July 14, 2021
Flatlays used to feel incredibly daunting to me. I remember scrolling through Instagram, thinking “how on earth am I supposed to style these kinds of photos on rushed wedding days?!”
Now, I almost always handle the flatlays and detail shots whenever I second shoot weddings. Actually, I usually end up asking to do them. So what on earth changed?
I read tons of Instagram posts, watched videos, and scrolled through styling supply pages to see other photographers and stylists’ flatlays. A perfect example of that is Naomi of Bowties & Bouquets, who would do “Flatlay Fridays” on her Instagram! I quickly learned to recognize the way Naomi’s flatlays ebbed and flowed, leaning into C- and S-curves and sitting so naturally.
Below is an example of a loose backwards “C”. It’s not perfectly conformed to the curve shape, but still has clear direction.
Depending on the materials or stationery you’re photographing, sometimes your flatlays might feel a little empty. For example, the photo above, of my Holga film camera. If I took all the florals out of that photo, it would feel a little . . . . well, flat. And despite their name, flatlays need dimension!
A lot of that can be provided through styling accessories such as keys, stamps, antique dishes, veils –– but the easiest way to start is to head off to a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and pick up an assortment of fake flowers that you can take apart and arrange. That way, you’ll get used to styling your flatlays to draw attention to its main element.
Below is one of the first flatlays that I ever photographed for a client. The stationer had provided me with a large suite for a styled shoot, and I wanted to be able to incorporate all of her paper goods. Most of her envelopes and seating cards were gray, and I didn’t want the flatlay to lack color. So I took a box of sola (wood/fake) individuals and set to arranging everything in a way that brought interest to the entire image: tropically colorful flowers surrounding pops of more minimal stationery. (Y’all, I was SO proud of this photo!)
Make sure that you aren’t unintentionally skewing your flatlay in one direction or the other. In simple terms, don’t pile too many items on one side or the other accidentally. (If you’re styling your flatlay like that intentionally, go for it!)
Below is an example of a well-balanced flatlay. The invitations are relatively busy and elegant, so the only background for this flatlay is a white veil. In the top right is a pop of sparkle and gold by only showing the tips of these bridal shoes, and in the bottom left –– the opposite side of the photo –– is a similar accent of gold and decoration through the hairpin and ribbon.
I hope you come to love styling flatlays as much as I do! Try something new the next time you arrange a flatlay, whether that means scattering some cinnamon around your daily breakfast photo or taping up the polaroids in your room a little more intentionally. Comment your favorite tip below, and Pin any of the photos in this post to find it again easily!