Hello friends. In last week’s post we talked about how to style the perfect flat lay, so it just seems natural to follow that up with where to source props for your product photos. I’m talking real, tangible places you can scout to get awesome props for your images. It’s a lot easier than you think, and if you’re planning ahead you can grab some pretty sweet items at some pretty sweet deals – or better yet, free. Check it out.
The Clearance Section
Ahhhh, the clearance section. My very favourite place in just about any store. I have spent far more time than I care to say in the clearance section of my favourite stores. Here are a few that offer up awesome selections for styling your photos:
Chapters/Barnes & Noble
Chapters is my absolute favourite store for my photo styling needs. And reading needs. And to fulfill my need for pretty things. And Starbucks. But anyway, Chapters always has a section in their store for clearance and these things are often pretty little home or stationary items. It’s a great place to check out. Sorry in advance if you spend way more than you intended (I usually do). For my American friends: Barnes & Noble is a similar type of store, so check it out (and let me know how it goes). Bonus: You can shop online too.
Sidenote: Chapters is a supporter of handmade business and I have a few friends who've had their lines picked up by Chapters. I shop there as often as I can, because I too am a huge supporter of handmade business (and you should be too!).
Not all Michaels stores have a clearance section, but they frequently have awesome markdowns, great coupons, and a section for odds and ends that are great for photo styling. I’ve gotten really cute notebooks, mini clipboards, scrapbook paper, cute pens, and lots more there. Definitely worth a look.
Give me a moment to grieve the loss of Target in Canada. It may have been two years ago that they closed, but I still feel a sense of loss. For my American readers, Target (as you no doubt know) has a fantastic section for odds and ends and lots of great clearance items.
Always awesome deals here, and they have super cute stuff. I could drop a lot at Homesense if I didn’t have self-control (or if my significant other didn’t rein me). Their home décor section is rife with unique items and they have really cool office accessories too. The last time I was there I scored some gold binder clips and huge gold paper clips. They had rose gold too. I highly recommend scouting them out.
I also recommend checking these stores/sections out on a regular basis. If you know your brand vibe and values, and/or have defined brand colours, you can easily pick up what will be a good fit for future use even if you don’t have a particular need for them at that time. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of defining your branding for your photography, check out my free downloadable styling planner with 90+ props ideas and stay tuned for next week’s post which is all about creating photos that fit your branding.
Poppin.com is a website that's fantastic for grabbing your brand-specific colours in a large variety of office accessories. The website is SO FUN. You can shop by colour or what items you’re interested in. Turquoise scissors? Yes, please!
Depending on your branding, picking up a few things on a nature walk might be exactly what you need. Nature is abundant with fantastic things you can use to style and give life your photos. Examples include moss, stones, bark, ferns, wildflowers, twigs, pussy willows… You see where I’m going with this.
Again, this one will depend on your branding, but there are loads of awesome accents to be found in the grocery store’s produce section. Sliced lemons, a bowl of shiny red apples, cherries, limes, oranges, and the like can bring a lot of character and feel to a photo.
Your Own Home
Never underestimate the value of finding styling props in your own home. From home décor items to cute coffee mugs, our homes are chock blocked full of things we can use to style photos. For example, you might have a really beautiful vase that would look great in some photos (bonus points if it has flowers in it). Or, you may have a set of wooden bowls that would look great with your products. You might have a vintage camera in the attic your forgot about, or perhaps an old wooden crate that perfectly fits your brand vibe. It’s important to be open-minded and keep your branding in mind. Walk around your house and look at your things through a new lens (first figuratively then literally). You’ll be surprised how much you find!
The Flower Shop or Your Garden
I’m a straight up sucker for succulents. I love the texture and colour of them and I especially like that they’re difficult to kill by accident which strangely seems to happen to a lot of the plants I own. I have a few succulents I keep “on staff” for photo styling and when not at work making a photo look great, they hang out in my office. In addition to succulents, there is a huge selection of plants for styling at your local flower shop or greenhouse. Fresh cut flowers, ivy, dried lavender… There are lots to pick from. Even better, if you’re so inclined to have some growing in your yard, you can pick straight from there.
