How to Create Flat Lay Images Using Basic Props

When I first started using Pinterest one of the things that I had to learn how to do were pinnable images. It took me a while, developing my own style over a period of time using either my own pictures or ones that were available for free on stock image sites. However, one thing that I always had difficulty in finding were what I now know as Flat Lay images – pictures taken from above of beautifully arranged objects within a specific theme.

In particular, Flat Lays are hugely popular on Instagram and are a fantastic way to tell a story. I’ve seen absolutely stunning examples of everything from travel, blogging and stationery, to clothing, make-up and food.

I’ve wanted to create my own for some time. However, I’m not a photographer. I use my iPhone and my Canon compact camera to take pictures, but my knowledge doesn’t extend past point, shoot and edit via Instagram or Canva. So, I set out to spend a minimal amount of money on some props and use basic trial and error to see what the end results would be.

And thankfully, they turned out far better than I ever could have expected!

Here’s how I created a series of Flat Lays to accompany my blog posts.

1. I decided on the props that I was going to use. Actually, that isn’t entirely true. I had a very basic idea of a colour palette and the sorts of things I perhaps would like to include in my images, but ended up also purchasing extra things that I discovered along the way. In the end I still spent very little money and arrived back with a whole bunch of lovely items, including:
A few bunches of flowers – pink, purple and white
A small box of cupcakes with creme icing
A small cup
A box of strawberries
Some white backing paper used for wallpapering.
Two small black notebooks with white lettering on the side.
A box of small, white meringues.
A bag of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs (for potential Easter images).

In total, I must have spent a total of about £10.00.

More than a few ideas for props!

2. I set up a workspace that allowed for natural light, next to the main window in my living room. This was a simple wooden board on top of my coffee table. I then found some extra props that I already owned – a wireless keyboard, my old iPhone, some paperclips, some Thorntons chocolates, a glass bowl and some keys from our wedding decorations.

3. I created a background for the images by placing the backing paper over the board.

4. I started small, just with an empty coffee cup and the flowers. I spent some considerable time arranging them and experimenting with angles. Very slowly I added objects in bit by bit and moved them around. I then added black coffee to the cup. My overall theme was blogging so I wanted to include things that I associate with writing – a notebook, coffee, iPhone, keyboard and flowers for colour and texture.

The basic layout as I started to grow in confidence

5. I changed my theme slightly to incorporate the cupcakes, so I arranged them among the followers. As The Bloke and I are having cupcakes for our wedding, that made me think of a wedding inspired Flat Lay, so I added some Mr and Mrs coasters that a friend had bought us. I then got some of my make-up collection and added them into the mix, creating a themed Urban Decay image.

That, however basic, is essentially it. I experimented with different ideas, different layouts and angles. When something didn’t work, I added or subtracted items. I experimented with empty space and thought about where to place something in relation to the area I could potential text titles. I worked through three different themes – blogging, food and flowers, and weddings, and after I had the images I wanted I spent a long time editing them both on my phone and in Canva to get the finished look that I wanted.

And, these are the results! Click on the images to see them in full! 

So, when creating Flat Lay images:

  • Decide on a theme and suitable colour palette that you wish to use.
  • Use a basic background colour.
  • Work out props that you are going to need. (It might be worth building up a collection of them over time for future use).
  • Set up a space where there is a lot of natural light.
  • Start small with just one or two items and add more in as you grow in confidence.
  • Don’t be afraid of empty space – try and leave space between each object.
  • Take the images from a birds eye view ie. standing directly above it.
  • Experiment with different prop angles and layout – don’t be afraid to change the positions of them in conjunction with each other.
  • Remember that the objects don’t need to fit completely onto the image.
  • Spend some time editing them afterwards using suitable filters.
  • And finally, don’t leave your flower-eating cat alone in the room, or you will end up with this:

Cat sabotage!

An afternoon well spent!

What about you guys? Do you find it easy to create images?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.

131 thoughts on “How to Create Flat Lay Images Using Basic Props

  1. Thanks for these tips, Suzie. However, unfortunately, I am likely too be rubbish at the flatlays.

    – Melissa xx

  2. Tackling flat lays is on my to-do list for the summer! This will be very helpful for me 😊 Do you typically do several different shots at once to build them up? I always avoid them because it takes forever to arrange everything to make sure it’s clear and visible and no crazy shadows or anything

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