How to Rock Bookstagram on a Budget

bookstagram on a budget


I sometimes see people express frustration that it seems impossible to take nice pictures or to do well on Bookstagram unless you have a lot of disposable income–to buy a fancy camera, to buy tons of books, to buy tons of props.

Personally, I don’t begrudge people who have thousands of followers on Bookstagram because they seem to have a lot of stuff; it seems perfectly reasonable that their accounts would be popular by virtue of the fact that what they photograph is rare.  We love to look because we don’t own 5000 color-coordinated books or 200 Funkos, but it’s really fun to see someone who does.

That said, I don’t think you need to spend a lot of money to take great pictures for your own account. I’ve talked before about the fact I use  lot of library books in my own Bookstagram photos. Today I want to talk about how I save money on props. (With the disclaimer that I realize what I do is not going to be applicable to all people in all circumstances.)

Use What You Have


If there’s a “theme” for the Pages Unbound Instagram account (which I sometimes doubt), I’d say it’s the colorful paper backgrounds Krysta and I often use for the photos. Both of us are into crafting, so we happen to have scrapbooking paper and cardstock around.  While I am not implying crafting is a cheap hobby, I am saying that we’ve largely built our account on items that we already owned, rather than ones that we purchased.


However, I don’t always use paper for my backgrounds. On several occasions, I have used blankets.  A lot of people go with a plain white sheet for Bookstagram photos to get a cleaner or more minimalist look, but since the Page Unbound account generally features more color, I chose colored blankets that I happened to have around.


Ribbons are another item I happen to have around for crafting purposes. While you can purchase pricey ribbon, you can actually find decent options at the Dollar Store or even places like thrift shops. These are especially useful if you don’t really need a large amount of ribbon, just enough for a photo.


Finally, I use a lot of random stuff I happen to have in my home, like my shoes or knives. Krysta has used gloves and scarves in her photos.  There’s a diadem in the photo of Long May She Reign, but that’s also something Krysta already owned from a Halloween costume; it wasn’t purchased for Bookstagram.

Create Props

Finally, Krysta and I have also made some of the things we use in our photos. Below, she has a book on a chalk drawing (and note you don’t have to draw something super fancy or be the world’s best artist to try this).  In the center photo are some origami flowers you can make out of normal printer paper. (I’ve also used cardstock, but that’s a little more difficult). And, of course, there are the ever-popular origami stars made from  strips of paper.

I’ve also used greeting cards I’ve made as props, though I’m not sure anyone really noticed them in the photos! There’s a card on the left of this winter-themed photo, and a $1 vase I colored with nail polish on the right hand side. The Christmas-themed one also has a card on the left and some ornaments from the dollar store.


Go into Nature

The best way to spend no money at all? Go into nature! (Ok, you might spend some money on transportation if you want to go somewhere in particular to take photos.) I have taken photos in parks, around my home, and in random places in the city where I live. Flower shots are great in the spring, but you can also try autumn leaves, and I’ve seen some people take great photos of books in the snow.

Check the Dollar Store

Finally, if you feel you do want to spend some money on Bookstagram props, check your dollar store or places like thrift shops and yard sales. Fake flowers are always popular on Bookstagram, of course, and I got all mine at the dollar store, as well as the strands of leaves in the Tamora Pierce book photo.  I also got the strand of purple lights in the Nerve photo there (as well as a white strand, an orange one, and a multi-colored one).  The star in the Tolkien photo below is a Christmas ornament from the dollar store.  The only real trick is that a trip to the dollar store can become more expensive than you anticipated if you buy too much stuff!

Go Minimalist

As I said, most of the Pages Unbound account is pretty colorful, but I have taken some more minimalist photos, and this can also be a great option for saving money.

Let’s Discuss!

What’s your approach to Bookstagram? Do you try to do it low budget?  What are your tips? Or have you gone all out and invested in purchases to make your account stand out?  What purchases do you think are most worthwhile?


