Shopping around Antique markets for props to create book covers

Hi all, another quick post on what I’ve been up to during these strange and unpredictable times.

As I’m seeing my work at the micros heading down a slippery slope of devaluation, I’ve been investing in greener pastures by going all in on book covers at Arcangel and hopefully eventually Trevillion.

As I’m not doing as much traveling as I would like due to both Covid regulations and my current soul-destroying day-job, the next best thing has been to head over to local flea-markets and purchase some old props to create concepts. I’ve duly uploaded them and excited to see which will be accepted and hopefully eventually picked up on print!

Brainstorming what I needed

The first flea-market I visited was in Madrid, notably the famous Sunday market known as “El Rastro” in the Lavapies district. If you do head over to visit Madrid, I highly recommend checking it out!

I had some ideas in mind was looking for:

  • Old photographs
  • Old keys
  • An old medal
  • A small carpet to place items
  • An old book
  • An old telephone
  • An old typewriter
  • Old coins no longer in circulation from various countries

Didn’t want to spend over 100 euros either as I’m never 100% certain I’ll be able to recoup even this small investment!

What I eventually picked up

Total investment = 60 euros

Taking a leaf out of Trevillion

Some research for concepts helps on what’s already out there…

Link to results search on Trevillion for “Old Photograph”

Concepts created from the above set

Saw some old phones and typewriters but they were just too expensive…for another time 😉 I incorporated a quartz crystal as I already had at home.

Nevertheless, managed to create the following concepts using my trusty 105mm macro lens and 100% natural light:

Basically, I was looking for simple stories using the characters, such as the soldier on the top left who was awarded a metal for his services…
Scratching the man’s face on a family portrait…the old fashioned way of “blocking” someone. Some old coins, such as French Franc and English Shilling

Finally a fantastic fone!

They were basically trying to rip me off at El Rastro with crazy prices for old phones. So, took advantage of a weekend in sunny Portugal to head to a local flea market where I picked up an old phone for just 20 euros! As well as an old iron frame where I’ll place some of the photos and another old key.

As for the phone, on the way back home I stopped by the beach and thought, why not have some shots of the phone next to the water and on the sand. A publisher / author might see some sort of connection, who knows!

Seeking inspiration at Trevillion

Link to search “old telephone”

Which ones have been accepted at Arcangel?

Still pending for most! For full results tune back in at the end of the month for my July Brutally Honest Earnings report!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, Spain, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (Late-2021??). I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography


  1. One approach I have taken is to go to an antique place (really they just have old tat in the USA) and agree to borrow the phone for $10 which is refunded when I bring it back. The shop is okay as they get the money for nothing and I don’t have the clutter in my home.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great set of props and ideas. Some time ago I did the same at the Valencia rastro. An old typewriter, books and photo frames. I think its moment to start create some images, after my first image accepted at Arcangel

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hello Alex,

    When you use an old photograph like those above, don’t you need a model release? Are there laws allowing the use of vintage photos and if so, what might they be?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jeff,

      Great question and something I did think about and researched without much success. I purposely selected images that were at least 60 years old to ensure that most of the people there were deceased. In addition, I purchased the copyright to the images by the dealer so perhaps I do own the copyright to use the images as I wish (?) Not sure. If anybody could shed some light on the legalities that would be great….in the meantime, I deem the risk to be extremely small, particularly since Arcangel rejected most of them!


  4. Post with a nostalgic touch! Thanks a lot for inspiration, Alex! Was wondering do they (Arcangwl) accept pics made with a mobile ?( have you ever submitted any..?)

    Liked by 2 people

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