#NewBloggers 101, Book blogging, Discussion

Bookstagram Myth: Props Are Expensive? Pamela @ Reverie Society Educates! #NewBloggers 101, Post number 6: How To Bookstagram Cheaper

Welcome to Post 8 of the #NewBloggers 101 post series! This time, we’ll be talking about an all-important topic – Bookstagram, namely – Bookstagram props. And we have Pamela @ Reverie Society here to write about it today! Before I let her tell you all about it though, if you want to read any of the older posts in the series, expand this list:

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2018 (10)

Bookstagram – yet another medium to share our love for books. It’s very tempting to jump in to the bandwagon. Snap a pic of a book and done, right?

Those who have been paying attention know that’s definitely not the case. Instagram is a microblogging platform, and as such, it demands as much time and commitment as a blog does. True, you don’t have to write long posts, but your responsibility here is to convey the beauty of those words, in a picture. And man, are bookworms picky about the photos they give their likes to.

It seems that the big accounts share a few things in common:

  • Their feed is a work of art where all pics complement each other in one way or another
  • They have an abundance of pretty backgrounds to showcase / or really great spots at home (that are not dirty, dark, a mess… etc)
  • They use bookstagram props

In this post, we’re going to talk about this latter one. One aspect of bookstagram that constantly bugs everyone is props. All those little trinkets you fill your shot with so that it’s not the book and… just make it look prettier.

The issue is clear. Not everyone has those kinds of things lying around. I mean, geez, where do you guys find all those flowers? All my mugs are chipped! I don’t even drink coffee! I’m sorry, my fairy lights only come out in Christmas!

That’s okay. I think people respond more to that, yes. It’s kind of mainstream, but I’ve seen quite a few big accounts that have built their following based on good pics alone, no great assortment of bookstagram props needed. And it’s awesome!

Don’t spend a dime on Bookstagram props

Let’s see about trying to use whatever it is you already have at home:

  • Candles
  • Blankets
  • Nice trays
  • Pillows
  • Jewerly
  • Technology (laptops and phones)
  • Blank frames, sheets of paper (You can add in quotes and phrases digitally!)
  • Mugs (A nice trick to simulate coffee is to use coke!)
  • Origami stars!
  • Clothes (Search for ideas on how to style them and pair them with a book!)

Need inspiration of these put in action?

@LocaxLibros is an argentinian account whose feed I love because of all the origami stars! You can see there that she seems to be starting a new theme. But so far, she had just picked a textured background, in this case wood and added the same prop all the time to create a consistent look.


Olivia from @bookscatsandcoffee mostly uses her shelves as background which works amazingly because they’re super pretty, and of course, using the same background is the best way to ‘theme’ your feed. No fancy filters needed. She does have a lot of funkos though, I’ll give her that.


Thom’s feed – @thomreads – is clearly minimalistic and it’s gorgeous. I like how even if a pic has only one thing in it, he manages to make it beautiful and interesting. Try to play with a color or two you can build your feed around to pull this off.


Tracey, aka @lifeandliterature has a way of making simple pics appear populated. She manages this because of the set up of her bed. It’s patterned and it gives the appearance of a lot going on in the pictures even where there aren’t many subjects in them. It does help that she’s displaying a sweet writing machine -everybody loves writing machines- but… what really sticks out at first glance is her backdrop.


Have a few bucks to spare?


Get fake flowers at a Dollar Tree if you’re able to. I travelled to the US last year and you guys have no idea of how lucky you are to have those shops! I was delighted to be able to find fake flowers there that are not $30 for just ONE. If that’s not possible, why not give origami a try?

The famous white background

Foam board available also at Dollar Tree. Damn, I couldn’t bring mine with me to Ecuador because it didn’t fit in my suitcase! Alternatives are white blankets, white fabric in general. It can also even better if you do because, texture. A plain white background forces you to work harder at getting the position of your subjects just right or else the pic looks off and incomplete. However with a textured background, the background kind of becomes a subject in itself.

Other kinds of backgrounds

Make your own! Very recently, I used some plywood planks, glued them together, painted them and made my own ‘wooden background’. I don’t have a complete guide on that for you. But quick tip: If you paint it a dark brown first, then white or light grey over it, and then carefully sand it in a few places, you get a pretty cool vintage effect, as if it was real wood.

And… that’s it! I hope this post gave you a few ideas and a renewed sense of creativity! Also, some new fellows to follow! Go and make an awesome bookstagram account!

