Hi There! It’s Michelle from @mich.elle.imagery on Instagram. I’m a self-described flatlay enthusiast as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you follow me, and if this is the first time we say hi, here’s a little abbreviated backstory about what I do:
About eight months ago, after twelve years of interior decorating and visual styling for a small business, and five years of creating digital content for a Facebook business page and newsletters, I started to use my personal Instagram as a place to play with creativity. Fast track to today, and you’ll find me creating content with a focus on visual storytelling through photography and prop styling for small businesses on their social media platforms.
This is how I discovered the passion and magic that comes from flatlay styling with a dash of storytelling.
A flatlay is, at its most basic, a collection of items shot on a flat surface at a bird’s-eye view.
Today we’re going to cover my “Top Five Flatlay Styling Tips” so that you can become a flatlay enthusiast too, maybe we’ll create a flatlay club one day?!
Until then here we go:
Flatlay Styling Tip #1: Avoid Background “noise”
What you’re going to lay your items on plays an important role as you want the background to contrast and complement your items, not compete or distract from them.
This is also how you’ll achieve a streamlined Instagram feed, by choosing a few favorites and using them consistently throughout.
My favorite backgrounds include:
- White Foam core (The Essential)
- White duvet
- Marble (Either contact paper or if you’re lucky a tabletop.)
- Distressed natural wood
- Crumpled sheets of tissue paper
Flatlay Styling Tip #2: Theme It
Notice when you scroll through your Instagram feed and you come across a flatlay and instantly know what it’s about before reading the caption?
This is what we call “Theme Success” a way to unify the elements in your photos to create a narrative.
The picture becomes the story.
Here are some popular themes you might want to try:
- The Sunday morning in bed (legs, coffee, cozy socks, an open magazine)
- The workspace essentials (laptop, pens, paperclips, cute notebook, motivational quote)
- What I’m wearing today (shoes, denim, beauty products as fillers)
- What’s in my bag (phone, bracelets, makeup, sunglasses, magazine)
- Look what’s cooking in the kitchen (food, ingredients, pretty trays and linens)
Flatlay Styling Tip #3: Prop To It
After the theme comes the props, or in other words, the items you plan on using to visually express your theme and set the mood. I’m going to let you in on three that make a big impact on creating a dynamic flatlay once you have your main props in place.
Hands: Now this might just be me, but hands that are interacting with the objects in a picture make a photo so relatable. I think it’s because the person looking at the photo can imagine themselves holding that cup of coffee, or reading that book. It’s also a little playful too.
Plants, petals and organic elements: This trick is one I use All. The. Time. I’ve used it for years when I use to decorate rooms, and like a room, it’s a lovely way to add warmth and life to your flatlay. It also serves the purpose of filling those empty looking spaces in a picture. Some favorites include: Succulents, wood slices, eucalyptus, “spilled” flour or food around a food shot, petals, leaves, birch branches etc.
Books: Scroll through my feed, and you’ll see that a lot of my flatlays include a well-placed book that is fitting to the story I’m narrating as well as in keeping with the color scheme I have in play.
Flatlay Styling Tip #4: Balance
The key to creating a balanced flatlay is to make sure you have elements of varying sizes as well as a clear color scheme (I usually stick to 2-3 colors).
You also want to be mindful of your shapes, don’t put too many circles (coasters, coffee mugs, compact mirror) clustered together, use them instead to break apart any harsher lines in your flatlay.
Same goes with your colors and neutrals, don’t have all one color on one side. If your main element is black, pepper it throughout the flatlay. Keep playing around with the objects until it looks and feels right.
Flatlay Styling Tip #5: Behind The Scenes
The behind the scenes of a flatlay can be funny to watch, yet these small tricks can help achieve that perfect shot.
Use a chair to stand on to get a better angle, especially if you use your phone to take a photo, otherwise a tripod arm can be super useful for your DSLR.
Another trick I stumbled upon is the use of sticky tack to hold items in place (is it just me or do some move when your back is turned?), just stick a bit behind your item and it will stay put.
And finally have fun, once you get the general concepts, it’s all about creating your own story and style!
Don’t forget to style your overall feed
Once everything is said and done you’re going to want to make your flatlay shine in your feed, and that’s why I’m loving Preview so much.
Just like creating balance in a flatlay, I love to do the same with my Instagram feed. Preview allows me to drag and drop my photos in place making sure to balance busier flatlays alongside minimal shots, as well as not overlapping the same backgrounds over each other. I’ve noticed a big difference in the look and feel of my feed since using Preview.
The white filter pack also has a nice filter that I love to use to tone down the red tones in my table, filter D1 is one to check out. Lastly, the fact that I can schedule everything in advance leaves me more time to…create flatlays! Really, Preview is the perfect companion.
Now get going to gather items for your own stunning visual story, and if you use Preview don’t forget to use the #ipreview, I always have a peek, and I’d love to see what kind of flatlays you enjoy creating.
Michelle Blanchard is a content creator for social media, with a focus on visual storytelling through flatlays and prop styling. She elevates your business’s imagery on your social media accounts that will make your brand shine and stand out. When she’s not busy creating pictures, you’ll most likely find her in a café somewhere, or out getting inspired.