Tips for styling stationery flat shots without going broke

We see them all the time, right? We drool over the effortlessly placed cards and ribbons and ring boxes and think to ourselves, HOW? For me, when I first started out in this business, I had a million questions about how these gorgeous photos were composed. They seemed so easy, and yet, when the time came to create them, I was second guessing myself and overthinking every single piece I placed on the board. And you know what made me get better at it? Good old fashioned practice! (And not overthinking it!)

Hands of Hollis | Fine Art Stationery | Tips for Styling Stationery Flat Shots

This isn't just for stationery designers either, wedding photographers, this is for you too! More and more brides are looking to be reminded of the little details they might have overlooked on their big day. Remind your brides to bring their wedding suite to the venue, and when she's not looking, style a few shots with her veil, her shoes, the rings, her flowers, literally any pretty detail will do the trick! So here they are, my best tips for styling stationery for gorgeous Pinterest worthy flat shots.

 Diy stying board, hand-dyed cheesecloth, and clearance bin spool and scissors make for one gorgeous and affordable styled shot. Photo by Lexie Faucher Photography

Diy stying board, hand-dyed cheesecloth, and clearance bin spool and scissors make for one gorgeous and affordable styled shot.
Photo by Lexie Faucher Photography

The first thing I knew I wanted to find were styling boards, but then I saw the price tags! Yikes! Don't get me wrong, there are AMAZING makers out there creating stunning styling boards that really will set your flat shots up for perfection. (And someday I will own them!) If you've got it in your budget for these, go for it. You will not regret it. But if you're like me and trying really hard not to bankrupt your family with your business then by all means take my advice and make them yourself.

 Faux shiplap lovliness right here!

Faux shiplap lovliness right here!

Now, it's N.E.V.E.R been above me to pick up doors, windows, chairs, even full size desks off the side of the road, give it some DIY love, and find the perfect corner for it in my house. (Fun fact: most of the furniture in my house was free then refurbed!) It only made sense to apply that to my styling boards. 

Overall, I made 5 boards that you'll see pop up in my flat lays from materials like: a cabinet door from an old dresser, (slight digression real quick: I'm 99% sure it was my neighbor's ex-wife's furniture he was sawing down into "firewood". So, in a way, I've preserved that for her - nice, right? Maybe? Ok, maybe not, moving on.) Then, I had 4 inch wide white wood boards cut down to create a faux shiplap styling board. This one is definitely my fave and most versatile board. It's also the most trendy, so if you gain ONE thing from this blog post, go make a faux shiplap styling board. Just FYI, it. is. HEAVY! Added to this list is a gray stained board, a sand-textured board, and a foam board with linen fabric stretch over it and literally just hot glued on. For these 5 boards, I spent less than $100 in materials, and it took me a couple days to make them - that's it!

Next up were the styling pieces. I scoured clearance racks for wooden spoons, raided my mom's jewelry box for antique ring boxes and costume jewelry, scoped out garage sales, estate sales and especially antique malls looking for the perfect styling pieces that wouldn't break the bank. Because, I mean, come on, I was starting a brand-spankin new business, not cruising along in a fully fleshed out, profit-wielding power house.

To my repertoire, I added hand-dyed cheesecloths, (more on that here in a sec) silk snippets and notions, floral scissors, (thanks, Prime!) wooden spools, wax seals and really any other little lovely I could dig out of the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby. I also highly recommend finding various colors and sizes of things like pretty trays, small plates, chargers, wood slices, metallic jewelry dishes or servingware, heck I use a big silver plate-shaped trophy my dad won in a golf tournament in 1979! Even the stamps I use are scrapbooking pieces that I got for my birthday in middle school. Yes, I kept them all these years. The point is, you never know what you might already have around that can be used in styling flat shots. Also, be sure to find stuff that flows with your branding for overall style cohesion.

 This is my linen board. It cost me a total of $3 to make since I already had a hot glue gun and loads of glue sticks thanks to a past stint into wreath making. 

This is my linen board. It cost me a total of $3 to make since I already had a hot glue gun and loads of glue sticks thanks to a past stint into wreath making. 

 On this one, i thought it'd be neat to show you three different ways we styled this incredible handmade suite. In this first flat lay, we wanted to let the paper do all the talking so very few styling pieces were added. When doing this type of layout, keep your lines super duper straight! one crooked line will throw it all off! Photo by: Peaches with honey photography

On this one, i thought it'd be neat to show you three different ways we styled this incredible handmade suite. In this first flat lay, we wanted to let the paper do all the talking so very few styling pieces were added. When doing this type of layout, keep your lines super duper straight! one crooked line will throw it all off!
Photo by: Peaches with honey photography

 Here we used both the table and the floor to create depth. We Added in a pretty pop of color with a ring box, some greenery, a "vintage" stamp, a wax seal and voila! you've got yourself a gorgeous flat shot.

