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Flat Lay Tips for the Non-Photographer

Every industry professional knows that a great event is built on great design — just ask a florist, designer, or stationer, and they’ll be quick to demonstrate the importance of even the smallest details. When capturing an event, however, those meaningful details can sometimes get lost in the busyness of the celebration. A couple’s first dance, a keynote’s standing ovation, a special exchange among family — these candid moments are the top priority for photographers during an event.

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography

So, where does flat lay design come into play? Sure, you’ll get to pad your portfolio with beautiful detail shots of your work in action, but you don’t get to control how your design truly shines through. You need the right lighting, the right styling, the right background — and, on a busy event day, a photographer may not have the time or have an artistic approach that includes styling the perfect flat lay for you.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a professional photographer to shoot eye-catching flat lays that capture your intention, your talent, and your aesthetic. You can bring your designs to life in your own studio, living room, or office space with the right equipment. And remember, like any other skill, practice makes perfect!

Here’s what you need to pull off a great flat lay of your own.

Find the right styling background.
The average tabletop or rug can be visually distracting to a flat lay, taking attention away from the details. Fortunately, styling mats are readily available to provide clean, crisp backgrounds for your photos.

There are many options to choose from, from airy linens to rich velvets. Shop around until you find one that aligns with your brand; you may even consider investing in several colors or textures to diversify your flat lays.

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography

Learn your lighting.
Any photographer will tell you that lighting is more than half the battle. Fortunately, you aren’t shooting moving objects or people, so you don’t need elaborate equipment to get the right lighting. In fact, indirect sunlight is one of the best light sources around! Shoot during the day with interior lights turned off. Set up your flat lay next to a window that gets soft lighting from the sun without any harsh direct rays.

Depending on your preferred photographic style, you may also want  a reflector to soften shadows, but that can typically be done with a white towel, pillow, or foam board. Set it up directly across from the window to bounce all of the sunlight back onto your flat lay and soften dark shadows.

Lead the eye.
Most people new to flat lays spread out all of the elements and props that they’re using so they can fully see all of the pieces. Ultimately, things then end up too spread out and the scene looks fragmented and flat, rather than intentionally put together.

Instead of spreading things out, look for ways to overlap items and have them interact with each other. This way the eye is led through the image from piece to piece in a more connected and layered way that flows together well.

 Curation is key.
When preparing a flat lay, follow the “less is more” philosophy. The goal is to use a few beautiful props to highlight your work or product without causing distraction or making the subject of the

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography

image unclear. Blank space is essential, letting the eyes soak in the important details without feeling like there’s too much to see. Keep your props minimal to avoid a cluttered aesthetic.

Remember that props are meant to highlight and complement your work, so a few quality pieces are better than a wide variety of items that don’t truly fit your brand aesthetic. A good rule of thumb to follow is to set up your flat lay with everything you intend to use, then remove one or two items and shoot. You can always shoot multiple flat lays with various details so you can capture everything you want!

Practice editing to your aesthetic.
Photo editing isn’t just for photographers anymore; there are some useful smartphone and desktop apps that simplify the process for non-photographers! VSCO is a robust choice, as it allows you to adjust exposure, temperature, tint, contrast, and more. Lightroom Mobile is another popular option on the market. Test out a few and find one that suits your style!

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography

One note: Many of these apps offer filters to add an extra touch to your final photos. While these can be nice, be mindful that full-intensity filters can take your image from pro to amateur. If you use a filter, adjust it down to 25-35% strength to avoid  going overboard. When you find a filter and style you like, use it on repeat to create a consistent look to everything you share.

Using these strategies, you can get Insta-ready flat lays for your portfolio without relying on a photographer’s shot list or timeline. All it takes is a bit of technical know-how and practice to put your designs in the spotlight, showcase your creative expertise, and attract new leads.

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Lynne Reznick

Lynne Reznick is an educator-turned-photographer whose own love story and marriage inspires her to document the love of other soulmates. She finds joy in supporting her couples and connecting with industry peers. Always an educator at heart, Lynne is committed to building opportunities for connection and learning within the wedding industry and beyond. She recently launched her first online course called The Wedding Client Experience Academy and enjoys mentoring and coaching new wedding pros one-on-one and in hands-on workshops.

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