The Evolution Of A Flatlay: Contstructing A Flatlay From Start To Finish

A while back I walked you through the process of one of my self portrait sessions to show you how my final image may end up being completely different from my initial vision. Today I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same for how I construct a flatlay. A while back I read the book A Wrinkle In Time for the first time. After I finished the book I took a flatlay image to share on my instagram feed and on my recently read books page here on my website.

When I first set out to create the flatlay I had a particular idea in my head. I ended up going through several different layouts that didn't work before I finally settled on the one that did work. This just goes to show that even though flatlay may look effortless, they do actually take effort and your ideas won't always pan out the way you think they will. But if you stick with it and keep playing around with your concepts, eventually an idea will stick.

So let's go through the process:

*all images below were taken and edited with my iPhone 7 Plus

1. My initial idea was a very simple one. I have a scarf that has the same colors as the book, so I wanted to incorporate that. My original backdrop was my bare floor.


This shot is SOOC. I didn't bother editing it because I knew it wasn't turning out how I envisioned it. The white balance was terrible, the composition was too boring, and the hot spot on the right side of the frame was very distracting.

2. I still thought I wanted to keep the flatlay simple, so I used a textured pillow to create a backdrop for the book.


I realized right away this wasn't working either. Again, I didn't edit this one. Normally, though, I'd crop in to eliminate my floor in the picture and instead fill the frame with the textured pillow. Next! 

3. This is where things really turned into a mess. I went the complete opposite direction and threw everything + the kitchen sink into the frame.


I thought the flatlay needed more contrast so I brought in the blanket. I also thought the image needed some nature, so I brought in the fake flowers. I also thought tea was needed so I threw that in too. And gold. It definitely needs gold. So let's put the crane in. Too much y'all. TOO MUCH. This is why editing is so important. Less is definitely more in this instance.

4. I edited myself by removing some elements and added in a backdrop because I felt like my bare wood floor was too much brown in the frame.


Realizing how much of a hot mess this was, I edited out many of the items. I also opted to bring in my gray faux wood tiling as a backdrop to add a different color to the frame. This image is nice, but it still didn't feel like it conveyed what I was going for. So I kept moving things around...

5. I was about to add some jewelry pieces into the frame when an idea hit me! As I was grabbing rings from my jewelry holder, I saw all of my watches staring back at me and decided to incorporate those.


I scrapped my original idea completely and headed in a different direction using my watches. Luckily I'm not a big fan of silver so all my watches are in the same warm metal family for the most part, which matches the color tones of the book cover. Although I liked the idea of all these time pieces, I didn't like them lined up so neatly alongside the book. So I did some rearranging.

6. I tried mimicking the chaos of the front cover with the arrangement of the timepieces in the frame.


Although I liked this idea better than having the watches lined up orderly, I realized I didn't like the cool tones of the gray backdrop mixed with the warm tons of the book and watch. 

7. I created a clean, white backdrop by using a super cheap foam board from Michaels. 


I changed out the gray wood backdrop for a plain white one. I thought this was an improvement, but it still didn't feel like I had the finished product I was looking for just yet.

8. I decided to rearrange the watches so they encircled the book, and as soon as I made this decision I knew I was headed in the right direction.


At this point I decided I was ready to edit the picture to completion. Something still felt not 100% right, but I felt like I could figure it out while I was editing because I now had a solid foundation.

9. As I was editing, I figured out what would make the image feel "done" for me.


As I was cropping the photo, I decided to play around with rotating the image. And voila! Having the image completely upright felt too uptight for this image, but tilting the entire frame slightly to the right added to the feeling of chaos of the entire image. I knew the image was just what I wanted it to be at this point. I finished the editing by brightening it, adding grain, and desaturating it just a bit in Snapseed. 

There you have it! Sometimes creating a flatlay is an easier process than this. Sometimes it only takes one or two rearrangements before I land on the idea that works. Other times it's like this. I'll go through many variations that just don't quite feel right Or I'll try a flatlay and be so unhappy with the results I scrap it and come back to it the next day with fresh eyes. It's really a toss-up, but it's also fun to exercise my creativity in this way. If you've been wanting to try flatlays but none of your ideas seem to pan out, I encourage you to keep trying, keep moving things around, and keep scrapping ideas until you land on the one that works.

Are you ready to start creating flatlays? Check out my tutorial on how to create a simple flatlay.