Photo by Amy Lockheart
Styled flat lay photography has grown in popularity over the last several years, especially as more people and businesses have adopted visual platforms for promotion and social sharing (hello, Instagram!). Flat lays are a great tool to enhance branding, showcase products, celebrate accomplishments, and reveal the belongings and activities you value. Now flat lays are everywhere! While they may look easy, they do require some thoughtfulness and preparation.
When I begin developing a concept for a flat lay photo, I first determine subject/story, mood, and color palette. My next step is to choose my background, and then I build my flat lay from the background up by layering objects and playing with the placement of different elements. Don’t just grab the first background you see. Think about how the color, texture, and style of a backdrop contribute to the story you are telling or the mood you are conveying. Be mindful of how your subjects and supporting elements work with the background you’ve selected. Placing the same objects on light or dark backgrounds can result in dramatically different looks. It’s paramount that your backdrop sets the tone for the mood and message you want to convey, so give it a bit of thought before you start styling and shooting.
Variety is key when incorporating flat lays into your portfolio and sharing on social media. While it’s fun to stick with favorite backgrounds and themes, it’s important to mix it up to create a better visual experience for your audience. Need some clever ideas for your next flat lay background? Here are 20 great ideas. And bonus — you may already have many of these items.
1. White poster board / foam core
3. Old boards from barn sales
4. Card board / poster paper
5. Chalkboard (or chalkboard poster board)
The downside of large tiles is that they can be quite heavy. But for smaller flat lays, one 18 x 18-inch tile could do the trick. The color and pattern options are endless.
7. Wrapping paper
8 Helpful tools for flat lay photography:
- Flash (for darker days)
- White foam core boards
- Tripod with vertical arm (handy for those who shoot a lot but definitely not required)
- Risers (Anything will do. I frequently use small note pads, binder clips, and baby board books of varying sizes and heights.)
- Binder clips (for keeping fabric flat against foam core board)
- Ruler (for when you need precise lines)
9. Tabletops & countertops
Where to buy your next flat lay background:
3. Photo Boards
5. Supply Co.
7. Paper Source
9. Ink and Elm
10. Curio and Oak
12. Shop Romanticist
13. La Rousse
14. Bark and Berry
17. The Styling Mat