One of the biggest misconceptions about creating flat lay images is that you need a lot of unique props in order to make an impact. But, I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. What you really need is a unique idea and tools readily at your disposal to execute it. The flat lay image in my portfolio that garners the most interest was actually created using just two props.
Although it seemed like the image would come together quickly, I soon learned that minimalist images aren’t always the easiest to execute. With a little ingenuity, though, you can find things around the house to help you troubleshoot any challenges that arise. You can create a compelling image in just three steps. Come with me behind the scenes to see how I applied these steps!
Step 1. Create a Strong Visual Concept
A dynamic flat lay image starts with a strong concept. However, that concept may start out as vague at first and then develop over time.
The idea for this image actually started with a pair of shoes that I loved that didn’t quite fit. But, I was determined to keep them because I loved the color so much. After watching them sit on the shelf unworn, I decided to find a way to put them to good use by creating an image featuring them.
I wanted the color to pop, so I knew that I wanted the background to be white. As I began to think about what else I could include in the frame, I immediately thought of something yellow. I’ve always loved golden yellow paired with turquoise or teal; that palette always reminds me of a sunny day at the beach.
Since I already had the shoes and wanted to experiment immediately, I searched for yellow items around my house to no avail. Suddenly, I thought about an egg yolk. Well, surely an egg is useless. Hmm… Perhaps not. Determined to make it work, a saying immediately popped into my head — “Walking on Eggshells.” I could actually visualize someone tip-toeing across a floor covered in eggshells. And that is when the image started to come together…
Step 2. Be Strategic in Your Use of Props
In order to create a minimalist flat lay image that stands out, you have to be intentional about your use of props. Strip away anything that doesn’t directly relate to your concept or it will water down your concept. Fight the urge to add more things just for the sake of filling up space or making the image appear more “interesting” because there are more objects to look at.
As you can see from my final image, it simply consists of eggs and a pair of shoes. That’s it. Just two items.
Step 3. Execute Your Vision and Troubleshoot Along the Way
As you can imagine, working with dozens of eggs is no easy feat! There were challenges along the way that I had to troubleshoot. While I only used 2 props that could be seen in the final image, there were various other objects that played key roles in the execution of the image. I like to refer to these as styling aids. Styling aids don’t have to be specifically designed to serve that purpose; they can be anything you can think of that will assist you in carrying out your vision.
- Turkey baster
- Acrylic sheet
This mini Instagram Reel (video) shows how the everyday items above were used. I’ll go into more detail below.
Challenges and Solutions
Challenge #1: Constructing a floor made of eggshells. Since I wanted the floor to look authentic, I used real eggs in the shoot. But, I underestimated the number of eggs I needed. Over seven dozen eggs later (okay, probably more), I was all set. What I thought was going to be one of the easiest parts, actually ended up being the most challenging. Cracking the eggs exactly in half so they would all roughly be the same height in the image was harder than I thought.
Solution #1: Trial and error combined with confidence and commitment. I initially tried to do little taps all the way around the center of the egg to make what I thought would be an even break all around. That approach didn’t work. What worked best was a couple of quick taps. I had to abandon the timid approach and just go for it. Sounds like a metaphor for life, huh? I then placed hundreds of cracked eggshells on the background to construct the floor.
Challenge #2: Balancing the shoes on the rounded eggshells. Walking on eggs in real life would be a precarious situation, and it turns out that balancing a shoe on them is similarly difficult. When I attempted to do so, they fell over and smashed some of my perfectly halved eggshells and/or moved them out of formation.
Solution #2: Erasers and CDs used as risers. I knew that I had to figure out a way to elevate the shoes so that they appeared to be resting on the eggshells without having them actually touch. So, I cleared some space on the background and grabbed some erasers and CDs to put them under the shoes. I then placed shells around the shoes and under the space between the base of the shoe and the heel to make it look as if there were eggshells underneath.
Challenge #3: Giving the illusion that I had stepped on an egg without staining the backdrop. In order to bring in the golden yellow color that I envisioned in my concept, I had to incorporate the egg yolk. But, I was working on white foam core that would easily stain and show wet marks from the yolk.
Solution #3: A piece of plexiglass/acrylic and broken egg shells. After separating the egg yolk, I was able to slide it into place using a piece of plexiglass. Because the yolk was slippery on the plexiglass, I was able to position it exactly where I wanted it. Although it looks like it is sitting directly on the white background, the yolk is actually sitting on top of the plexiglass that is on top of the white background. The transparent nature of the plexiglass makes this possible. I then placed additional eggshells on top to cover the edges of the plexiglass. Finally, I then broke one of the eggshells into pieces to give the impression that it had been stepped on.
Challenge #4: Further making the broken egg look realistic. What about the white of the egg?
Solution #4: A turkey baster. I suctioned the egg white into a turkey baster and strategically placed it back on and around the egg. That way, it was more contained. Had I tried to incorporate both the yolk and the white in one step, it would have been quite messy!
So, those are the secrets behind my image. Did anything surprise you? What was the last thing you had to troubleshoot during a session?
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