Styling Flat Lays using Layers

Styling flat lays can be challenging .. just ask me! Even after ten years of styling flat lays, I still struggle when setting up.

So if you think you’re the only person in the world that has trouble with this type of still life photography, rest assured, you are not alone.

My #1 piece of advice would be to keep it simple .. or, at least start simple.

For me, inspiration often comes from a background (no surprise there) and whenever I get a new background my mind is filled with possibilities. Of course the subject of the photo shoot is important .. will it be flowers? food? pottery? Well, it depends on the season, and what I’ve been up to.

Today, I’m sharing the steps that led me to this image. At a glance it tells a story: it’s probably Christmas, and I’ve been baking:Styling flat lays on a vinyl background. Backgrounds by Barb.

Choose the right background to convey the mood you’re trying to achieve. A concrete countertop definitely says baking!Styling a flat lay. Vinyl photography backgrounds.

Layer, layer, layer! and use multiples, especially in odd numbers:Styling a flat lay. Vinyl photography backgrounds.

Add the star of the layout, which of course, is cookies. Here’s one of my first shots. I added small bowls of crushed nuts and shaved chocolate to help tell the story.Styling flat lays on a vinyl background. Backgrounds by Barb.

Here I decided to move most of the bowls to the bottom, and added evergreens (because of course, it’s Christmas!)Styling flat lays on a vinyl background. Backgrounds by Barb.

I added more evergreens, sprinkles of birch stars, and messy spills of chocolates and nuts. When I’m happy with the basic layout, I edit the final image to sharpen, add contrast, and adjust light and shadow.Styling flat lays on a vinyl background. Backgrounds by Barb.

This is just a simple explanation of how I set up for this shot. There’s a bit more going on behind the scenes in terms of setup and lighting, but I’ll save that for another time, but here are a few tips for setting up for a shoot:

  • for flatlays, I recommend placing the background on a smooth surface such as a large piece of white foam core (available at most craft stores)
  • the backgrounds are well suited for top-down photography with the camera placed at least 2-3 feet above your subject
  • for a vertical image where the background is used as a “wall”, secure the background to foam core with a few pieces of masking tape, and position it behind your scene.

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3 Comments

  1. Found this to be very helpful as I do shoot a lot of food subjects. Thanks heaps. Your cookies look divine.

  2. Thanks for these tips Barb. I’m just beginning to try flatlays and it’s honestly a bit overwhelming. I’m curious if you personally weathered the cutting boards.
    On another note, I so enjoy your posts on Instagram and reading your blog. They always leave me with for a better word anchored and relaxed. Thank you for that

    1. I’m so happy you found this useful, Carolyn, and for your very kind words. When I read that something I share is enjoyed, it encourages me so much! Thank you! and no, I didn’t weather the boards : )

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