Ah flat lays, the crack of the blogging photography world. I think we can all agree that the photo element of blog posts are a huge part of the trade and learning to take a good photo is key for adding the aesthetics to a post. Now, I’m no professional photographer, but I like to think my photography isn’t shit; I’ve done college courses in photography and my work have been printed in magazines and ads so I can’t be too bad, right? Anyway, flat lays…Let’s face it, they have got to make up a good percentage of all blog photos and they work for pretty much any niche and when done well, they look amazing! Today I’m sticking to talking about props for lays to hopefully throw some inspiration about!
There are a bunch of different options when it comes to flat lay backgrounds, the ones that tend to work best are plain, lightly coloured ones like wooden boards, wood effect wallpaper, or even plain white paper. When I started photographing products for my blog 6 odd years ago I used to prop open my A3 art book to get a white background. Not ideal but it worked. I like to think I’ve improved a lot over the past year even let alone 6 years ago.
01. Wallpaper – You can get some really nice wooden print wallpaper which was my ‘go to’ background for a while. Have a look on eBay or even B&Q for sample pieces of wallpaper or offcuts of whatever you’ve used in your house. A whole roll off eBay is usually under a tenner so really not that bad pocket wise. I have also picked up smaller sample pieces for a quid off eBay. If you want to go from something a bit different then this marble wallpaper is beautiful (I want it for my house!).
02. Tiles – Same deal as above, have a look on eBay for some sample tiles, stick them on something or even just on their own and you have another cheap background. I have this gorgeous octogon marble tile which looks amazing in flat lays! It was only £2.99!
03. Fablon/Sticky Back Plastic – These you can get in wooden effect too if you’d rather have something a little more hardy than wallpaper. I have a marble effect background I made by sticking the plastic onto a large piece of card. Only downside to that is that the surface tends to be shiny so you will need to angle everything to avoid getting reflections.
04. Blankets or sheets – If you have any nice duvet covers or sheets this is where they could come in handy. I’ve found lighter, less busy fabrics work better as they don’t draw attention away from the subject of the photograph.
05. Paper – Even just sheets of plain paper can make nice backgrounds, especially for product photo shoots. You can pick up a large piece of card, get a big sketchbook or even paint a huge piece of card white.
06. Grass – Nature is a photographers friend and grass can make for a lovely, natural background for a summery blog post. I’ve even balanced products in trees before, lipsticks balance surprisingly well in blossom trees.
Clear, clean photos of products can work really well if that’s the style you’re going for but for me personally, props are what make a good flat lay great. There are a tonne of things that work for beauty flat lays but here are my tried and tested faves.
01. Flowers – Fresh flowers look amazing with any subject, roses, stocks, snapdragons, peonies , stray blossoms, and sunflowers are my particular favourites for photographing. I love lilies too but they’re quite awkward to position in a way that doesn’t look weird. Petals and leaves are good shouts too. Don’t just stop at flowers, foliage can look great too, eucalyptus in particular looks amazing for nice, clean shots.
Real or fake? Looking closely at flowers, it’s quite obvious which are real and which are not but generally, most people don’t nit pick photos as much as we do ourselves. Some fake flowers are a bit crap but find yourself some nice ones it’s hard to tell.
I am a real flower girl myself but something fake is always great as a back up or if you don’t want to spent £5+ on a bunch every week. Want to make a bit of an iffy fake bunch to look that little bit more real – reduce the clarity slightly around the petals when editing.
02. Magazines/books – Everyone owns books and magazines so this prop most you probably already have in your home, no purchase necessary! Ones with illustrations work amazingly but sometimes even just ones with text look great! With magazines you can choose pretty illustrations or even find spreads from a brand you may be writing a blog post about so these can be incredibly fantastic additions to your photography!
03. Ribbons – I have a gigantic collection of ribbons which made for lovely contrast of textures in a photograph. I love flat lays to be nicely spaced but busy and ribbons cut up the negative space beautifully! I have a range of thicknesses and materials from cotton, lace, satin and organza, each bringing something a little different to your flat lay.
04. Crystals – I’m big on the healing crystal and gemstone lark so I have a tonne. I love how they look in photos so much! They add such a different dimension to a photograph and aren’t overly popular either.
05. Clothes and blankets – Or any other nice, textured or interesting fabric. You don’t need to be posting a OOTD to include clothes in your photography. I have been using a beautiful pleated dress I have in my photos. Bed spreads, blankets, shoes, even rugs are great to add texture and depth do a photograph!
06. Food & drink – Macaroons, cake, Krispy Kremes, tea, hot chocolate, coffee…The list is endless. These look great in lifestyle flat lays and the bonus is you get to eat them afterwards!
The more unique your props are more your photography will stand out, I tend to go through phases with my props and use something a tonne and then get bored with how samey my photography gets and whilst it pays off to have a theme for some people, I get too bored for that lark and switch and change quite a bit!