Prop Talk – Fabrics

Fabrics as food photography props.

Today on Prop Talk: fabrics! More specifically, I’m going to show you small pieces of fabric that I like to set plates and bowls on. (For those of you who are new to this blog, every second Wednesday I write a post about some of my favorite food photography props. This is one of those posts. You can see all previous prop talk installments by clicking the Behind the Scenes tab in the menu at the top) .

Small pieces of fabric can visually anchor tableware to the table. I find that a bowl or plate sitting directly on a “naked” surface can sometimes look disconnected from it, almost floating, depending on the angle of view. Whenever that happens, I turn to my collection of small napkins and fabrics. These can also help single out the main subject in photos that show multiples, such as several jars of trifle, for example. Setting the one jar that is your main subject on a small piece of fabric will elevate it ever so slightly and mark it as the most important.

I picked out my four favorite pieces to show to you.

Let’s start with the burlap ribbon. This material comes on a roll and you can buy it by the yard. I bought a large string of it at a local store but I’ve also seen it on Amazon. The one I have has a nice wide mesh and very thin metal wires (that can be cut with regular scissors) run on either side of the ribbon. The wires make the material nicely bendable and you can easily make nice waves that stay in place.

Here is an example of the burlap ribbon in action:
Mushroom Risotto with Cracked Black Pepper

From post Mushroom Risotto with Cracked Black Pepper.

Next, I’ve got a small lace table topper I found at an antique store. It measures 7 inches by 7 inches and fits perfectly underneath plates and bowls. I’ve used it in the beer cheddar soup photo below:

Beer Cheddar Soup
From post Beer Cheddar Soup.

Lastly, linen cocktail napkins (10 inches by 10 inches) that I bought at Crate & Barrel. They can look very elegant, especially when a nice crease is ironed into them. I like them a lot and have used them in the example below:

Star Anise Poached Pears
From post Star Anise Poached Pears.


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  1. Farah @ The Cooking Jar says:

    Great prop post! I think I have those two cocktail napkins from Crate and Barrel. Really love the way the cream one adds texture to the white backdrop for the pears. And I love the way the light falls on the pears, making it almost luminous. :) I have burlap cloth, I got mine for a yard off Ebay for a couple of bucks.

    • Nicole B. says:

      So glad you like it, Farah! I love those two Crate and Barrel napkins, I have a third one in turquoise but I don’t use that one often, it’s a little loud…

      • Farah @ The Cooking Jar says:

        I got about 7 or so of them while they were on clearance. Red, orange, blue, green, white, gray and black or so. I agree, it’s a little tough to fit in the brighter colors but I’m confident a dish will come eventually!

        • Nicole B. says:

          Exactly, you never know. Taste and styles will change. I’ve learned not to get rid of props I thought I would never use again…

  2. Nagi@RecipeTin Eats says:

    After reading each posit, I’ve been jumping onto ebay to try to find the item!! Another great tip, thanks! I’ve been struggling with fabrics, I typically use dishcloths (but hard to find soft ones), cut up hessian sacks, and fabric offcuts I find in clearance bins. But these fabric cocktail napkins would be much better staples. :)

    • Nicole B. says:

      It is definitely hard to find some of these items, I spend hours and hours going through antique stores. If you are ever wondering about a specific item you see on my blog, always feel free to ask, if it’s something I bought at an online store I’ll be happy to provide the link! :)

  3. Patti says:

    Love this tip! I need to invest in some more fabric scraps and napkins. I had one shoot with a white plate on dark brown wood and that plate literally looked like it was hovering! Nothing I did in post processing fixed it. Fabric would have totally changed it! Great transitional prop.

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