Flat Lay Background Surface Ideas

by | Oct 29, 2021 | Tips & Tricks | 0 comments

Tuesday’s coaching webinar wrapped up the Shoot to Serve photo assignment for the month of October. Family Conferences wanted a picture for a Thanksgiving-themed social media post and had some photo ideas they liked, so we were all challenged to replicate those ideas the best we could.

Several of the photo ideas were in the flat lay style. You know, a camera angle looking straight down with elements arranged on a surface like a table or something. (Yeah, I didn’t know what flat lay photography was either for a while.)

To photograph this style, you have to find some sort of background surface to use. Wood is pretty common. And wooden floors might seem to be a great thing to use since they are pretty common as well. But you have to be careful. If the viewer can tell it’s a wooden floor, then they might start getting icky thoughts. Floors are dirty. And that’s not what you want your viewers to be thinking about. So it’s usually a good idea to find something else.

But what?

During the webinar, it was a lot of fun to find out what some of the students came up with!

Caitlin, from Australia, used a wooden work bench “in the workshop.” Isn’t it kinda interesting that despite surface looking so warn, it doesn’t look “dirty”? It’s got the right feeling.


And the “one with the Happy Thanksgiving chalkboard is a vinyl backdrop I bought online.”


Caitlin also said she has a white wooden backdrop that is vinyl, and though they don't look as authentic as real wood, they are handy as you can move them around to a place with good lighting. “They also roll up making them easy to store and cart around.”

So if white wooden vinyl doesn’t look as authentic, what else could you use?

Sarah, from Connecticut, came up with a creative idea: “I used an old piece of wood I found in my basement and tried to paint it a rustic white.”


After I commented on how beautiful the wooden background surface was in Jemima’s photos, the student photographer from South Africa said, “The background I used was loose planks from an old cable wheel I took apart!”


I was embarrassed to have to look up what a “cable wheel” was. (Later.) The creativity! I was so impressed.

Jemima also mentioned that her dad sourced some corn she used for her photoshoot “from a farm about 145km from us from the previous harvest.” Can you imagine trying to not only photograph “Thanksgiving” in spring, but also for the feeling of a holiday that doesn’t even exist in your country? The dedication! I was really impressed.


Lydia, also from Connecticut, managed to make a floor work. Why?




Because you can’t tell it’s a floor!

12 photographers submitted 61 photos for the past assignment, Happy Thanksgiving, and what we learned from that assignment I think will come in very handy soon.

Be thinking of what you can use as a surface for some more flat lay photos, folks . . . you might need it for the November assignment launching next Friday!

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