Flatlays Flatlays Flatlays. You know the drill. But how can you make them pop? You’ve got the products you want to photograph but it just needs something else. I really struggled with this for a while, but now I think I’ve got it down to a tee. I now suddenly find myself walking around shops thinking “that would be good for blogging”, I’ve even got my mother in law doing it. She’s probably my biggest photography fan, always paying my photographs compliments and saying I should work do photography work for home shops. If only! So over the years my collection of props has gotten larger and larger, and seems to be taking up a lot of room. Whilst finding and buying our house we specifically knew we needed a room to store my props and equipment (home office here I come!).
I get a lot of questions asking about my photography and the props I use. I’ve always been put off writing this post because honestly it feels like it’s going to take some time. But if you want it then here it comes. I will one day write about how I do my blog photography in general, though it might take another year for me to even create the draft.
Let’s start off with the basics. Backgrounds, think about textures as well as patterns on this one. The go-to for most bloggers is wallpaper to lay props and products on to. You can get free wallpaper samples from places like B&Q, The Range and Dunelm (basically any place that sells wallpaper). You’re allowed to take around 1 meter strip of wallpaper for free for decorating purposes, so lets just pretend we’re giving the place a spruce up and get yourself some backgrounds. The best ones to go for are light coloured, nothing that would distract viewers from what you’re actually photographing. Most people tend to go for wood or brick effect. If you have nice wooden floors in your home then by all means just use them. Another favourite is contact paper, although I don’t tend to use that often because it can be reflective, but it totally depends on your lighting situation. Marble contact paper is a huge hit, and if done correctly can just look like you have some swish marble counter tops in your kitchen. It comes in a roll and is much longer than wallpaper samples. I recommend leaving it on its roll and not using the adhesive to stick it to something, because it will never stick right. You’ll have air bubbles and dodgy lines and it does not look good (look closely at peoples marble backgrounds, if not done right it’s totally noticeable and ruins images).
Let’s talk textures, sometimes you want your photos to have a different feel to them. Using blankets and bed spreads are another easy way to achieve this. I’ve always found when using these types of materials it’s best to create a messy look rather than neat. You’re never going to get your bedspread look crisply perfect without a line or crease. Using delicate colours again will help shape your image. Although you could go the total opposite like I did in my autumn post, using a dark patterned scarf to tide in all the colours together within an autumnal theme really made the photos pop.
Something to fill in the blank spaces, you wouldn’t think things like this would be so important, but boy are they. A selection of easy to find cheap metallic confetti and tissue paper confetti will go a long way. You can get simple wedding confetti from Amazon, you could go for simple circles or search around for other shapes and colours. I recently got my little box of white heart confetti in the Aldi special buys, they’ve currently got on a whole wedding section for SUPER cheap (a lot of stuff perfect for blog photos!). Or you can search for any colour metallic confetti too, even some with glitter. I love this rose gold one. I’ve bought mine from a range of places, including Ebay, Home Bargains (wedding section), Dunelm (party section) and Asda (seasonal section). You could also grab some boxes of fake rose petals from places like The Range too.
Fake or real, either will do. Bear in mind that some fake flowers look A LOT fake. But as long as they’re not in focus and not the main attraction I wouldn’t worry too much. Sticking with real flowers is your best bet but no one has access to beautiful fresh flowers on the daily, and who could afford too?! Watch out your artificial petals haven’t started to fray, this is what I see the most of. Every so often I try to do a bit of housekeeping with my flowers and props, including cleaning them, dusting, polishing and trimming any odd frays from fake flowers. A piece of advice I would give about buying fake flowers is to buy in shop you really don’t know what you’re getting if you buy some from the internet, especially if they are cheap. Take a look below at the photo to the right, at the top there is some whats supposed to be baby breath flowers, but as you can see they are very plastic looking.
Remember to get a whole range of colours, sizes and textures, this will give you a broader approach to making your images all look and feel different. Think about the season we’re currently in also, summer and autumn flowers are very different from each other so try tie your photos in with that. At Christmas time you can purchase fake hollie and wreaths which look fabulous in Christmas images. My fake flowers are from a range of places, the cheapest place would be The Range. But I paid a little more for my fake peonies from Homesense, and honestly I think it’s worth the extra cash.