63 thoughts on “How to Rock Bookstagram on a Budget

  1. Tamika @paperback & flick chick says:

    This is a great post! I totally agree that there is more than one way to bookstagram and it does not have to be expensive. I also either use very few props or things I already have around the house like clothes, jewellery, flowers from my garden, string, candles etc. Fairy lights form the cheap shop are my go to though. 🙂


  2. Marina_Books of Magic says:

    I want to start a bookstagram so bad, but I have a small apartment with not enough natural light, and outside of my place is a concrete jungle :/ So I think I’ll start doing indoor arrangements once I move to a better place, until then I’ll just envy the people who can do it. 😀 There are a bunch of things that can be props really, decorative candles, cookies, candy, decorative mugs and glasses, fallen leaves or flowers if you can find them outside, also pinecones etc. And wrapping paper! I’ve seen a lot of gorgeous ones in my local bookstore, and you don’t need a big piece for the photo. 🙂 Don’t know about other countries, but in Serbia we have several China malls where you can buy an assortment of goofy, pretty and cute stuff for $1 or less 🙂 I’ve just bough two too-cute unicorn glasses there for $3, not that it matters for this discussion. 😀 Awesome post, I’m always on the lookout for bookstagramming tips, but I can’t do anything until I get some light. :/ 🙂


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, the natural light is tough, depending on where you live or if, you know, you have a normal 9-5 job that means you’re not really at home during daylight hours. I do find natural lighting helps, but I actually use the built-in photo editor thing to correct the brightness on a lot of my photos, and that seems to work just fine. (I know some people also just buy a sunlight lamp, which is an option, but not necessarily one that aligns with the message of “spend less money on Bookstagram” I have going on in this post….)

      Those malls sound like so much fun! I love going to places like that just to see what they have, and it does sound like a great place to get props!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marina_Books of Magic says:

        Haha exactly, once I’m done with work the light is gone. 😀 Hmm I get your point, the light seems to be the key, but it’s silly to buy the lamps. 🙂

        I know, haha, I love to buy silly things, and there’s a bunch of stuff that can definitely serve as a photo prop there! 🙂


  3. Book Bosomed Blonde says:

    This couldn’t have come at a better time, I personally just started a bookstagram account a week ago and to be honest I was feeling a little discouraged by all the beautiful photos people post. But I think this will help me out a lot. Thank you xx


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      At the risk of sounding jealous or grumpy or something, I’ll admit that part of what helped me start and stay on Bookstagram was realizing there are tons of accounts with a healthy number of followers that…don’t necessarily have great photos. I figured if they could do it, then I could. I get that I don’t have the time/books/inclination to become the next “big thing” like Paper Fury or Dark Fairie Tales on Instagram, but that’s fine. I’d love to work my way to just being solid medium-level account, and if someone can get 3000 followers posting only photos of books alone on their bedroom carpet, then I can succeed too! :p


  4. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    Great post and great suggestions! ❤ reading through the comments someone mentioned wrapping paper which could be super cheap and simple! And you can still use most of it for wrapping presents, you just need a little for your pics! Thinking of the wrapping paper made me think that you could use scraps of fabric too. I know Jo-Anne's sells the leftover scraps of fabric for a couple dollars and you could get a few you really like!


  5. jaquintinwriter says:

    A great topic 🙂 I love your tips and shop at the local dollar store. Who doesn’t love a bargain? I’ll have to look into Bookstagram in the near future. Thanks for sharing!!


  6. madisonsinkwell says:

    When I started mine I bought a few pieces of fabric for backgrounds and some fake flowers. I have put some money into other props but a lot of times I just use what’s around my house (mirrors, real flowers, random decorations) but I find that some of my favorite and most popular posts are the ones I take on my bed with a cup of coffee or flowers and no props.


