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.
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!
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.
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?