Photography props are expensive; anything from pillows, handheld props, and furniture will cost far more than they would to make or even buy from a thrift store and fix up. With a little creativity and time, you can make your own photography props that will last for years and keep your profit margins healthy!
Make your own pillows. Small babies and pets, especially, often photograph better if they pose with pillows. The best design for newborn infants and small pets is a C-shaped pillow, often called a nursing pillow in stores. Cut two large Cs out of your fabric, 12 to 14 inches long and 6 to 7 inches wide. Sew the wrong sides together, leaving a 3-inch unsewn opening. Turn the C right-side out, stuff with the polyester fiberfill until firm, and stitch up the hole. You can make a variety of sizes for bigger babies and pets. For large pets, big kids and agile adults, make a variety of large square or rectangular throw pillows. Simply cut your fabric into two matching squares or rectangles, say 3 to 4 feet across, and sew and stuff as above.
Make boxes. If you or a friend have any woodworking skills at all, wooden boxes are easy to make. A rectangular wooden box with wheels, even fake wooden wheels, looks like a wagon if you paint it bright red. Make a bigger wooden box (no lid needed), paint a bright color, add painted flowers or a rainbow and you have something interesting for older kids to sit on. Make another one, paint it green and paint on some wrapped presents, and you have a Christmas seat for older kids. Make another box, paint the outside like a car, a circus wagon, a boat, or a spaceship, and you can seat kids inside for the shot. Vary the box sizes somewhat.
Sew graduate drapes. Some schools still prefer the old-fashioned body drape for girls' senior pictures. You will need approximately three yards of dark, thick fabric cut into two 1 1/2-yard pieces. Fold the pieces in half, lengthwise. About 12 inches from the fold, arrange the pieces so the front of one is over the front of the other and the back of the same one is over the back of the other at a 90 degree angle, making the V-drape for the neck. Stitch into place.
Restore a thrift-shop find. You can often find antique or unique furniture at thrift stores or yard sales, including wicker furniture kid's chairs, rockers or couches. Stuffed chairs that with the right throw could be a Santa throne--the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. A little paint, maybe a new layer of fabric covering the existing upholstery, and you have a collection of nice seats to pose your subjects on. While you're at the thrift store, keep an eye out for other prop items: plastic toys, wooden spoons, plastic measuring cups, large ceramic vases you can fill with a nice artificial flower bouquet, globes, or seasonal items like stuffed pumpkins, Christmas cookie jars, American flags or plastic Easter eggs. Again, these may only need some touch-up paint or even just some soap and water to make them beautiful accessories for your shots.
Be sure all pillow fabric is machine-washable. Babies are messy, and pets shed! Choose a variety of fabric colors and textures, and don't forget to include some seasonal fabrics (Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July) . Make sure any paint you use is non-toxic, and all wooden surfaces are well-sanded prior to painting.