I received an interesting dilemma from one of my students for the Creating Flat lay Photos class regarding using the right props when staging your images. I thought I would share my answer here to help anyone else who is having fun setting up their own flat lays for social media.
I don’t know why, when I try to add props, they don't look like they belong there - not sure if this make sense. I tried with different ribbons and such but most of the time I give up and just take a picture of the main subject. I bought a piece of shelf liner that has a marble-like pattern on it and I glued it on a piece of foam core thingie. I think it works well. But my main thing is still the props.
When it comes to your photographs & choosing props, go back to thinking about who your audience is. When you are taking the pictures, who do you want to entice into your world?
If your watercolour paintings are the main hero item, the narrative for your photo could be a moment in the life of an artist. So look at your space when you are painting a piece. What do you have out on your desk?
If you're anything like me, I start off with a nice clean space, light a candle in my cactus shaped tea light holder and gather my tools. Then the creativity begins! By the end of the session I have watercolour pans, paintbrushes, mopping up rags, inspiration photos, a cup of tea & snack stash covering my desk. Transfer some or all of these every day items onto your background for your flat lay, being sure to leave space between the items so it doesn't look cluttered. Think of your photo as a snapshot of time, you are trying to recreate that moment when you are in the midst of painting.
If you have a certain subject matter in your painting, such as roses, see if you can add some real flowers or dried rose petals to your flat lay photo. I've kept a small bag of dried petals from a bunch of flowers I bought over a year ago for this very purpose. If you haven't got access to fresh flowers you could use potpourri as a scented alternative.
You could even try setting up a photo to have the narrative of clipping the rose bush in your garden, so cut roses, the clippers, some gardening gloves, and perhaps even a little bit of artistically scattered soil could feature! Experiment with different items & most of all, have fun!
Good luck with your flatlays, have fun seeking out props and if you haven’t already be sure to check out my Creating Flatlays class on Skillshare.