A few posts back, I gave you some of the reasons I encourage food bloggers to look into expanding their prop collections through the secondary market. To finish up the list I started in that post, and during the course of my interview with Neel at Learn Food Photography, here are more of my thoughts:
5. Shopping secondary market gives you a better chance of finding a prop that is unique. These days, when retailers buy conservatively, it often seems stores have limited options and not much variety from store to store. When I shop resale, I also buy with an eye to customizing the props further: wood boards that can be stained, wood bowls that I can paint, tablecloths to cut into napkins. I buy these items inexpensively, so if things don't turn out as I like I have no regrets as I would altering a new, more expensive prop. It allows me to push creativity a little further.
6. Many resale shops are either small business owners, or charity shops that give back to those in need. I was recently in a neighborhood store near closing time, when I noticed they were setting up large tables in the back. They are affiliated with a food bank, and had been given a large donation of grits. In the midwest, grits are not typically prepared, and the group was afraid they would not be used by the needy recipients. So, local chefs were coming over to demonstrate healthy, tasteful ways of preparing the grits, and receiving families were invited to attend. This is one of several shops that also allows qualified families to obtain shopping vouchers for the store. It feels good to be able to support organizations who do this type of work, and I make these places priority stops. Not all charity shops give back so completely, some return minimal legal amounts to the groups they benefit, and the rest is profit. If you have strong feelings about this, do some research. Truthfully, I shop them all but donate back only to those I know to circle back directly to the needy community.
The down side to all this is, of course, the time involved in prop hunting of this nature. You cannot count on what you will find, sometimes walk out empty handed. Each trip will yield a mixed bag of finds that usually do not work together, but if you choose things in your own style you will achieve a cohesive collection. You have to be willing to dig, and sometimes items need a very good cleaning to say the least! For me, vintage props are tools that I use in my business so I can justify both the monetary and time expense. For you busy food bloggers that are trying to cook, write, photograph, and maintain your blog, it may be a bit much to physically prop hunt regularly. Be patient, do it when you can and are open to the hunt, and you will build a great prop selection in no time.
Here's an example of what I mean, another Prop Budget: Ten Dollars. This stash includes a beautifully detailed pewter bowl, 3 small blue and white china plates, 2 unused placesettings of retro starburst handle flatware in original box, 5 white linen napkins,2 nicely worn cutting boards, and 2 vintage glass storage containers (sans lids)in what I call "Donna Hay" blue!
Prop Budget: Ten Dollars