Finding and Choosing Costumes and Props for Photography

Finding and collecting costumes and props for photography has become quite the hobby this past year.

Here are some tips and things to consider when you’re out searching for that perfect item for your next portrait shoot!

These points focus on sourcing used items, so let’s get thrifty!


Where to Buy Items

Thrift and consignment shops, online stores, and friends are great places to find items for your next shoot!

  • Big thrift stores like Arc and Goodwill are all over the place, and Goodwill is even  online!

Don’t let the big guys make you forget smaller, independent options.

  • Consignment shops are a good way to find brand names, but tend to be more expensive.
  • Certain items are available seasonally, like Halloween for costumes and Spring and Summer months for wedding dresses, so plan accordingly or try your luck online.
  • Ebay and Shop Goodwill are personal favorites, but there are plenty of other sites for used clothing, like ThredUp.

Some photographers and fashion bloggers also sell off items, so keep an eye out.

Stay on top of shipping and handling fees!

  • Borrow items from friends or other photographers.
  • Garage sales aren’t very reliable, and may not be worth it.


Things to Consider When Shopping

  • How much is it?  Could it be found cheaper elsewhere?  Are there sales coming up?
  • What condition is it in?  Does it need a little cleaning or fixing?
  • Does the costume fit?  Clothes can usually be taken in, but only to an extent.  Best option is to aim within a few sizes of the people you usually shoot.
  • Is the fabric going to wrinkle easily or need special care?
  • What is your plan for the item?

Are you adding it to your collection of costumes/props, or is it a one-and-done deal?  If you don’t plan on keeping it, are you going to re-donate or try to resell?

Items you plan on reselling should be in the best condition possible.  Holes and missing parts are going to drop your potential earnings, unless weathered is what you’re going for.

Items just for your collection only need to be in a condition comfortable for you.  Missing buttons can be duplicated in editing, loose buttons and seams can be mended.

  • Vague is better!

You’ll get more use out of clothes and props that can fit plenty of different themes, characters, and looks.

Look for items that you can reuse again and again.  They’ll become a staple in your wardrobe and prop box!

However, if you tend to shoot Victorian looks, then feel free to stock up on these items.

  • How useful is this/How many shoots will I really use it for?

Hollaback to the previous point!

If the prop or costume is super specific, like a geisha costume or an Edwardian chandelier, how useful is it realistically going to be for you?

If it’s only going to get before the camera once or twice, consider passing on it or finding a borrowed/rented option.

  • How many do you actually need?
  • How much does it weigh & how big is it?

If you plan on keeping or reselling an item, how much room are you willing to dedicate to its storage and would shipping costs be a deal-breaker for a future buyer?

  • Is it useful for everyday life?

Whether you plan on keeping an item or selling it in the future, it’s got to sit somewhere.

Try to opt for things you can put to use, wear yourself, or display along your normal décor, and you won’t have a stack of boxes in the closet.


Whether you photograph high fantasy or the latest trends in fashion and modern living, I hope you find this list helpful when thrift-shopping and choosing your newest additions to your collection of costumes and props!

If you have any questions or tips and thoughts to add, please let me know!


Much Peace and Keep Roamin’

Have any ideas for tips, tutorials, or DIYs you’d like to see on Roman Leaf?  Please feel free to comment bellow or contact me!

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