Do you have any tips on where to get props for styling? I’d love to hear them!
Until next week,
I hear this all the time from creative entrepreneurs: "Taking photos drives me crazy. I don’t know what I’m doing. Why do my photos look like crap?"
I know your frustration. Honestly, I do. It’s how I feel when I try to DIY my own website. Sometimes I get a little ragey. One day I will have a web designer on staff so I never have to look at code again. But in the meantime, I’m asking the experts how I can do better. And that’s what this blog is all about: To help YOU do better with your product and brand photos.
There are many components to taking a good brand photo. So much content is going to be shared here in this blog (and let’s not forget my upcoming webinars and e-course) so I want to keep the information in simple, broken-down chunks. Streamlined information will make your life easier and will allow you to implement these tools with more ease.
Today we will discuss the ever-popular flat lay and how you can start styling your flat lays like a pro.
What is a flat lay?
A flat lay is an image taken straight down from above. A birds-eye view, if you will. While technically speaking a flat lay can simply be a photo of a single thing laying flat, the real bones of a flat lay comes in the styling. By styling I mean the props and items that you add to the photos to give it a more branded and editorial feel, to provoke more interest. At the bottom of this email you will see a link for a free download that includes a styling planner for your flat lay and a list of over 90 props ideas, so be sure to grab that.
With those suggestions in mind, let’s move on to our top five tips for styling an awesome flat lay.
1. Keep your branding at the forefront of your mind.
Your brand vibe & values are of utmost importance when selecting props and creating your flat lays. If your vibe is very earthy and natural it is unlikely that you will style your image with say, bottles of nail polish. Consider some words that come to mind when you think about your brand – Modern? Comfort? Luxury? Feminine? Alternative? Edgy? Your brand should always guide your prop selection.
2. Use props that make sense.
When styling your flat lay, keep in mind what makes sense. If you’re a blogger having a day at the beach and you want a pretty flat lay to go along with that, consider what makes sense for a beach day. Sunglasses, yes. Towel, yes. Beach bag, yes. Stilettos? Nope. A purse? Naw. No one takes their purse to the beach. That’s what the beach bag is for.
Carefully consider the “genre” or category that your flat lay would fall into and ensure you’re selecting props that would also belong in that category.
3. Carefully select your background.
Your background can add as much to the flat lay as the actual props you use. It can also detract from the image if it’s not a great call. With current trends followers, clients, and customers tend to be most drawn to white, wood, or marble backgrounds. White backgrounds can be created with white bristol board or foam board. Wood backgrounds can be a desktop, a wood floor, or a deck surface. Do be careful of the tone of the wood – some wood, like hardwood floors in older homes, can be very yellowish and does not translate well in a flat lay. The important take away here is that the background should be simple, clean, and allow your products and props to do the muscle work.
4. Carefully arrange your props.
First, consider the dimensions of your image. Is this shot for Instagram and will be square? Perhaps it will be a Facebook cover photo and will be very short and very wide. Or will it be a more standard 4:6 ratio? Planning ahead will help you arrange your props appropriately to ensure you get the most out of your image.
Next, consider the feeling you want your image to give off. Clean, organized perfection? Effortlessly chic and casual? You can either arrange your props in a linear fashion with right angles, or you can arrange them as if they just happened to land in that way and look perfectly fabulous. Both options are great – just depends on how you want the feel of the photo to roll out.
5. Keep it simple.
Perhaps my most valuable tip – keep it simple. Your flat-lay does not need to have 10 different items. Some of the most beautiful flat lays contain just a focal point (ie, a product), and one other styling element. The more you add, the busier it gets, and the more places there are for the eye to go. When it gets too overwhelming to look at, your audience is going to shut off their interest and move on. It’s much more valuable to pick one or two perfect styling pieces that compliment your focal point to keep your audience coming back for more.
Bonus flat lay tip!
Proper lighting is everything.
