When you are just starting out with flat lay styling, wrapping your head around how to go about it can be difficult. How should you go about composing the image? What should you consider when selecting your backgrounds? How do props factor in when it comes to making your hero shine?
I had those same questions.
Things finally clicked for me when I came up with a helpful analogy. I found that it helped to liken flat lay styling to something that was familiar to me. I think it just might work for you too!
What if you thought about flat lay styling in the same was as you thought about styling a room in your home? Although they are totally different fields, there are several similarities when it comes to the theme, flooring/background, statement piece, accessories, and flow. Let’s explore each of these below.
In your home, you typically design around a particular type of room (e.g., music room, kids’ playroom) or color palette. All of the furniture or decor relates to the theme or purpose of your room or coordinates with the color palette. Likewise, for your flat lay, make sure all of the props make sense and follow a particular color story. Strip away anything that doesn’t fit the theme, no matter how much you love it.
In your home, the flooring should make sense for the room. For example, you wouldn’t put a white rug in your kitchen because it is a high-traffic area and food may spill on it. Likewise, you may want to choose a non-porous surface like vinyl or marble for your food photography (instead of paper) so that it holds up better during the shoot and doesn’t stain.
In your home, you may style around a statement piece like a sofa or piece of artwork. For your flat lay image, this should be the product or food item that is the focus of the shoot. The statement piece is typically placed in the room or in the frame first, after the flooring or background. Everything else that is brought into the scene should help the hero shine.
Careful selection of decor items helps to tie everything together. However, you don’t want to overdo it when accessorizing. When styling an image, keep the props to a minimum and make sure that they serve a purpose. Do they help to enhance the story? Do they help to fill a gap in the scene? Does that gap really need to be filled? Inevitably, I end up taking something out of the frame in the end.
When you walk into a room, something usually catches your eye. You then scan the room from there, taking everything in. There is a flow to the room. Similarly, there should be a flow to your image. Direct the viewer’s eye to your statement piece using composition principles and then take your viewers on a journey, leading them where you want them to look. Don’t clutter the scene because then everything and nothing seems important.
I hope that was helpful! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
What analogy works for you when it comes to flat lay styling?