How To Style Flatlay Photos of Your Artwork

The most beautiful, fresh and detailed artwork in the world won't get far if isn't shared with others. A huge (huge) part of having a successful fine art business is sending that work out into the world. It can be super scary - trust me, I know. Everytime I finish a work and then upload it online I feel like I'm just a big jump off a scary cliff. What if it gets harshly critiqued? What if (almost worse) it is completely ignored? Or what if it even gets stolen? One quick search of Etsy and you can see how often one person's original idea "inspires" a dozen other copycat shops. It can hurt, and leave you feeling really vulnerable. And... you need to get past that.

No venture becomes successful without risk, and putting your work out into the world is worth it. There are ways to help prevent, for instance, your fine art images being stolen - that's a future blog post. Getting your work out into the world and in front of future clients, art galleries, or collaborators is the goal; it's how you can build a community around your work and begin to earn both a little money and a lot of joy with your business.

Today, we're going to talk about how to style your artwork in photos to make a big impact online; particularly, using the ever-popular flatlay.

 
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
 

Flatlays are ubiquitous on Instagram. Sometimes it feels like half the images you see are items intentionally laid out in a casual-but-specific way, somehow always on someone's white linen sheets with a mug of coffee.  While that sounds a little jaded, there is a reason you see flatlay style photos so often! They are just pleasing to the eye, while showing products in an appealing scene. A flatlay photo can appear cozy, modern, expensive, outdoorsy... it's easy to create a "vibe". Showcasing your artwork in a way that stops someone scrolling right past it in their feed, or clicking on your profile to learn more, is absolutely what we are going for here. So, let's get started!

Choose Your Background

No need to have that same white linen sheet as everyone else! There are so, so many options for backgrounds; think texture, colors, and pattern. Determine the feeling you want to convey, and what will look flattering with your artwork. If you need some ideas, feel free to scroll through your own Instagram feed and check out what stands out to you in other's work... but don't try to copy it exactly! You can be original and have some fun with it; it's okay to choose what you know works well with your audience, but it's also okay to be a little different too.

How to style flatflay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
How to style flatflay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com

The backdrops I use the most often are the blush pink, pine, and marble ones I made myself. You can read all about how I DIYed these backdrop boards, and come up with your own spin on them. If you don't have room to store wood boards, or want to have a lot of different options on hand, go for paper! You can see above a few different big pieces of decorative paper I keep on hand, just for this purpose. All of these came from local stationary shops, which often have an amazing supply with lots of textures, patterns, etc. for just a couple of bucks each. I keep them folded in half, and tucked into a portfolio where I keep finished artwork too.

If your work is smaller enough, 12"x12" scrapbook papers are super affordable and so readily available! I have some tucked into the clear, plastic box in the above photo, too (you can see the mustard-colored paper in the corner). These are sold for less than a $1 at pretty much any craft store, and are so easy to store away. 

Use Cool Props

The props are my favorite part! My biggest tip is, don't rush out and spend a bunch of money buying props. Slowly collect them as you see things that are cheap, interesting, and would compliment your artwork. I've built my collection over time, and am always on the lockout for little things less than $1 to add.

 
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
 

A few ideas to get started include:

  • Faux flowers & plants. You can see my collection of those above; I try to have all sorts of options around, but my favorite is definitely the faux succulent you see in so many photos. I love the pussywillow too, because it feels a little different. This is a great opportunity to highlight or compliment a particular color in your artwork.
  • Attractive desktop items. Think magnifying glasses, paper weights, ornate scissors, and more. Honestly, I love the Target Dollar Spot for these!
  • Natural items. I found some little dried starfish at Michaels for less than $1 a few years ago, but I've seen a lot of people use pinecones, fall leaves, acorns, and dried flowers. Some of this is probably free in your own yard or neighborhood, depending on the season!

FYI, this post contains some affiliate links below, which means I make a small commission if you purchase an item using one. I would never recommend something I don't think is great, though. Thank you for supporting danielle & co.!

At the bottom of the post I've linked a few options on Amazon, just in case you need more inspiration that is actually currently available for purchase.

