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Today is going to be more of a relaxed, more lifestyle focused post where I’ll be discussing some of the items that I love to use to create blog photos and Instagram flat lays.
We’re going to go on my personal flat lay/product photo journey before I discuss the types of items I use now for my photos. I’d say that my flat lay style has definitely changed and grown over the years.
During 2016 was when I first posted what I would consider a flat lay picture. By Instagram flay lay standards, these weren’t great. During that year I posted a total of three flat lay style images on Instagram, two were taken on a wooden floor and one on a rug (also on the floor). You could say 2016 was a year of plain floor flat lays for me.
2017 was when I started posting more frequently, included more beauty photos, and more flat lays. I managed to pick myself up from the floor (literally) and take equally as plain and boring flat lays, but on wooden surfaces above floor level. Mid 2017 I started to include more textures, like fake flowers, and scarves, and thought slightly more about how things would look in photos. I took a grand total of one flat lay outside, before deciding that was too embarrassing, and going back inside to my wooden surfaces. In 2017 I decided I loved how marble backgrounds looked in flat lays, but I had a problem – I had zero marble surfaces. So, being the crafty gal I am, I tried to think of a way around it. In Primark one day I found a set of marble place mats and bought them to use as backgrounds. Then came the days of way too much dark marble background, and trying to position items very carefully on the place mats so I could take photos without exposing myself for the fraudulent non-marble surface owning, individual that I was. This is pretty much how it stayed until the winter of last year.
Around half way through 2018 I decided that I HATED the marble background I had. Not only was it really impractical trying to take photos on such a small area (sometimes I had to push two together and try to hide the join with flowers or the products themselves) but there was too much black on the background and I really didn’t like how dark it made all the pictures I took. I still loved marble but I wanted it to be less aggressive, and brighter. So, I decided to make my own background. I found a roll of marble sticky back plastic (or contact paper, or adhesive film – whatever you want to call it) at B&Q and decided I would make myself my own marble surface specifically to take photos on. I went to B&Q and picked up the roll of contact paper and then headed to the wood department to get something to stick it on. I ended up buying a piece of hardboard (the type you get at the back of wardrobes or chests of drawers) to stick the paper onto so I could have a larger background to use, which I could then store away. I also changed up the types of props that I used in my photos to make them more interesting and made them more cohesive.
Here’s photos from 2016 to now:
So here’s the props that I’d personally recommend for flat lays/blog photos:
As I’ve already mentioned above, my background is made from a piece of wood and sticky back plastic, and if you don’t have a good surface to take photos on already, I’d really recommend this method.
Having this kind of surface means you can move it around, either in your house or even take it outside, to get the best lighting. Additionally, there’s so many different colours and patterns of adhesive film that you can choose from that you’re bound to find something you like – or you have the option to have a few different backgrounds depending on what you’re looking for. I have two at the moment but I mostly use the marble one – the second one is another white background but with wood texture.
The marble roll that I chose cost £6.00 and has enough on it to fully cover the piece of hardboard I have, and have some spare. The piece of hardboard I bought is 4ft by 2ft (or roughly 122cm by 61cm) and cost £7.44. it’s white on one side and has a hardboard texture on the other – I stuck it to the white side and folded the sides over onto the textured side.
It doesn’t stick hugely well to the textured side of the board so I’d recommend cutting off at least 3 inches more than you need to go over the back. On my marble one I cut enough to just fold over the back of the board and it does come unstuck occasionally, I cut off more on the second board and it works much better.
So in total, my backdrop cost £13.44 to make.
Of course you don’t have to get these supplies from B&Q but if you’re interested then here are the links:
Whilst a background is great, usually the background is pretty plain (I’d recommend getting plain backgrounds so you don’t distract from what you’re photographing), however this doesn’t mean you can’t dress it up with additional products.
Currently I use a few pieces of pink tissue paper. Annoyingly these sheets have fold marks in them which doesn’t look the best but I’m sure I’ll iron that out (sorry for the pun) eventually. Although I don’t really have a theme on Instagram, I tend to try to always include something pink (usually my hair), something white, and something green. Therefore, having the tissue paper in each flat lay helps keep them cohesive, it also breaks up the marble and makes it more interesting to look at.
In photos where I take pictures of my nails I tend to use a textured throw or throw pillow to add something extra to the picture. You could also use a scarf (I used to, I’m not sure why I don’t any more). These are an added optional extra, it just helps to break up the colour of your background and make it look more interesting if you have a plain background you’re building from. I also tend to add my tissue paper in a diagonal to so it isn’t too imposing but still adds something to the shot.
