Top 3 free props for fantasy photos

Updated: Feb 24

Here are my top 3 props to use during your fantasy session. Plus a bonus prop!


If your prop budget is super low then it is time to get creative. When I started out in photography I bought all kinds of props. I also wasted a ton of money on stuff that just didn't work or looked cheap. The worst part, I bought things because I THOUGHT that I needed them to make my work stand out. In reality some of my favorite pieces and work that stands out the most were made cheap and using free props and costumes. If I could give anyone one piece of advice when it comes to props is to just start out small. I know seeing all those awesome images out there will make you think you need tons of things. But you can start with finding free or very cheap items that make the most impact in your work.

#1 Old Books

Skull sitting on top of a stack of 3 book books on aged marble stone
Fantasy Props - Skulls and old books are a great addition to set the scene

I use old books all the time in sets and as props for models and clients to hold. Look through what you already have, check with friends/family and ask them if they have any "old" looking books they wouldn't mind loaning or giving you and then start checking thrift stores and yard sales. Avoid checking out antique shops you will be paying far more for an old dusty book then just finding one.

I often look for books that have the names worn off or no names on the binding, this allows

me to quickly drop a new name onto them in Photoshop if I want to. Watch out for books with mold or bugs. You don't want to introduce mold or pesky bugs into your home.

Girl holding old book open
Fantasy Props - Use aged books for a realistic fantasy setting

#2 Candles Almost everyone that I know has old candles laying around and if you don't ask your friends if they have any they don't want anymore. Tell them what you need them for and you will be surprised at how many people will find candles for you to have.

Start with 1 and add to your collection over time.

Girl wearing Witches hat and dress surrounded by pumpkins and white candles
Set the scene by using candles in a variety of sizes

A word of caution though, fire safety is a must. We often shoot with long flowing gowns so make sure to spread out any lit candles away from the models. You don't have to have them sitting right next to them. Usually I have about 2-3 feet of space around for safety.

I have two very strict rules I follow when using anything with fire.

I keep a fire extinguisher on hand at EVERY shoot that uses anything hazardous and I keep a friend/assistant/2nd model/2nd shooter on hand standing right outside of the frame to make sure no candles fall over.

Always check your local area to make sure there is not a burn ban in place as well if you are going to be using a ton of candles outside in the woods.

3 girls each hold a lit candle
Story telling can be made even with just one candle as a prop.

#3 Old Jars Now this is a broad one you can use literally any old jar you have if you clean off an old label and do some weathering on them. Weathering is easy and I will probably make a blog post about it in the future but here is the quick version, wash and dry and then rub over your surface lightly with sand paper, just enough to rough up the surface but not break the jar. Be very careful and use proper safety

Skull with frogs on it next to a glowing blue potions bottle.
Creating a still life image is a great way to practice your photography and add to the story you are telling.

such as gloves and eye protection when doing these types of crafts. Once you have the surface a bit rough then use some brown and black acrylic painter and rub all over it and wipe it right back off. This will leave a bit of an aged look on your jars.

Try filling them up with water and a dash of food coloring to tell a little magical story with your image. I usually pop my images into photoshop and make them glow but that is totally up to you. Would you like to see a tutorial on how to make your glass glow? Comment below and let me know!

Tips for picking out the right old jars. Look for jars that have an old world feeling to them. If a jar is very common in main stream households it is going to be a little tougher to tell a story

if the viewer can only picture it and see it was an old spaghetti jar, so look for some more rare pieces. You can often find some old "beverage" bottles. Put a post out on social media with examples of what you are looking for and just see what people come up with for you and for free!! BONUS The Tea Cup This is a super easy prop that tells a big story if you pair it with some water and food coloring. If you haven't acquired any cute tea cups on your own check with your friends and family. Someone will surely have one to loan you. Worse case scenario every single bargain shop or thrift store I have been in has an entire section devoted just to these little gems most under $5 for cup with a matching saucer!

Girl laying in moss with a tea cup spilling over that contains red liquid.
A sip of tea is not always just a sip of tea when telling a fantasy story through imagery.

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