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:
Choose the right background to convey the mood you’re trying to achieve. A concrete countertop definitely says baking!
Layer, layer, layer! and use multiples, especially in odd numbers:
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.
Here I decided to move most of the bowls to the bottom, and added evergreens (because of course, it’s Christmas!)
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.
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.