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 Β£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!Β 

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. ooo, I like this! I’ve had no success trying flat lays so this is a great post for me. I don’t have a flower-eating cat but I do have a cup cake-eating dog .. and I would probably eat them before I got them arranged!! xx

  2. Great post and a very interesting read. I’ve always wanted to know how flat lays were created. Have seen so many examples on social media – may take the plunge some day and have a go myself. Tasty treats to eat afterwards πŸ˜‰

  3. Suzie!!!! You are fast becoming my Mr. Miyagi!! THANK YOU! This was exactly what I have been looking for to bring me to the next level! Thank you so much for sharing!! xxx

  4. Oh I like these, Suzie. They look so professional and I can’t believe how effective it looks just changing things around slightly to create a whole new look πŸ™‚

  5. Beautiful photos and a very clear explanation of how to achieve the end result. I’m rather grateful that my chosen subject makes that sort of hard work and thinking about composition unnecessary. I just turn up somewhere and take a photo (or ten).

  6. I love the photo with just the flowers and the little meringues; it’s hard to get the lettering right, so it’s more noticeable over other objects. That’s my experience in creating images and words together. Love the colours.

  7. That looks great. I think investing in props is a good idea for those kind of professional images. I’ve never tried flat lay but looking at your pictures, I’m inspired. Thanks for sharing, tips.

  8. Yours look lovely! I have a dearth of natural lighting due to our cloudy skies most days lately. On the floor next to the sliding door in our dining room is the only place remotely viable!

  9. Love this post! Flat lays seem so simple but can go so wrong, so it’s really helpful to have it broken down like this. It’s made me want to dig out some blog props and get shooting!! (Photos, not people obvs πŸ™‚

  10. These are great ideas and so simple, yet elegant. I struggle with what to use for the background and wonder what you would use for a black background? I’ve thought of buying a black sheet but just not sure if that would be the best choice. I like the white background you chose. I suppose you bought it at a home improvement store?

  11. I’ve been trying to be more on top of creating images to go along with my blog posts, but my photography skills are limited to my iPhone and that’s primarily on Snapchat with stupid filters- ha! Your images turned out great though!

  12. I often spend as long or even longer sorting out the right image to writing the post in the first place. Thanks for a good idea.

  13. These images are so gorgeous Suzie and I feel so challenged in this area. I suppose it is a matter of just trying out different looks and getting some props. Thanks for the tips!
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond.

  14. I’ve tried flat lays before and failed miserably, thanks for sharing this, really helpful!

  15. Oooh this is really useful and I love the finished pictures!

    But flower eating cat!? You must have to be really careful with Lillys!! Deary me!! Our car ignores flowers unless something is dangling from them!

  16. Great results! I keep reading how to’s on this, I need to just bite the bullet. Where did you find the board? The only crafty/homewares shop I have easy access to is a Hobbycraft, I guess ideally I would need a B&Q, I am hoping they have something I can work with.Great idea using cupcakes too, and you get to eat them afterwards, bonus! πŸ˜‰

  17. I need so much more practice at this—-you really have a great eye for getting it right!
    And the cat may sabotage the flowers, but my husband would eat the cupcakes—LOL

  18. This is awesome. Thanks for sharing your labor of love! I stick to one thing in the photo and definitely rely on natural light otherwise there is always a shadow!

    • Thanks Robin! I’m lucky in that i have a space right next to the window that allows me to use lots of light without having to set a whole lighting rig up haha!

  19. For such simple photos they really are a huge challenge with so much planning going into them! I will have to try it sometime soon, something that really shopgirlify’s the idea of the blog world. πŸ˜‰ You have me inspired!!!

  20. Love your flat lay images – very effective. I like experimenting with different ways of photographing objects. I once had a lime green exotic cabbage and my kitchen table is black & white marble – so I took a flat lay picture of the said cabbage on my table – it looked really effective and beats colour spotting photography!

  21. You were very influential in getting me to use Pinterest and Canva. I really love creating that opening image for my post now, and I’ve also moved towards taking my own photos because I can see the exact image I want in my mind, but cannot always find it on the interwebs.

    Now I get to use more of my film school experience to shoot my own pics and bring my mental images to life.

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