How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com

I use a clear, plastic 12"x12" scapbooking box to hold mine (like this one, for about $5), so it can also hold smaller papers for backdrops along with all of the little items I keep on hand for styling photos. I can tuck it away easily on a shelf, it keeps everything tidy.

Use What You Have

If you're an artist, I know you have a bunch of supplies around. This is my absolute favorite things to style photos with (as you'll see throughout this post!) because it is so relevant to my work. Also, art supplies are just beautiful. Paints, pens, brushes... I love them all, and think they are all worthy of being shown off.

 
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
 

I usually choose what art supplies to include by first choosing the ones most related to that particular artwork (is it watercolor, pen and ink, or calligraphy), then out of those which ones are the most attractive, and after that I narrow it down by what I haven't already used recently. You want to create a cohesive look to your work, but keep it feeling fresh, too!

Below you can see how I styled some calligraphy practice with a nib and holder, along with this little metal box used to store nibs (I've seen many calligraphers use that tin in their photos, because it's just adorable! It's available online at Paper & Ink art supplies) along with this little pink flowers I found in the clearance section at Joann Fabrics for about a dollar.

To the right, I grabbed my favorite faux succulent stems and a couple of the micron pens I actually used to create the peony & fern drawings. I think it's important to use at least two different types of elements in photos; if you're using art supplies, also throw in something natural to add interest and create a scene.

How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com

Add Something Natural

Nothing makes a room feel cozy and decorated like adding a plant, and the same is true for photographing your work! Natural items create a sense of life, and are just... naturally appealing.

How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com

There are so many options, too, so finding something that suits your work is easy! Find any craft store and walk through the faux and dried flower sections, and but also the aisle where they store moss, stones, tiny feathered birds, and seashells. Don't forget to search for a 40-50% off coupon on your phone, too, if you're in a Michaels or Joann Fabrics because we are also all about doing this on a budget, right?

Make It Relevant

While creating a cohesive look to your social media accounts (or "grid" as I've heard the cool kids on Instagram call it) is helpful, evolving with the seasons, holidays, and your own interests keeps things from getting boring, for your viewers and for you. It's also an easy way to use things you have around your house, too.

How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com

Above on the left, I styled this photo with a gold patterned paper I found at a local stationary store, and these bottle-brush trees from the Target Dollar Spot for $1 each (our local store is still selling them as of this week, November 2017!).

On the right, I added a little velvet pumpkin also from Target for $1 (okay, yeah, I spend too much time and money at Target, I get it). I was using the bottle brush trees and pumpkin in the middle of my kitchen table, so grabbing them only took a second and didn't cost a thing!

Add Some Action

This is my absolute favorite thing to see in other people's photos, and something I'm pushing myself to do more. I love to see some action! A hand painting, a person at work in their studio, even a cup of coffee makes the photo feel a little more recent and alive.

I really optimistically believe that Instagram is moving away from perfection, and more toward authenticity. Which brings up an interesting point. Isn't all of this styling sort of staged? Yes, it is. It is all about balance, though. There is nothing wrong with treating your business account as a business and not a personal account, which means showing your products in a professional and attractive way. Your audience likely follows you because they are also interested in you, so don't be afraid to show yourself! Even if it's just your hand at work, it makes your account feel more personal, authentic, and encourages engagement.

You know what, though? Maybe don't use that photo of your face to market on Pinterest, though - photos of people don't do as well. This Buffer blog post explains that photos without human faces are repinned 23% more often. Weird, huh? I think of it this way: people go to Instagram for inspiration, and Pinterest to shop.

How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com

Take A Great Photo

Lighting: I have a whole blog post coming up soon on how to achieve natural, bright lighting without buying a bunch of expensive equipment, but in the meantime let's just say lighting is key! Listing and marketing images that have dim or yellow lighting are not going to be viewed as professional, and will decrease your credibility in the eyes of viewers. Using some LED lightbulbs in "daylight", setting up your photo shoot outdoors on a slightly overcast day or next to a window, and using a $1 white foam board as a reflector are all some basic ways to improve your lighting.

Height: To get a photo from above, you need to be, you know, above the layout. I typically set up on my kitchen table and then use a little wood kitchen-stool to get up high enough, but I've also just set things up on the floor, too! (Not when my kids are around, though, for obvious reasons.)

