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, my Pinterest page and my Instagram page

157 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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  6. This is fascinating and has come out so well. I need to work on some flat lays for sponsored posts in the near future. Bookmarking this for reference. Well done, you!

  7. Thank you for this awesome way of teaching and showing how it should be done. I am for sure going to get so e props today to experiment with. Had it on my list to do. But can now do it all thanks to you.

  8. OMG I love this, awesome. I’ve been wanting to learn this kind of photography. Your how to create these amazing images is so helpful, and a reminder of what class I want to take next year. Thank you.

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  11. Thank you for this immensely helpful post, Suzie! Loved your images and the colour palette you have chosen for your blog.

    Will work on mine keeping these tips in mind. 🙂

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  13. You make it look so easy! I just went to Hobby Lobby and got a few items for 90% off to use in flat lays. I’ll be using your tips, thank you!

  14. Wow! Love your images. Lots of ideas here and I will definitely be giving it a go. I’ve admired your images for a while… thanks for sharing your secret X.

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