Here we used both the table and the floor to create depth. We Added in a pretty pop of color with a ring box, some greenery, a "vintage" stamp, a wax seal and voila! you've got yourself a gorgeous flat shot.

 I love this last style with everything all piled on top of each other on this beautiful mirrored tray. It was so fun seeing how differently everyone styled my suite. Everyone made it their own and that's what I love about styled PHOTO SHOOTS! everyone will come up with something totally unique! Photo by: Peaches with honey photography

I love this last style with everything all piled on top of each other on this beautiful mirrored tray. It was so fun seeing how differently everyone styled my suite. Everyone made it their own and that's what I love about styled PHOTO SHOOTS! everyone will come up with something totally unique!
Photo by: Peaches with honey photography

 No styling board? No problem! Use. the. floor. if you have to. toss some earrings, some ribbon, deconstruct some florals and have fun with it! when everything is pretty, you can't go wrong! Photo by: Grey door photography

No styling board? No problem! Use. the. floor. if you have to. toss some earrings, some ribbon, deconstruct some florals and have fun with it! when everything is pretty, you can't go wrong!
Photo by: Grey door photography

But maybe you're not shooting wedding stationery? Or you're going for a different style? Then great! Use pieces that coordinate with the stationery design. Make it as quirky or silly as you want it!

 When photographing an invitation I made for my son, we used his cars and colored pencils! Photo by Lexie Faucher Photography

When photographing an invitation I made for my son, we used his cars and colored pencils!
Photo by Lexie Faucher Photography

Less really is more when it comes to styling stationery flat lays. I know it's so hard to edit yourself and not include everything but the kitchen sink, but trust me on this. Some of my favorite shots of my work are just that. Shots of my work with juuust a touch of detail here and there. Remind yourself to show restraint.

 Less is always more! Protip: Gotta garden outside? Go grab some flowers! Our yellow and orange zinnias did the trick for this simple bee themed birthday invitation. Photo by: Lexie faucher photography

Less is always more! Protip: Gotta garden outside? Go grab some flowers! Our yellow and orange zinnias did the trick for this simple bee themed birthday invitation.
Photo by: Lexie faucher photography

 Play with textures and don't be afraid to mix it up! Photo by: Lexie Faucher Photography

Play with textures and don't be afraid to mix it up!
Photo by: Lexie Faucher Photography

Couple more pointers for you, remember those old school pink erasers we had when we were kids? Get you a couple of those to use to prop up your stationery. This creates depth and can be used to level out cards laying on weird surfaces - like the shot above! You can't see it, but there's an eraser under there keeping that pretty little invite perfectly level. You can also use watch batteries, your husband's wedding band, even a stack of coins to create some height on your cards, so it's not just flat on your styling surface. 

And I've said this once, but it's worth saying again, keep. your. lines. straight! Unless you're going for that "just tossed it down and it fell beautifully" look, get your right angles RIGHT, homegirl!

"But, Hollis, I wanna hear more about the hand-dyed cheesecloth!" Ok, ready to blow your mind? I bought $2 cheesecloths from Walmart and used household items like Kool Aid, coffee, calligraphy ink, (ok you might not have that one laying around) soy sauce, and even blackberry jam to create the dyes. I made these bad boys on a whim, and they turned out so stunning! Just make sure you use enough vinegar in your dye, so it really holds onto the cheesecloth or else the color could be spotty. Also, I tossed mine in the dryer for no more than 5 minutes then hung them to dry. Otherwise when dried too long, the fabric got really fluffy and was not the texture I was going for. I did 5 clothes all together and 4 came out perfectly the first time. One was WAY too pink (thanks Kool Aid!) and had to be dulled out with my best friend, coffee. She's always saving the day, amiright?

 Here are the cheesecloths I dyed. On a Whim. at midnight. I may have gone to walmart twice that night too.  Dad's trophy sure is making them look gorgeous though!

Here are the cheesecloths I dyed. On a Whim. at midnight. I may have gone to walmart twice that night too.  Dad's trophy sure is making them look gorgeous though!

So to reiterate for you, finding pretty styling pieces does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. If your budget is slim, you can make a lot of it yourself and find fantastic deals both online and in some of your fave craft stores. Chances are, you have a pretty ring holder or plate or even something from your desk that you can use to style your flat shots. Make sure you have a pretty surface, a ton of light, and do NOT forget to keep your lines straight!

Most of all, be creative and have ALL the fun with it! Make it your own by using pieces you already have to show off that beautiful stationery. Remember it's the paper you're photographing and not the stuff around it though. Your styling pieces should complement and never overpower your stationery. After all, she's the star of the show here! Let her have her spotlight.

Custom wedding invitations from Hands of Hollis in Dallas, Texas