The top 5 tips to styling your stationery: how to nail the perfect flatlay.
You don’t need anything fancy, just your phone or a camera will do for now. Here are my top five tips to nailing that shot.
1. Make sure you’ve got the props!
Don’t have a prop box/basket/bag/drawer – now’s the time to start. Anything can be a prop. I have old cameras and typewriters, down to fun coloured thumbtacks and gems – anything goes!
Start by shopping your house and office- you want things with straight lines, curved lines, big and small items, bold colours, metallics, dishes and pots, clips and fasteners, ribbons and string. Flowers and petals (good silk flowers are great to keep in a box).
Ideally you want a palette that works with lots of things – choose three or four complementary and contrasting colours to start – that way you know all your props will work with each other.
2. Get a great backdrop
Unless you happen to have a beautiful pristine portable dining table – styling boards and backdrops are your best friend for a flatlay.
Styling boards are great as firstly you can get right next to your light source. Ideally you want to be as close to a window as possible. While we’re talking about windows – bright cloudy days are always a winner for photos. Direct sunshine will bleach everything out.
There are a few great companies who make styling board – I’m a fan of captured by lucy but a quick google search will find you plenty of options. These can be both solid boards or matts that you roll out if you’re short on space.
Want something a bit different – you can absolutely make your board. Get some foamboard and your paints out!
The other benefit to a styling board is that you can shoot on the floor. This is key to getting high up enough from your photo without using steps and ladders.
3. Get your angles right
The best flat lay shots are those with an interesting twist. While its tempting to line everything up in a straight line, having some angles in the photo leads the eye in a better way. It takes you from boring line up, to an eye catching photo that you want to linger on.
Follow the rule of three – split the screen into a 3×3 grid (your phone or camera might even do this for you). For balanced photos make sure it’s spread evenly through one row or column. Don’t forget to leave some white space – you don’t want the photo to be too cluttered.
4. Layer up
Just as with the angles, layering up items with texture and colour really take an average photo into a great photo. It takes some practice to see how much layering is the perfect amount – it’s easy to go too far.
Top tip – take a quick snap and look at it on a screen rather than by eye on through a lens. Sometimes something that looks great in person doesn’t quite translate on screen. Trial and error is the way.
5. Add some texture and movement
This is where your prop box comes into action. Once you have the stationery laid out with layers and angles, you need to balance the photo with your props.
Add some interesting texture with some small items in multiples, think paperclips or petals
Add some perpendicular lines with some straight items. Need to soften the photo, add some round dishes, some ribbon or twine. Anything that isn’t straight to contrast those lines.
This is where your photo comes alive. Don’t forget to snap and check – see what your eye is or isn’t drawn to and try again.
Now you’re ready to try it out yourself! Perfected the flatlay – I’d love to see the results!
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