Thank you Pamela for giving us all this info about bookstagram props! I feel inspired to spend a little more time on my Bookstagram pics myself! Do you already see yourself using Pamela’s suggestions?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

78 thoughts on “Bookstagram Myth: Props Are Expensive? Pamela @ Reverie Society Educates! #NewBloggers 101, Post number 6: How To Bookstagram Cheaper

  1. Super helpful post! I’ve recently started a bookstagram and am struggling to maintain my feed already lol. I ultimately decided on keeping alternate posts with white and dark backgrounds, let’s see how that works!
    Charvi recently posted…The Sunshine Blogger AwardMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Charvi! 🙂 yeah, bookstagram is tough. The motivation and making time is the hardest part, I guess. I hope this posts gives you some inspiration for your feed 🙂

  2. Yup I agree! Instagram is an universe on its own and that;s why I don;t do to well in it because my blog is already all consuming of my life. So I take an hour a month take a few pics with things I have on my desk [pens, crayons, a plant etc] and that’s it I wish I could but I really don’t have time to spend on it. And the whole tagging things is mystifying! I have a post drafted about it! HOW ON EARTH you chose a handful of people to tag among the many followers you have or people you follow!??? I CANNOT! That’s why I don’t do it! Great Post Pamela!
    Daniela Ark recently posted…17 exceptional books to understand WHY we should ALL be Feminists! – International Women’s Day!My Profile

    1. Same for me. Instagram is just sort of an afterthought for me. I just don’t have the time! It is quite time consuming as well.

      An hour a month is amazing! That’s not a lot at all, good job 🙂 I actually don’t take pics now, because of the horrible lighting (or lack thereof..), so it kills my motivation 😀

  3. I’ve recently been trying to come up with ideas on how to jazz up my bookstagram so thanks SO much for this post!

  4. I’m super bad at taking pictures and I joined Instagram recently, after a lot of hesitation. This post is really helpful, Pamela! ^_^

    1. Glad you liked it! Just keep experimenting with things! And it’s true what everyone says, lighting is 80% of a good picture. Rainy days suck XD

      1. …So that’s why I don’t do bookstagram for half a year.
        It’s okay though. I just have to take 6 x 4 pictures for the winter and I’m set for one pic a week. *runs off screaming*

    1. Yeah theme is something a lot of people talk about and even though I didn’t intend it, I ended up talking about anyway. Everything is just extremely connected. Props and backgrounds are the elements of a theme. How you play with them is how you end up with one. Keep playing with those ideas!

  5. As always really interesting! I used planks too and her tip on using fabric is true else your books need to be aligned with everything! I used brambles in one of my pictures of The Cruel Prince and flowers from the garden for Black Bird of the Gallows. Sand (replace it by salt or sugar) can also make for a very useful background as you can write in it (I did it twice one for Stolen and it looked really good)! You can also use feathers (it does not cost a lot) or macarons (and have a blast eating them). Some colorful sweets or candy cane make for really amazing pictures too! All very cheap.
    Sophie Eloy recently posted…Book Author Challenge Day 9 : EroticaMy Profile

    1. The sand or salt as background is so creative! I’d never thought about it! And brambles for The Cruel Prince sounds on point! Sometimes it’s easy to look around and say, ‘I have no props!’, but digging around you can find stuff that you even use daily and don’t realize it could be a great thing to add to a shoot.

      You’re so lucky for having access to fresh flowers! They always look so beautiful!

      1. Well Pamela is was still the end of summer 😉 What I try to do with my bookstagrams is getting inspired by the story or the cover. Example: if they speak about birds in the story I’ll try to use feather or false birds. The Cruel Prince had brambles on the cover so I went into my garden and cut some overgrown brambles. I also try to color coordinate with the cover if it’s possible. Sometimes stones can be used to or moss or …Anything really.
        Sophie Eloy recently posted…Book Author Challenge Day 10: FamousMy Profile

    2. Well, macarons are super expensive here 😀 but for the rest, I think it’s true. I think what you need most is just ingenuity. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Unfortunately, it’s something I don’t really have 😀 and then my enemy number two is lighting.. Over here, about 6 months a year have TERRIBLE lighting (it’s night at 4PM). So I generally just take pics in the summer. But I can’t wait to start taking some when better weather comes again 🙂

        1. Lol make my macarons :DDDDD that’s a sight I’d like to see 😀 (I am laughing so bad right now, I’m the worst cook in the world. Maybe if I made them from clay… They’d be reusable then :DDD)

