But I loooove photos of hot drinks like tea, coffee or hot cocoa. If there’s one thing that bookstagrammers seem to universally adore, it’s being cozy. And what’s more cozy than a hot drink? That’s right, nothing.


5.Kitchenware: Before bookstagram, I never realized how enamored I would become with kitchen goods. Cake stands, mugs, breakfast trays, teacups, teapots, platters and placemats are all items I’ve used, and I’ve even seen cutting boards, French press brewers and toast racks make gorgeous and unique photos. If you don’t have these items already, they’re easy to find secondhand (Or borrow!).


6.Pets: I have no visuals for this one because my pets are jerks who won’t stay still for photos, but I’ve never met a photo of a pet on bookstagram I didn’t like. Only a terrible, terrible person can scroll past a photo of your fur baby without double-tapping (and you don’t want those idiots following you anyway).

7.Fashion: My love for clothing is second only to my love of books, so it should come as no surprise that I’m drawn to photos of people’s wardrobes. Even if you don’t want to share a photo of yourself, items like handbags, sunglasses, sweaters and jewelry all look fabulous in flat lays. If you have a brightly patterned scarf or dress, you can also use the fabric as a photo background.


8.Home Furnishings: It’s impossible to list all the different options for this one, but blankets, pillows, wall art, candles, crates, and lamps are the first items that come to mind. There’s definitely an art to lifestyle photography, but there’s no need to spend money on pre-made backdrops or fancy bookends when you can just stack your books on a chair or a nightstand and snap an elegant, minimalistic photo.


Reading through this list, I hope it goes without saying that the most important thing about bookstagram is to share your love of reading. And DON’T let your fear of the algorithm prevent you from enjoying yourself and getting creative with your posts. Happy bookstagramming!


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