This popular photo aesthetic captures the small details of your big day, in a big way.

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2019.

Thank you, Instagram. We all have the beloved social media platform to credit for popularizing the flat-lay aesthetic. A flat lay is a picture of a collection of objects shot from above, typically with one or two items acting as a focal point or “hero” piece. Not only do these photographs deserve a thumbs up for sharing later on social, the flat lay is a great way to capture the small details from your big day that might otherwise go unnoticed in the hustle of the event.

They can serve a sneakier purpose, too. Flat lays are best photographed early in the day, because oftentimes the details needed to nail them will be in action later (think hair accessories, jewelry, cufflinks). That means they might be one of the first things your photographer shoots on the day of your wedding, giving your loved ones in the room—and even yourself—a little bit of time to get used to the photographer being there and taking photos. By the time the photographer starts snapping shots of you and the others, everyone will be more comfortable and candid because they will have gotten used to the camera’s presence.

Keep in mind, though, that not all photographers consider flat lay photography a part of their standard style. If you’d like this type of photograph in your final wedding album, be sure to include some flat lay examples in the inspiration images you show your photographer during early discussions of what you’re looking for. This will lead to a conversation about the timing and logistical juggling required to set up and source pieces for the flat lay photo of your dreams.

“I make a detailed list of items for the bride to have ready for me to shoot when I show up,” says Hillary Ferguson of Hillary Ferguson Photography. “That way I have all of the details laid out in front of me to work with and compose a cool shot. I typically shoot lay flat images of the invitation and all of its parts.”

Indeed, the wedding invitation is a popular focal point of wedding flat lays. They give the photos a classic, romantic quality, especially if they feature personal handwriting from the couple. Perhaps set aside an invitation, unaddressed, before mailing them to guests; keep it with your accessories or dress so it doesn’t get lost before it’s time for the photo shoot.

Last but not least, essential to the flat lay composition, of course, is the backdrop. Your photographer will have final say in what works best behind the items in your flat lay, but you could provide a few options that speak to the thematic or emotional qualities of your day. Some backdrop examples include lace (ask the seamstress for extra material, post-gown alterations), a rug, a serving tray or a map. When all else fails, a simple wooden or stone floor can look lovely with the right details. The flat lay can be as personalized, planned or improvised as you want.

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