          My mom’s house is incredibly dark (even in the summer we get like 2 hours of semi-light in one room, it’s actually quite depressing), but my boyfriend’s house is okay even in the winter. You just have to catch the right hour. But most of my props are things that grow outside, so I guess I’ll be waiting for the summer to up my bookstagram game again :DD

  6. Thank you Pamela and Evelina! I’m not very talented when it comes to the visual arts, so that combined with the new algorithm has kept me away from bookstagram. I wouldn’t say that this has convinced me to give it a go, but it’s fascinating to learn how much you can achieve with what you already have on hand! I particularly like the pictures that use nature or bookshelves, since those are both easily accessible backgrounds for most bookish folks 🙂
    JJ @ This Dark Material recently posted…book review: to kill a kingdomMy Profile

    1. Oh hell, I’m also not very good at my Bookstagram 😀 which was why it was so exciting (and a little amusing) to have a Bookstagram guest post! But yeah, it does sound simpler when it’s put like that, and in the end – it’s like with everything in life, isn’t it? You can make genius pieces out of anything. If you need expensive stuff to do it, then you’re probably not doing it right, or it’s just not for you. Really talented folks always find a way 🙂 which makes me come back to the fact that I’m probably not very talented with this stuff xD but it’s okay! We can’t all be the same 🙂 and I am still so lucky to have a significant amount of followers on Insta when I literally barely do anything xD I am always surprised about that 😀

      And actually yes, I also thrive (let’s say xD) at insta when it’s summer. It’s harder with the snow xD

      1. You’re welcome! If you’re ever tempted to join bookstagram then using things you already have to start is definitely the way to go. Like with a blog, some people like to go with self-hosted route from the start, others go free until they can decide if it’s really something they want to do long term… In the end if it looks good, people don’t really care how much you are spending in it.

        And Evelinah, psss, snow is actually a great background! I’ve seen a lot of people making their feeds with this white theme that they achieve with all the snow.

  7. This is an interesting post. I’d like to say that I don’t spend money on props very often, but I do – just went shopping for Easter props today. And, in the end, you kinda have to buy props because, in my opinion, after some time using the same prop over and over again the photos become monotonous (using the same background does not make a photo monotonous, by the way). Even if you just buy a new mug, it’ll make all the difference.

    However, I don’t spend much on props because I order most of them from ebay – yes, ebay is your best friend for Instagram props. It has pillows, trays, sheets, flowers, etc. IT HAS EVERYTHING! I bought an Hogwarts letter an a pair of glasses for less than an euro and, if I’m not mistaken, I bought fifty butterflies for two euros. And, most times, there is no shipping.

    You can also use a sheet of white carton for a white background. But, if you have cats like me, you will end up spending a lot of money on it since they like to walk on it and leave their paw print. =P
    Tânia @MyLovelySecret recently posted…You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important. Celebrating Powerful Women in Young Adult FictionMy Profile

    1. Haha 😀 glad to hear you buy props though, Tania. It’s cute. I admire it! Because it means you take your stuff seriously. Maybe one day I’ll have a REAL booksta too 🙂 😀 (I doubt it though. LOL)

      Wow, that’s a good point about Ebay, actually 🙂 fifty butterflies xD wow 😀

      Hey, who says paw prints are bad, that’s just cute 😀

    2. I haven’t gotten anything from ebay but sounds like there’s ton of interesting stuff there! I’m specially envious of that Hogwarts letter XD Will have to check it out!

    1. Hopefully some day when you’re less swamped you might give it a try! You can learn a lot by drawing inspiration from other accounts, seeing all the possibilities. It inspires you a lot and gives you enough to go on and try your own thing. 🙂

  8. Aaah….I am so so thankful for this post. Taking pictures is definitely not my thing and I always struggle with the props. I usually just apply some filter on the picture. But thank you for giving me some ideas. <3

  9. Yay I love posts about bookstagram! I do work very hard on my props, but I definitely don’t spend a *lot* of money on them. My go-to is second-hand stores! I once got this whole massive vase of fake flowers for $5 and like?! You don’t get better than that. I also like to just use my books as props. So lots of lines and towers and things, that really fills up the frame. I am a little jealous of bookstagrammers who have epic swords and crowns and things in their photos, but I’ll content myself with homemade origami and cheap-shop flowers haha.
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…How I Met My Favourite Books (Basically A #MeetCute Post For Inanimate Objects)My Profile

    1. Like I say, talented people will always find a way 🙂 you’ve come up with an especially nice color scheme too, for that sort of thing – it’s colorful, so I feel like you can probably use a lot more different props than if, say, your colors were mostly while or cream, like most bloggers’. Smart going 😉

      It’s a sad thing for me not to have actual books. But then I feel like I still wouldn’t manage to take good pics of them. It’s probably just the fact that I don’t get creative with it xD

      Oh, definitely stay with your origami. Those paper stars of yours are so amazing!!