I got my tissue paper just from a craft store.
Next up we have plates and bowls.
I specifically have a few that I use just for photos and don’t really have any other purpose, which is a bit extra but I love how they look in photos and I don’t want to have to keep moving them from my room or wherever they’re being used.
I use these again to break up the shot a little. It looks more interesting if some products are inside something rather than just placed on a flat surface. This is especially helpful for products that are quite small, since having them just led flat can make the image look well… flat.
For example in the image above, putting the nail polish and the two toe dividers in the bowl makes the picture look more interesting than if they were just led flat on the surface. I also sometimes use a small golden leaf plate/tray if I want to add a bit more colour or if products don’t look good in the bowl and would look better on a flatter surface (but I still want to add something for a bit more texture, and elevate the product slightly).
I believe the white bowl in the photo above is from Tiger – I’d highly recommend checking out Tiger for small bowls like this and other blog props. They do really inexpensive items that look great. Also IKEA is another great choice to look for props like this, along with TKMaxx.
It’s no secret that I love candles! Not only are they fantastic as decor and fantastic to burn (of course), they also make great photo props.
I tend to gravitate towards the same kinds of candles, typically they’re round and white (sometimes I’ll use a pink one). However, I do like using a tea light in a holder as well as bigger candles.
I find that it’s nice to break up the types of shapes used as well, so if you can find candles that aren’t circular, that’s going to look cooler than your regular round candle (which is also why I like using the flower shaped tea light holder shown in the second picture).
Although I like the first picture, it’s a little bit much to use the round of the plant pot, plus having the actual product bottle being a cylinder, and then on top of that using a round candle. I’m actually yet to find a cool shaped candle that I like so if anyone knows of a mostly white, or pink, candle that’s an interesting shape then please let me know!
Plants & Fake (or real) flowers
It’s also no secret that I absolutely love plants (I have ‘mother of plants’ written in both my Instagram and Twitter bios). I’m not even sure how many plants I own at this point if I’m honest. I have some at home but I spend a lot of time at my boyfriend’s house and since we decorated his room I’ve been pretty consistently bringing plants home so he has 7 in his room alone at the moment.
For me, plants bring a lot of happy and calming feelings and brighten up my mood. For photos I think it has a similar effect, it can be nice to add a touch of nature to a picture. Additionally, plants add a little pop of colour, and just a little extra interest to your photos.
Whilst I used to use succulents, I have moved onto a more hanging style plant, so the leaves of the plant cut through one corner of the image. I really like the way that it looks and breaks up the image with a bit of greenery, without having too much in one place. I actually have no idea what species the plant I use is, we bought it on sale from a garden centre because it was dying (it’s now huge and thriving), but any kind of plant that spreads would be good (e.g. a spider plant, or an ivy). However, equally, if you want the green just in one area then a smaller plant like a succulent or something similar might be good (the plant I use can be difficult to control).
Additionally, if you’re looking to add a bit of nature, but want more colour than just green then flowers would be a great choice too. Personally, I own fake flowers (I mostly bought them from B&M) since that way you don’t have to worry about sourcing some real flowers every time you want to take flat lays. However, arguably real flowers do look nicer, so it’s up to you!
Okay so my tips for taking flat lays including all of the above information is to really look at the composition of your image. Play around with how you lay things out, layer things on top of one another, and try to make sure it’s interesting to look at and there aren’t too many of the same colours/shapes next to each other.
Also, whilst you’re placing your items down, look through your camera to see how it looks on camera. It may be looking great in real life but then when you come to take the picture it looks super awkward. I tend to find that most of my more recent flat lays look how I want on camera, but if you zoomed out of that shot (or looked at it in real life), it looks like a mess.
If you’re taking these photos for an Instagram feed then it’s also a good idea to have one or two items that you include in every photo to make it cohesive, or stick to the same kinds of colours. I always use my marble background and my tissue paper, and the same plant, but if I choose to switch something out then I always try to stick to the white/pink/green colour scheme to make all of my pictures look sort of similar, even though they aren’t. I definitely don’t have a solid theme though!
Everyone’s style is different, and there is no wrong or right way to create a flat lay, I just wanted to share what I use to create my photos. I’ve had a few people ask me what I use in the past and I thought it might be useful to share everything I use and my thought process behind taking the photos.
I really hope this post was helpful in some way (I’m sorry it was so long)!
Okay so this brings us to the end of this post, I hope you did enjoy reading! If you did then please leave a quick like. Also make sure you follow my blog if you aren’t doing so already, you can follow via a WordPress account or with your email.
Charlotte (Multibendybeauty) Follow me on Instagram
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