1) Avoid Harsh Shadows
Unless you’re going for a moody or more dramatic look, you probably don’t want harsh shadows in your flatlays. While using natural light is always best, the directional light coming in through your window (for example) will almost always throw shadows. In order to get a more evenly lit image, use a reflector to bounce light into the shadows. You can purchase a small reflector online or use white foam board you can find at a craft store. You can even use a white sheet or towel you already have at home! You’ll want to set up your flatlay next to a large window with lots of natural light pouring in. Then you’ll arrange the reflector standing up next to your flatlay at the end farthest from the window. Adjust with the angle of the reflector and the distance at which you place it from your flatlay to get the desired amount of light to fill in your shadows. I find that soft shadows add depth and are often best for the look I want and by using a reflector you can control the strength of the shadow or eliminate it completely.
2) Build Your Own Styling Kit
Based on your blog topic or common items you post about, thoughtfully collect decorative pieces that compliment your posts and that you can use again and again in different combinations to make styling your flatlays a breeze. The elements of your styling kit will differ depending upon what you mainly take photos of or blog about, but no matter what having some core pieces in your kit can help lend consistency to your photos and help define your brand. Some examples that work for many flatlays include:
- spools of silk or cotton ribbon or fabric (choose your brand colors or stick to neutrals)
- decorative boxes (wood, glass, mirrored, velvet, etc)
- decorative dishes, mugs, or serving trays
- wrapping paper or clean backgrounds that match your brand and can be used repeatedly (marble wrapping paper and white foam board are some of my favorites)
- pretty or luxe versions of common tools of your trade (maybe that’s natural wood pencils and paintbrushes if you’re posting about art, or copper measuring spoons if you’re blogging about baking, or vintage stamps and decorative scissors if you blog about stationery design, or gold paper clips and a white wireless mouse if you’re a business blogger)
3) Make The Most Of One Setup
Once you’ve taken the time to get your setup beautifully styled, make the most of it! The obvious shot for a flatlay is the one you take from directly overhead. But then step back and look for other angles or ways to zoom in on pieces of your flatlay in order to produce multiple interesting and usable images from your one styled setup. Try both horizontal and vertical photos of the same setup. Then take a close-up of one section of your flatlay to showcase one item or element while cropping the surrounding pieces. Next, take a photo from an angle that will change your focus to be on a slice of the setup and will provide a new unique image. Another approach for the same flatlay is to get down and take a photo on “eye-level”. This means elements may blur out in the foreground or background and you can isolate one element in focus. The layering effect will add visual interest to your image as well. You can easily end up with 5-10 variations of a single styled look by seeking out new angles and zooming in on different pieces!
Here is a series of images I took of one bride’s details without moving the pieces after I styled them:
THE AUTHOR: LYNNE REZNICK
Lynne Reznick is an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer who captures love stories across New England and beyond. She launched Lynne Reznick Photography in 2011 with a focus on serving couples and families by providing beautiful portraiture and documentary style classic imagery that lets authentic moments and emotions shine. Lynne is a member of the International Live Events Association (ILEA) and currently, serves on the Board of Directors for the Boston chapter. When not photographing weddings, Lynne trains for road races, indulges in a donut or two, drinks lots of coffee, and cuddles with her husband Scott. She lives in Boston, MA.