 
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
 

Take quality photos: This one is easier than you think it might be. While big bloggers and stores use fancy DSLR cameras to photography their products, when you're just starting out you probably don't need to. As you can see above, I use my iPhone 7 for almost all of the photos I take, and when I think it might not take large enough images, I use a point & shoot that goes up to 16 megapixels. While I wouldn't recommend using these to digitize your artwork for reprint, for listing images and social media posts it is just fine. If your cell phone doesn't take high enough quality photos, a decent little point & shoot can be found on sale for around $100 if you're willing to shop around. This Canon PowerShot on Amazon has good reviews and 20 megapixels.

Arrange the items in an interesting way. You can lay the items out in a casual way, so it feels like you just finished painting and happened to snap a shot of the work, or you can get a little more formal and lay items out in a grid or line. Check out my Photography Tips Pinterest board to see some different options.

 
How to style flatlay photos of your artwork or products - tips & tricks for showcasing your work for listing images, marketing, and social media use, from danielleandco.com
 

Edit the photos. I edit a lot of mine in Photoshop CC, but if you don't have access to that there are some great free photo editors online. When I don't use Photoshop, I actually use the app A Color Story which is free and the basic filters & tools are surprisingly robust. I've shared my favorite photo & video editing apps, too, so check that out!

I hope all of these tips has helped you take your own awesome flatlay photos!

Do you keep a little collection of props to stage photos? What are your favorite things to use? Please share in the comments!

- Dani

Rewind: What I Did In September & Why

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you purchase an item using one. Thank you for supporting danielle & co.!

Looking back over the past month can help me celebrate accomplishments, and take note of ideas for how to improve moving forward. My creative business is still starting out, so I'm learning at warp speed! Every blog post I write or graphic I design, I learn about 1k new things and when I feel like I failed, I remind myself that it's just a lesson for the next step. I'm hoping that sharing not only what I did over the past month, but why I made the decisions I did (and how it turned out for me) will help you as well! I know I love it when others share "behind the scenes" of their creative business (some of my favorites who do this regularly are Paper & Oats and Elle & Company) so I'm sharing with you!

 
I'm breaking down the decisions I made for my creative business (and some fun stuff too!) in September, and sharing the whys!

I'm breaking down the decisions I made for my creative business (and some fun stuff too!) in September, and sharing the whys!

 

Blogging

Below are the three blog posts from September; I had specific reasons why I wanted to blog on each of the topics!

I shared 12 Ways to Use Those Cool Digital Art Patterns because I had just started creating seamless patterns myself, and as I share them on social media and in online shops I wanted to have a targeted idea of how people would use them and what demographics they would appeal to. After researching some of the different uses, I shared the information with others and even added a link to the blog post in my Etsy pattern listings. Hopefully, if someone is considering purchasing a pattern but hesitates because they aren't sure how useful it would be, this blog post will give them some additional ideas.

Occasionally, I like to go through the lists of hashtags I keep in the Notes app on my phone, and update them. These are the hashtags I copy and paste over to Instagram whenever I post, to help others find my content and follow along. As I come across new applicable hashtags or as trends change, I make sure to go in and refresh my lists so they are all ready when I need them. I shared 100+ Hashtags for Painters & Calligraphers after realizing it might be helpful for others to have a round-up!

Early in September, I shared 10 Business & Art Apps On My Phone Right Now, where I explained why I use particular apps to get business done while I'm out and about, including blogging, social media, task management, and more.

Ideas for using digital seamless patterns!

Ideas for using digital seamless patterns!

My favorite 10 apps for getting business done while on the move!

My favorite 10 apps for getting business done while on the move!

If you're sharing content on social media, check out these hashtag round-ups!

If you're sharing content on social media, check out these hashtag round-ups!

Painting & Design

I really pushed myself to paint a whole variety of different subjects this past month. I had a "landscape week" over on Instagram, focusing just on comparing wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry painting techniques and sharing the pros and cons. I dug into some autumn-related subject matter with fallen leaves and magic potions (thinking a little ahead to Halloween). Just to stay warmed up, I also painted some bright floral paintings in a little larger of a size.