  7. Diana says:

    Great post. Thanks for the tips. I am terrible at Instagram and can’t seem to take any good photos. I am still new at it and I guess I have been focusing so much on props. I like the other ideas that you shared about backgrounds so I will try them out. Thank you.


  8. Annemieke says:

    Great post. I agree that you don’t nessecarily need to purchase things to be able to do bookstagram. I use my ipod for photos and a lot of things around the house. But I also like minimalist. In autumn I tend to pick out pretty colorful leaves, take them home, take pictures and throw them out again. No need to buy anything haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lee says:

    My bookstagram posts are always a little sad looking to me. Like we have only one light per room (lamps cost moneyyy) and they are all pretty crappy, so if I don’t remember to take a bookstagram pic in the morning before I go to bed I’m stuck with dim yellow lighting lol And then I don’t go out so it’s pretty much always the same spot where I take the pics, and I don’t own a lot of like “things” so unless I just want 1200 pics of a book next to the same black pens I am going to have to get super original!

    That’s all to say: This post was nice to read it made me feel like there’s more of a chance that I might one day have some pretty bookstagrams of my own!


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I understand about the lamp thing! I basically had to fight to get two lamps in my bedroom when we moved because I was insistent that I hate the feeling when I turn on the light in a room and it’s still dim! :p I wish more houses/apartments would just come with lights build into the ceilings/walls. My dad installs his own because he’s not a lamp person.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

    To make it more complicated 😀 I can’t use library books in my photos either xD in my country, new releases are never in libraries.. And they’re in a different language 😀 now ebooks.. taking pics of ebooks is truly an art! And I can always respect someone who does that well. Cause I can’t 😀 It can definitely be done, but it takes some good imagination. Which I feel I lack 😀

    For me though, I will agree, nature is THE BEST prop 🙂 which is why I was almost not posting in winter 😀 but summer is nearly back, so I’ve become more active on Insta lately 😀

    Good post!


  11. La La in the Library says:

    Minimalist is becoming the new popular Bookstagram thing. Thank gawd because even if I had the money, I don’t have the time for elaborate set ups. And I love the dollar store for props and backgrounds! My fave prop right now is a round, red woven placemat from the dollar store. Ha ha. I have to keep myself from using it in every photo. 😂


  12. Rissi says:

    Fun post! I discover lots of fun things “lying” around my house, and of course, the Dollar Store can have some fun stuff too. Or as I also like to do, sometimes minimalist is the best way to rock Bookstagram!! 🙂


  13. Lauren Becker says:

    Great post. I tend to use most of the things that I have in my house like a table or blanket for different types of backgrounds – especially utilizing the colors and/or textures. I want to try using other things, but I’ll keep in mind the things I already own, and then maybe supplement with things from the dollar store or somewhere else kind of cheap.



  14. The Nature of Pages says:

    This is awesome! I really like it! I use a lot of fake plants I have around the house as well as other books for backgrounds 😛


  15. anhdara13 says:

    I love this! I try to use things I already have around the house in my photos – my daughter’s blankets, my laptop, bookmarks, mugs, scarves, etc. I have splurged on one thing, but that’s also because I want to use it for photos of my daughter.


  16. Jheelam says:

    Hey, loved this post. Now what props do you recommend if someone reads mainly on Kindle (like me)? Kindle, I find, not so aesthetically pleasing like real books- even if the props are great. Or maybe I’m not creative enough. Or don’t have keen eye like a pro photog. Any tip would be welcome. 🙂


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I have a Kindle Fire I sometimes take photos with (though if someone has just the e-ink reader and not a tablet, I guess it would be harder to get a good image of the cover to use). I use generally the same props. I think the biggest difference is that the Kindle is smaller than most physical books, so you might not want large props that kind of overwhelm it.

      Here’s one example:

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Michelle Mounts says:

    I would love to use library books for my Bookstagram photos but my library has a strip with a barcode on the cover of every book. Any suggestions? Thanks!


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