    2. I love it when you use cakes as props XD They always look so amazing. I also love how those daggers and crowns look on pics, but that’s a level of prop-cover matching I can’t afford XD Yay for cheap fake flowers though!

      1. I love the cakes too, omg! Cait has a really smart color scheme though, one that works for EVERYTHING. Most of the color schemes people use are quite limiting for your cover choices, but Cait’s scheme will fit almost any cover, which is really cool from the point of view of actually taking the photos 🙂

  10. Digging this post! I like to take advantage of my surroundings, like the marble-esque surface of my living room fireplace or my own window sill or even the park nearby for book pics.

    1. Thanks 🙂 lucky – you have marble surfaces! That’s so cool 🙂 I have an okay floor (wood or tile), but most of the time, the problem is lighting. Wintertime xD yes, definitely yes to the park – that’s also my favorite sort of place. It’s too bad we have snow for like 5 month, gah. But come summer, I’ll be sure to take loads of pics 🙂

    1. So am I xD there are so many talented people, plus they have actual print books (I mostly just own ebooks). But in the end, I guess it’s all about fun of taking pics anyway 🙂

  11. I lovvee this!
    Made me.laugh a few times haha
    And God yes we don’t have these things lying around haha, but i use what i can find, sometimes i hand craft my own stuff, i make my own candles and bookmarks and stuff like that

    1. Thanks for reading 🙂 yeah, I guess it’s all in the creativity, after all. And in how much you enjoy taking the photos. I think I’ll get back into Bookstagram when the weather picks up a little 🙂

  12. These bookstagrams are awe-inspiring, wow!

    This post is incredibly timely because I just started trying to put a ~little~ effort into Instagram. It’s just like you told me before: go with what you have lying around. I realized my hijab collection is basically an endless well of fabric backdrops, lol. I also tend to buy floral clothing so we’ll see how this goes. I don’t quite have the patience to create an IG theme yet though xD
    Sarabi recently posted…A Reimagining of a Childhood Classic + a Not-So-Good ReadMy Profile

    1. I know right! I was awed as well 🙂

      Put *a little* effort, huh 😀 bookstagram is HARD! I don’t know, at least for me it is.
      YESSSS. Your hijab collection is probably PERFECT! Gosh, that’s such a good idea though, YOU ARE A GENIUS. I also have TONS of scarves lying around!!! Why did I not think about that????

      Yeah, my problem is also mostly with a theme. I just… Haven’t found anything that would click? I understand what a theme’s supposed to look like but… I don’t know. It’s just weird. My creativity doesn’t go that far! I can’t construct multiple different looking scenarios that are still vaguely the same xD

  13. Thanks so much for sharing all of these helpful tips. As much as I love seeing other book lover’s photos, I haven’t jumped into Bookstagram yet because of the time commitment and expense (or so I thought, lol). Definitely bookmarking this post to keep as a reference in case I do decide to jump in.

    1. And thanks for reading 🙂 oh yeah, bookstagram definitely eats up your time, that’s for sure. But it’s fun to start just to hang out, even if you’re not going to be taking a lot of photos.

  14. So true. I use plastic flowers in mine and the prices here are okay-ish. I make sure to pick the one’s with lots of flowers in a cheaper price. I’m starting to collect mugs and they’re not even bookish mugs I just find them really pretty and they’re not that expensive. We use mugs at home too so they’re regularly used. Placemats work too, though we only have ugly ones at home. hahaha! PLATES! Sometimes I use color palettes and just look for anything that matches the book cover. I even bought a small feet rug once, it’s soft and fluffy for texture. But my current background is gold (Lord knows I love gold colors or anything shiny really) I took a huge paper from a huge calendar and spray painted it gold. The paint was a leftover from a school project.

    People need to know that LIGHTING IS KEY when it comes to bookstagram. Doesn’t matter how much props you have on your photo as long as the lighting is great it’ll look fab. If natural lighting is difficult, there’s always photo editing apps. 😀

    1. Yeah, I agree about the lighthing! Part of my problem is exactly that. In winter, it’s never light – never ever, and the sun goes down at 4. Maybe I just have to take pics for the whole year in summer 😀 (sounds like a plan…)
      Gold sounds amazing as a background 🙂 actually, my other challenge (apart from the lighting) is color coordination, or just generally deciding on the colors I want to use, or rather, having a system.