I won’t delve into too much depth on this subject, because I covered it a bit before in this blog post and will be getting into the more technical aspects of lighting in future posts. But I would be remiss if I didn’t stress it again here. Proper lighting is absolutely instrumental in creating an attractive flat lay. This can be achieved with natural or artificial light, but it must be bright and diffused, meaning the light must not be direct from the source. Some examples of great light sources include next to a bright window (without a direct sunbeam streaming through), a lightbox with lights shining through thin white material, or lights with softboxes. If all this lighting talk feels overwhelming, don’t worry – there are future posts coming your way that will help you master great lighting.
Hello creatives. Instagram can be quite the powerful selling tool. There’s something about going to someone’s Instagram page and being sure of exactly what their brand and vibe is all about. I don’t know about you, but I loooove beautifully branded Instagram accounts. The best part? You can totally have one too. It’s not even as hard as you’d think. Just following a few guidelines makes a huge difference. Here are 5 steps to a beautiful, breathtaking, and branded Instagram account.
Lizzie | Creative Life + Style // @octoberjuneblog
1. Pick Your Style.
This is where the ‘branding’ part comes into it. You know your brand and what you’re all about. Is your vibe elegant? Earthy? Vibrant? Know your brand characteristics and make sure that your images reflect it. Is your brand kind of vintage? Make sure that you images support that with the way you edit them to how you style them (more on those things coming soon). If your brand is vibrant and fun, you’re going to want to include colourful images with fun styling.
Jenna Murillo // @jlynndesignery
2. Edit your photos consistently.
Avoid major shifts in your editing style from one photo to the next because it disrupts the cohesion of the images on your Instagram page. For example, if you use a filter that tones down the colour and darkens the shadows to create a bit of a rainy day mood, that’s totally cool (if that works for your brand – see step #1). But don’t turn around and post a vibrant, bright, and playful image right next to it. Choose an editing style or filter and stick with it. It’ll create a cohesive collection of images that fit your style. I’ll be writing a future post on my picks for the best photo editing apps for smartphones, but now here is one of my faves – A Color Story. It’s fantastic, allows for lots of flexibility, and you can save your editing steps to be applied to future images.
Hayley Solano // @hayleysolano
3. Style your photos carefully.
Keeping in mind your branding and plan out your styling. Choose a few items that will compliment your products or images. You might find that some plant material (leaves, herb bunches, lavender, moss, etc), a unique piece of pottery, a vintage camera, or some cute cookies might really add to your image and make your audience swoon over what you’re selling. I know I swoon. I’m definitely a swooner. Just make sure that it's clear from the photo what the product is that you're selling. Also, showing some life in your image from time to time makes an impact as well. A hand, some wool-socked feet, your face, whatever works. Style up it, add some life, and watch your collection go from meh to daaaamn.
4. Keep is simple.
Having just discussed the value of styling your images, I also must stress – keep it simple. Too many elements in an image might be okay as a one-off but when you put them all together as they appear in your Instagram feed, it’s just way too much. It looks busy, chaotic, and just too much for the brain to process. Your audience is going to click through your account, take a look, and say… Nope. You don’t want to overwhelm your potential followers with too many details. They should show up, see simple, beautiful images and want more. Some ways to keep it simple include sticking to a general colour palette, keeping your styling minimal (but intentional and carefully selected), and being consistent with your editing as mentioned previously.
Laura Clauson // @mamableudesigns
5. Always (always) use high quality images.
There’s nothing that messes up a gorgeous collection of images faster than one low-light, grainy, or out of focus image. There is just something about one crappy quality photo that brings down the whole works and says your brand may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. I know, that’s a lot of pressure. But that’s why you’re here, right? You know how important high quality images are. If you have a DSLR camera (and know how to use it), you’re going to get the best image using that. Use your highest quality camera as much as possible. If you do use your smartphone, just make sure that you’re using good lighting and edit the images carefully and appropriately. You can check out my post, The Key To Taking Better Photos With Your Smartphone, for more info on how to do that.
There ya go, friends! I hope you find this helpful. You can do this. I believe in you!
If you have any questions or additional tips, please share them in the comments.
Until next time,