I like to use items like these to layer up my images. By using these as a base you can add extras on top to really help finish of your image. I hunt around car boots to get more vintage looking pieces, like my gold trimmed plate. You could also find yourself with cups and saucers! Again, a mixture of sizes and colours will help give a wide range of images. The plates below are from either Sainsbury’s, Poundland or Wilko. I got the cat shaped one from Pets at Home (it’s actually a food dish)!
You could prop your little beauty products or some jewellery onto any of these to help them pop. I’ve been eyeing up these trinket dishes, at £6 for three you can’t go wrong. If you want to find some that are a little different try shopping on the auction used part of Ebay. You can find some right steals and some lovely vintage bits. This will insure that your images are set apart from everyone else. Nothing is worse than seeing the exact same prop in everyones photographs!
Open or closed books can add both style and sophistication to your images. Books without images on work best, you can even get some very pretty note books now super cheap. Even if you take a look on your book shelve now you might find one or two pretty photo-worthy books on there. Books which link in with your post could work brilliantly too. If you were writing about photography you could whip a photography book in there. The image on the right was waken for a mothers day post, so I’ve used a pretty Q&A book about motherhood in the image to tie it in with the post some more. Another idea is to use diaries or planners if you’re writing a post about organising and productivity.
I love using art and quotes in my photographs. They really give off a different vibe, and make the images stand out. I get my little A5 quote cards from Paperchase. They are usually in the stand with all the postcards, and they cost about 80p each. Most of them are inspirational quotes and they are always changing in there. So keep your eyes pealed every time you go in. With art work you could get something made and designed for you. I got our star sign painting from Tulip and Moss which I adore. I plan on framing it once we’ve moved and hanging it with the rest of our family photographs. You could also use any of your own paintings and drawings if you have any, I managed to find some hidden away from my art course of little headless naked ladies and the suitable tones work wonderfully in photographs.
You can use all of these either as the ‘main focus’ of the image, or have them on the sidelines giving other products/items a little bit of a boost. Like I’ve done below try tie in the colours and themes from your selected quotes/artwork with surrounding props to create an eye catching image, either going bold or subtle.
Adding a bit of personalisation is a beautiful way of adding some flare to your images, so by throwing in some printed photos or Polariods you’ll certainly achieve that. Be careful about reflections on glossy images, try to get to an angle where you don’t have your lights or window reflection in prints, because trust me it is noticeable, sometimes its not avoidable but just keep an eye out, nothing worse than spending hours photographing and realising your reflection is staring back at you in the majority of the images.
Another reason I love doing this is because you can add photos to your blog post that don’t seem “blog worthy“. If they’re not great quality, or just not something you’d like wide spread across your blog but you still think they should be included you can sneakily add them in to your flat lay images. I am constantly printing images or taking snaps with my Polaroid, so I try to keep my favourite shots on hand incase I’d like to add them to a flatly.
Something else to help you create layers in your images. These type of things really help your images come to life and look slightly more dimensional rather than just having products laid there. A mixture of textures and sizes will be more than enough to make your photographs varied and interesting. Aldi have recently sold a whole mixture of wooden chopping boards and trays. Which is where I purchased the round tray below (left), and the two wooden ones (right). The coloured strips will make your images pop, especially if you try coordinate the colours in with other props. I got my marble slab (which I actually use in my kitchen to make cups of tea on!) from Amazon, its perfect for slick clean images, usually with pretty package products as it helps create the illusion of luxury.
A lot of the props mentioned in this post are used by a whole range of bloggers. You might see some of these props in a lot of photographs if you look carefully. I like to try and think of something a little different, that people might not think to use, and to help your images stand out in a see of Pinterest worthy pictures. A favourite of mine is using this cut from a tree trunk. I managed to find this at my local car boot, although it’s got a hole in it’s easily covered by products or props. You can purchase fake tree-cuts from the range, but getting your hands on a real piece will do so much justice for your images. Best thing is every cut off is unique, so you could always buy a few sizes and different grains. If you liked you could also get some wood stain and give some a darker look if that’s what you’ll think work best for you.
I think it’s very hard to keep things fresh and new in the blogging world, so thinking outside the box will certainly put your own stamp off work out there.
What are your favourite blogger props? Everyone has there go-to’s when it comes to images, something they’ll use every time because it just looks so perfect. I love that you can start to tell bloggers images apart from each other, you start to recognise peoples sense of photography style and that really helps people make a brilliant brand with their blog. Thinking a little bit outside the box to stand out in this crazy internet world.