Best props for building a storybook flatlay scene

A flatlay is an effective visual way to tell a story through a collection of artfully collected and arranged objects. The foundations of a successful flatlay lies in the items you put into it. It's like a Greek salad — everyone knows how to make one, but how good it tastes depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients.

You can create beautiful pictures from everyday objects that are already available in your own home. You just need to use your imagination to tell you how to compose it. Gradually, with practice, you will begin to develop your own personal style and have a better understanding of the types of objects you like to work with. 

Working with items you already own is a great place to start but over time you may wish to collect props to enhance your images. Sometimes the most simple of items can have great impact on your image and your props don’t need to be expensive, they can be bought, thrifted, borrowed and collected. 

You may wish to start assembling your own collection of go-to items so that you are fully equipped when photographic inspiration strikes. To help you get started we’ve curated this mini list of our tops props for those looking to improve their flatlay images. 

Satin or other ribbons

Stylish and colorful stationery

Kraft paper and everything related to it

Wrapping paper, envelopes, bags and any other paper items. The perfect complementary item to kraft paper is jute string which is another basic household item your can include in your flatlays. 

Printed magazines and cards

Glossy magazines about fashion and style, magazines with home decor. Postcards, notebooks with stylish, modern covers, notebooks with black or craft sheets, interesting magnets, stickers. 

Words, quotes, letter boards

You can write the perfect words to enhance the message of your flatlay

Utensils

Such as a cup and/or saucer, handmade plates, stylized wooden cutting boards.

Fresh or dried flowers

Sea and river stones, shells

Succulents, cacti, any indoor plants in small pots

Small accessories (bracelets, rings, chains, pendants, brooches)

Candles

Wooden boxes, wicker baskets and bags

Books, aged paper, sheet music

If you are a crafty person that loves needlework other items to include are:

  • Knitting magazines

  • Fancy markers for knitting (if you have such in everyday life)

  • Beautiful scissors

  • Wooden or bamboo knitting needles, beautiful or unusual hooks

  • Various buttons

  • Remains of yarn wound in mini-balls

  • Unusual clothespins and all sorts of cute decor that is used in scrapbooking

Tip 1 - Keep the story visually consistent

When you are collecting items for your image choose one theme and stick to it. Keep your visual narrative clear and try not to mix in a bunch of unrelated items into your frame all at once. If you want to talk about an interesting book, show the book itself and select accompanying props that complement the literary topic. If your talking point is around healthy eating then only show items related to food and cuisine. Each item in your image should support the story you are telling and not distract from it. 

Tip 2 - Make sure your backdrop sets the scene

The background you select should also support the context of your image. If you are setting the scene at home then a wooden style backdrop may be appropriate to give the look of floorboards or tabletops. If you prefer a more subtle backdrop you may wish to try a marble or concrete but try to avoid bright colors and stick to neutral shades that will not distract the viewer from your subject matter.

Tip 3 - Get in the right headspace to find inspiration

Finding inspiration for creating new photos does not always happen like clockwork but you can help yourself think of new ideas by putting yourself in the right headspace. Try different activities to discover what helps ignite your most creative thoughts. It might be going for a long walk, having a hot shower or enjoying nature. You can find inspiration even in your own reflection in the mirror, when you accidentally glance at a new hair color and notice a sunbeam that refracts the light so beautifully, that you suddenly see a potential shot.