My favorites were definitely the more detailed painting of an American Goldfinch (process videos are over on Instagram) and these tiny little botanical illustrations. I plan to list the American Goldfinch as a print on Etsy (not sure whether digital or physical - thoughts?) and am thinking the botanical ink drawings could be part of an illustration pack or tattoo sheet. Input is welcome!

Business Stuff

New Etsy listings in September included the four patterns below. I'm working on some illustration packs and new prints, but making the patterns is so much fun. I even shared a process video on Instagram of my creating a pattern in Illustrator (it should hit YouTube soon too).

One attempt I'm on the fence about was Etsy Promoted Listings. I tried it out for a few listings and definitely saw the amount of clicks and engagements go up, but not actual sales. As soon as I turned off the promoted listings, the engagement immediately plummeted. I don't feel like I'm at the place yet that putting up funds to promote listings makes sense, but it is just so hard to reach customers otherwise!

I just finished the process of uploading patterns to Spoonflower and ordering proofs. I'm excited to offer prints for fabric and more very soon!

Not everything's about work, right? Let's talk about fun stuff.

Reading

I ordered a whole stack of new books on Amazon in September, and it was the best feeling ever. I always forget just how satisfying a tall stack of unread books is! Three books I recommend are below.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is creepy without being over-the-top, and if you enjoy books like Gone Girl or Girl On The Train, I think you'll like this too.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was nerve-wracking for me as a parent, but suspenseful and a fast read. I was reading it while cooking spaghetti at one point, to find out what happened next, so that should indicate a solid review!

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed was so enjoyable and uplifting. A collection of articles from her advice column Dear Sugar, her responses may be specific to the letters she received, but the guidance and insight is universal to all of life's struggles.

Knitting

In August I began hosting a craft night at our local library in Newfield, NY twice a month. September had the first really successful one, and it was awesome to bring along my knitting and get to hang out with some new people! If you're in the area, please stop by! It's the 2nd and 4th Thursday evening every month.

After a hiatus of knitting regularly, I think I'm back at it. I'm currently knitting Jane Richmond's Pasha Hat pattern in Madelinetosh DK and am starting a new pair of socks using Hermione's Everyday Socks pattern and Socks that Rock yarn in lightweight.

Life in General

September is a big month in our house; school starts (see my little goofballs on their first day, below), we have a birthday in the family and our wedding anniversary. It's fun but also a lot to take in all at once!

I managed to sneak in a picture of my children.

I managed to sneak in a picture of my children.

Check out the timelapse GIF of this on my Instagram feed!

Check out the timelapse GIF of this on my Instagram feed!

Do you use Spoonflower or Etsy Promoted Listings? I'd love some input!

Wishing you an awesome October!

- Dani

Smart Creative Technology: My 8 Favorite Photo & Video Editing Apps

A creative business person has to get pretty... well... creative, sometimes. Not just the inspired sort of creative that generates innovative ideas and beautiful artwork. You need the type of creative that can make something look amazing for $1, take your work to the next level without having to take out a loan, and use what you already have to get what you want. Today I'm sharing how I'm getting by without an expensive DSLR or fancy video camera, and using 8 free photo & video editing apps on my iPhone to produce quality images for my blog and Instagram.

 
BlogPostImageFavPhotoEditingAppslarger.jpg
 

8 Favorite iphone apps to edit photo & video

A Color Story: This is the app I use the most, for photo editing! There are so many photo editing apps out there, but this is the one I find myself returning to every time. Most photos I take from my iPhone are for social media purposes, such as Instagram, and A Color Story feels like it was designed just for that! Created by the bloggers of A Beautiful Mess (who are certainly Instagram famous) it not only has a variety of free filters that go oh-so-well with Instagram, the editing tools themselves are pretty robust! I do have Adobe Creative Suite, so any photo editing that is going to a client or used for marketing is edited there. However, a quick shot taken with my phone can be significantly brightened and the colors made bolder by 30 seconds of work in A Color Story. You can even save your editing so you can apply the same steps and tools to other photos, to achieve a consistent look.

