My Flat Lay Tools

Tools and gear used to create flat lay images

Although I've started seeing more and more lifestyle images shot from different perspectives on Instagram and websites, it appears that flat lay images are here to stay.  I frequently get questions about how to style flat lay images or the best gear to use, so I thought I'd share what is in my toolkit.

1. Camera || I currently shoot with the Canon 5D Mark III.  I have no idea whether Canon is better than Nikon.  I've just always been a Canon girl because that is the brand that my wedding photographer recommended back in the day when I wanted to learn photography.

2. Lenses || The lenses that I most frequently use for flat lays are the 50mm 1.2, 35mm 1.4, or 50mm macro lens. I use the macro lens when I am going to photograph small objects like jewelry or when I want to get up close and personal to really show off details.

3. Lighting || In the majority of cases, I use diffused natural light.  I like the soft light it creates;  scenes look more like how your eye sees them.  However, natural light can be uneven, it may be unavailable (e.g., on a raining and dreary day), or I might need to photograph something at night.  So, I will sometimes pull out my studio lights.  The image above was shot at about 11pm with an Alien Bee 800 with an octobox on one side and a Canon 580 EX II speedlight with a white umbrella on the other side.

4. Various backgrounds || The backgrounds vary depending on the vibe I am seeking to achieve.  I might use a marble slab, small piece of slate, different color foam core or paper, fabric, etc.

5. Reflector || My backgrounds sometimes double as reflectors.  For example, I often use a piece of white foam core to bounce light back into the scene and further reduce shadows.  (Although, some shadows are pleasing to the eye because objects naturally cast shadows.)

6. Tripod || I use the Manfrotto MT055XCPRO4 tripod with a MH055MO-Q6 head and love it.  What I love most about the tripod is the horizontal arm so that I can shoot overhead.  It is also sturdy.  I recommend that you invest in a good tripod. 

7.  Simply Tacky || Removable putty that keeps objects in place.  Pull off a piece and stick it to items that are prone to roll away or that refuse to stay in place.  Be careful, though.  It can create oily stains on your foam core.

8. Spritzer Bottle of Water || I primarily pull this out when I am photographing fruit that needs a little boost or plants that need a little life.

9. Risers || Washi tape, a small piece of wood, small notebooks, you name it.  Anything that you can put under something to prop it up.  This works well when photographing stationery, if you want to create soft shadows under the stationery or make it pop off the page to stand out.

10. Tethering Gear || Tools (cords and computer software) that allow me to see what I am shooting so that I can make styling adjustments in real time.  More on this in an upcoming post.

11. Props || Need I say more?

What tools do you use in your flat lay photography?  What questions do you have about my toolkit?