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A LITTLE INTRO: Sophie Cecile Xu is the main photographer behind all sticks+stones photography. From our web product pics, to our never-ending assortment of styled flat lays, some #streetstyle snaps + lastly, in-house look books.. she does it ALL. As a small business, relationships are EVERYTHING. Whether you're a designer, blogger, or retail store, building your team, and aesthetic is key. After several direct messages, and emails from other small brands asking "how do you..",  I decided this was a MUST for the blog. Feel free to let us know in the comments below if this was helpful! 

Flatlay. Flats. Laydowns. Bird’s eye. Whatever you call these aesthetically pleasing photos that you’ve seen on the interwebs (we will be calling them flatlays for the purpose of this post). A lot of brands and bloggers, may it be in areas of fashion, food, or beauty, flatlays have been around even before the boom of bloggers. Photographers have shot in this style to convey a more personal story.



  • Good lighting
  • Props
  • A simple background
  • A good quality camera (camera phones work too!)
  • Editing app





  1. LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING. And I mean EVERYTHING. It will make or break your photo. The ideal lighting conditions are on a cloudy and overcast day. It is best to set up your flatlay space in a well-lit room near a window in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid harsh shadows and blurry images. If you are lucky and have a garage, shooting near the opening will also work.
  2. CHOOSE A COLOR PALETTE. Selecting 2-3 colors will help with a consistent theme. Think about how the colors will make a viewer feel when seeing the photo. Having a clean consistent background like a white foamboard or even a marble cheeseboard will help give you a clean look.



3. COMPOSITION. Start with multiple objects and then take away one object by one. Play around with scale by focusing on one big object next to a small object. Space out your objects to ensure that the photo doesn’t come out too cluttered and chaotic. Follow the rules of thirds if you’re unsure of the composition.



4. TELL A STORY. As the saying goes every picture is worth a thousand words. So what do you want to tell your viewers? Choose a theme and stick to it. Use objects that go well together. The selected props, background and colors together will show what you’re saying. Everything from the composition to choice of props to the final edited photo should be firm decisions to showcase your story.



5. USE AN EDITING APP. There’s a lot of free photo editing apps that are available right at your fingertips. You can adjust the lighting, add contrast, desaturate or saturate the colors, and much more. Instagram’s own editing features works as well too. Snapseed and VSCO are my go-to.



6. TAG ITWhen you’re ready to post your image, remember to use relevant hashtags for your flatlay. Tag all of the brands and products that you have used as well. By doing this last step, it will help your photo gain more exposure and increase your chances of getting reposted.



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