 
Choosing from the free filters in A Color Story

Choosing from the free filters in A Color Story

Using the A Color Story app curve function

Using the A Color Story app curve function

 

Canva: I have heard from so many people that Canva is a lifesaver. Oddly, I use it much more in my day job as a college administrator than I do in my work at danielle & co.; having access to Photoshop and Illustrator, I've created templates for blog post images and other marketing that I can use every time for an efficient and consistent result. Canva has a lot of advantages, though, and occasionally it's nice to be able to generate something already sized perfectly for each specific social media platform. I especially enjoy the variety of fonts and that you can add little "design elements" so easily.

 
Canva has templates for a variety of social medias

Canva has templates for a variety of social medias

A peek at Canva's extra design elements

A peek at Canva's extra design elements

 

iMovie: This is the app I edit 99% of my Instagram videos with. It's free, easy to use, and offers features I haven't found anywhere else. Most of my videos are taken using an iPhone mounted on a tripod, and in order to have it turned to where there is decent lighting, I need to rotate the video later. Instagram wants your videos square and centered, but the iPhone doesn't shoot video in a squared format. So, I use iMovie to rotate and zoom in the video so it is just-right for Instagram. I also use it to speed up the video and to cut out parts that no one wants to see (like a pause where I stop to talk to one of my kids, or the cat jumps up into the screen). It took me awhile to figure it out, so here is my pro tip: If you want to speed the video up more than the max iMovie allows, speed it up to the max, save it as a finished movie, then speed it up all over again! It doesn't let you go all the way to the max again (that I can figure out, at least) but I've done this process with a video up to 3 times to achieve the speed I wanted.

 
Adjusting the speed in iMovie

Adjusting the speed in iMovie

Editing clips within a video in iMovie

Editing clips within a video in iMovie

 

Layout: This is a free app created by Instagram to create collages of photos. The ease of use is amazing (it is just so intuitive), and of course it turns out results perfect for Instagram. That being said, it isn't my actual favorite app for collages. That is...

Fotor: This is my default collage-making-app. I appear to make a strangely large amount of photo collages. Sometimes it's personal, such as photos of my kids on the first and last days of school or before and after photos of weight loss I wouldn't show anyone but myself. It can also be great to whip up a collage of different projects or art supplies I recommend to share on Instagram. Fotor has a few advantages over Layout, such as being able to adjust the thickness of the borders. It's a small thing, but I appreciate it.

A peek at the Layout app

A peek at the Layout app

Choosing collage templates in Fotor

Choosing collage templates in Fotor

Adjusting the border width in Fotor (one of my favorite features)

Adjusting the border width in Fotor (one of my favorite features)

ImgPlay: This app is a must for showing a good "before and after". It takes a series of still photos and turns them into a GIF showing each step. I love it for looking at my own house project before and afters, but also for showing the different steps in a work of art (such as sketching it out, inking it, painting it, etc.).

Hyperlapse: This app offers a way to take videos for Instagram that are sped way up right off the bat, without having to use an editing tool like iMovie. The app can take up to 45 minutes of footage (assuming your phone is charged enough!) and can speed it up to 40x the original playback speed. Recently, I've mostly used iMovie as I'm still figuring out lighting and camera angles, and enjoy the extra editing ability. Hyperlapse saves time and energy, however, and produces a smoother video since it has an image stabilization algorithm to get rid of the jitters.

Boomerang: This is a "goal" app for me. I have tried it out, and it is so fun! It takes a little bit of practice to get the timing down just right, so I'm hoping I can practice with it more in the future. It takes a very quick video, and shows it as a fast and fun repeat.

Of course, the starting place is the standard camera app. The iPhone camera has come a long way in terms of quality, but the other function I use the most is to choose the "square" option prior to taking photos. This feature has saved me a lot of time cropping photos for use on Instagram! I know many people use the "live" photo feature, but I find it uses up too much space on my phone and hasn't had a lot of practical purposes.

If you’re hesitant to start a creative endeavor because of lack of resources (money, time, a subscription to Photoshop), I encourage you to see what you can get done with what you have! What free apps or resources do you use for photo & video?

- Dani

 

 

Photo in blog post main image by Jordan McQueen on Unsplash