Vintage Items for Photoshoots: How to find these items for your photography?
Whether you specialize in portraits for toddlers, teens or brides-to-be, adding vintage toys, clothing and props to your photo shoot can bring a glimmer to your subject eyes and something special to your overall session.
But unless you have the free time to scout out estate sales and the money to spend at antique stores for these added touches, it can seem near impossible to find those perfect signature pieces to help brand your business. Luckily there are a lot of people out there doing all of the searching for you! Armed with a little bit of etiquette, you can put other people’s work to work for you!
Last week I had the opportunity to do a photoshoot in a historic mansion in Rhinebeck (no, not Chelsea Clinton‘s in case you were wondering!) with racks and racks of vintage handmade and designer clothing available to photograph, as well as antique clocks, couches, tables – you name it! I also came home with an antique french lace dress.
So the question is, how did this amazing photo shoot come about? No, it didn’t just manifest itself out of thin air. It was the result of a symbiotic relationship that I purposefully established with a local vintage boutique owner. For the opportunity to get complimentary professional photos for advertising purposes, the boutique owner was more than thrilled to lend gorgeous, valuable merchandise that I could have never afforded on my own!
Introduce yourself and be polite.
There is probably a vintage boutique or two in your town or somewhere within a reasonable distance of your home. Have you driven by to check one out recently? Next time you find yourself with a few delicious hours of free time, pour yourself a thermos of ice tea and take a little trip. Make sure to have some business cards on you!
When you get there, make sure to introduce yourself to the owner or the manager. As you browse, ask the owner how long they have been open. Let the owner know how you found them. Maybe it was a word of mouth recommendation that brought you into the store, but could their print or social media advertising use a boost? You don’t have to approach them right away with “Here is what I can offer you!” Just file away in the back of your mind a list of ways your photography could be a benefit to this business.
Develop a Relationship – Preferably one that is Mutually Beneficial.
If you truly love vintage items and intend on making them a part of what you offer in wardrobe or props for your photography studio, then I highly suggest investing in something from the boutique. It doesn’t have to be a high ticket item. But a great way to bring up the fact that you are a photographer is while the owner is wrapping your purchase!
By the time my recent photo shoot rolled around I had stopped into the vintage boutique multiple times, had purchased several items on various occasions, and had brought friends in. We had talked about doing a photo shoot the very first time I had come in, but each time I came in (even if I didn’t buy anything) the boutique owner became more excited about planning a shoot.
Respect the Delicacy of Vintage Items
If you are looking for the perfect vintage pull-toy for toddlers to use during a session, you might be best off purchasing it instead of borrowing one when the need arises. Granted, it might have survived 50+ years of tough love, but you really don’t want to be adding more wear and tear to an item that you don’t own.
Recently the boutique owner I worked with confided in me that another photographer had recently stopped in, introduced herself, and asked to borrow clothes. “It rubbed me the wrong way, but I said yes,” the owner said. “But after her first photo shoot she came back in again asking to borrow more clothes and said that she wanted to take them in the water. At that point I had to tell her ‘No Way!’”
Take very good care of the items that you borrow. Remember that cloth fibers begin to break down over time. Silk is especially delicate! If your client/model doesn’t fit into something, don’t force it!
For my most recent photo shoot (the one with racks and racks of very expensive merchandise) I invited the owner to be on site to keep an eye on the clothing. That’s not always feasible, but it put her mind at ease and let her see that I took very good care of the items.
Understand the Value of Free
If someone gives me something for free, I try to repay in kind. So each time I borrow vintage clothing and props, I allow the boutique owners the opportunity to have fully edited images for free. Of course, this is always cleared with the client before-hand – and they are usually thrilled at the chance to wear/play with something unique and happily agree.
It doesn’t cost me anything to edit a few extra images, especially as the relationship with both my client and the boutique owner is strengthened by the exchange!
If you end up renting the items, then it’s up to you if you want to offer up images for free. After all, now you’re looking at an exchange of items for currency.
These tips can also be applied to local independent designers, non-vintage boutiques and even local theaters. Just make sure that you are offering them a valuable service in exchange for whatever it is that they are able to offer you!
Jen Kiaba is a photographer, photojournalist and designer living in the Hudson Valley, NY. She also owns Jen Kiaba Photography, in the Hudson Valley of New York where she specializes in Fashion, , and Fine-Art Portraits with a Hint of Vintage Romance.