  15. This is a great post, Avalinah! I’ve always wanted to start a bookstagram for the books I read but never brought myself to do it because it seemed as though mine wouldn’t look as good as the others. This is great!

    1. Thanks! We have to thank Pam, my guest poster, for this wonderful post 🙂 actually, I’m not very good at bookstagram myself! It’s hard to keep a theme, to make time for the books and just stick to it. I think I need Pam’s advice myself 🙂

  16. I needed this post. I’ve actually linked to it in my post for this week! (Post goes up on Wednesday, so thank you in advance Pamela and Avalinah.)

    I haven’t spent a lot on bookstagram props – I use my daughter’s baby blanket as a backdrop, my laptop case to add some texture and contrasting black on white, and then anything I may have handy as a prop. I try to go minimalist, but I don’t know if I’ve succeeded…
    Ara @ Open Pages recently posted…review; this night so darkMy Profile

    1. Wow, thanks for linking the post, Ara! And I’m glad you liked it 🙂
      I think minimalist is the best way, in terms of ease of actually taking the photo and not spending too much on props. But then you have to pay extra attention to the way you put your composition together and the lighting, because there’s nothing drawing the attention away 🙂
      I’ll have to make sure I’m following you on insta! 🙂

    1. I struggle the most with the background and the lighting! Yeah, it’s good to have one you use all the time. I guess I could make a point of picking something and sticking to it 😀

  17. Nice post Pamela and Evelina 🙂 This topic is in so much debate these days. But I think if you look carefully, it is not just a hobby for people who can afford costly props. I do know a few large accounts who don’t have those costly props or hardcover books and yet they are famous. For eg, look at the @thebooksatchel account.
    I guess it is more dependent on how much you interact and how well you curate your feed. I do agree though that a beautiful feed does play a major role in your following.
    And yes, white background always works like a charm 🙂
    Sim @ Flipping Through the Pages recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #19My Profile

    1. Thank you! 🙂 booksatchel still has amazing props I think. Things I wouldn’t have! All the cups and textures. And also, one thing I can’t afford – actual print books xD but that’s a whole different problem 😀

      Anyway, I really love your instagram feed 🙂

  18. There are some great tips here! I always gawk at some people’s Bookstagram and think about how much time and money they spend for all of the paraphernalia they use in their shots. I mean, if you can do that (and afford it) go for it! But…I’ll stick to my pillows and afghans 😛 Great post!
    Sheila @ She’s Going Book Crazy recently posted…Blog Tour, Giveaway & Author Interview: The Most Special Chosen by Rachel de la Fuente!My Profile

    1. I actually think that if you manage to pull of an awesome booksta feed despite not having a lot of money to spend on it, it’s a lot cooler 🙂 talent is about what you make of things and not how awesome the things you own are 🙂

  19. I loved this post so much! As a pretty (very!) new bookstagrammer, I can’t help but always awe at the consistently pretty feeds everywhere and the props seem so privileging to me because ugh, everyone has it and not me 🙁 Though, this post has given me such cool ideas, I might pick one or two tricks from here to create what all the book peeps say–a theme 😀 Also, extra points to Pamela for sharing the coke trick to work as coffee…I had no idea about that, hehe 🙂

    1. Yay, I’m glad 🙂 yeah, I’ve been thinking of a theme too. Although that takes away part of the fun (most of the time, my IG was just about ‘the moment’ – seeing a pretty scene and taking a photo in it). A theme does not allow for that xD oh well…

  20. Love this post so much! I really struggle with trying to find stuff I already have to use for props, but I can’t afford to spend and spend like some of the big accounts.

  21. Thank you so much for this 😉 As I little bookstrammer, I was always bugged by manyt things that bigger bookstragrammers say.
    I alway think that newcomer might get scared that they need incredible proprs. while a white blanket and a nice mug, thanks to a later edit, might create a beautiful and minimalistic feed. Sometimes there’s not all that need to spend money.
    Plus there’s always the outside, if possibile. Like a near park or a garden. Basically the props there are for free

    You gave a great idea for the wood background. I wanted one so badly I was going to purhcase one but maybe it will be cheaper to create one. I will see what I can do during the weekend.

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