As a stationer, I done my fair share of styling stationery suites. I have come a long way from when I first started learning how to arrange the different pieces together and have learned a few things about how to make my paper suites look their best for a photoshoot or quick iPhone snap.
Today I wanted to share a few tips for elevating your stationery flatlays. Whether you are a stationer yourself or a photographer or a planner who struggles with styling paper suites, I hope that these tips are helpful!
A few basics to get started
It will be basically impossible to get a really great image if you have terrible lighting. This may mean that you have to be strategic in when and where you do your flatlays. You may want light and airy or more moody. In this iPhone snap, I really loved the shadows and how they added to the composition. It may mean going outside, or on the (clean) bathroom floor. Wherever you need to go to get your good lighting - go there.
A nice background
You will want to use a background that will not distract from your paper, but rather will compliment the set. Think about color, texture, and pattern. Does your suite have a lot of textural elements? You may want a smooth background for contrast. Is your suite warm creamy tones? A stark white will probably not be your best choice, but rather something warm to match.
There are so many great styling boards available to purchase, or you can make your own with fabric, plaster, or just sheets of paper from the art store. You just want to have a good variety on hand so that you have s few options, especially if you shoot a lot of paper goods.
Oh, and please do not shoot a suite on carpet, the dirt (unless it really fits with the vibe of the shoot), or a busy tile floor (beautiful for a feet selfie but too distracting most of the time).
Arranging the suite
Where to even begin?
When shooting the full suite, I usually begin with the invitation as that is the star, but I rarely center it. Instead I will start with it to one corner and place the other pieces in a way that creates some visual movement, not just symmetrical blocks. I like to create an almost “S” like arrangement, but very subtly. This give the image more interest and draws the viewer’s eye in.
A tip, you do not have to use every piece from the suite if it is a large one and you are having a tough time fitting it all in without it looking cluttered. Leave out the envelope or lay it upside down underneath the invitation.
You can also bring in pieces from the wedding day such as a small place card or escort card to add a small piece that may help to balance all of the larger ones.
Use levels and layers
I think that my favorite props to use are actually other pieces of paper. Be that sheets of handmade paper that add a little texture, a piece of colored paper that is the perfect complimentary shade, a color swatch, or pieces of artwork that evoke the feelings of the suite. Place them underneath the pieces, offsetting them, or using them to create more visual movement.
It can also be very helpful to add level to your flatlays. This is done by simply placing an object underneath the paper to give it a little height. Washi tape rolls work well for this, but you can use anything that is flat and will hold your paper up evenly. I often open my little box of office supplies and use a few items from there to give some variation in the height and visual interest. Also, don't be afraid to layer the pieces on each other. This can make for a lot of interest.
Do make sure that your edges are lined up straight
Curate your collection
It is important to curate and gather your own set of well-chosen styling props. Ribbon, postage stamps, rings, ring boxes, small dishes, flowers, stones, I could go on and on with the list of props that you can use. I love having a lot to choose from to be able to select just the right items for my suite. Even when I send suites off to a styled shoot or a wedding I include more paper pieces and elements that they will need to give options for styling with.
I have an overall aesthetic to my brand and so when I am sourcing and choosing props to add to my collection, I choose them with intention knowing that the prop itself fits with that brand so that I will be able to use it mulitiple times with different suites and in different ways. I invest in quality, often artisan items, so I want them to be more than a one time use thing.
Choosing which props to use
When it comes to what goes into any given flatlay, I am a less is more type. Of course, I have a more minimalist aesthetic, but I always say that it is better to oversimplify than over-complicate and that it is better to have too little than too much.
When I am choosing props for a particular flatly, I always ask why I am choosing that particular item. Perhaps it has emotional significance to the couple such as their rings or river rocks if they had a forest wedding. Perhaps it is not emotionally significant, but rather the color is the perfect compliment, or the shape is just what I need to balance the composition. Sometimes that means almost no props at all.
Don’t put a flower and ribbon and a ring box just because you think you should have them all there - not that there is anything wrong with any of these or even using them all if they all make sense and are balanced. In my opinion, it is better to do without than to have too much going on. It ends up distracting from the paper.
Oh, and often when you just sort of throw a ribbon or a piece of fabric down - leave it as it is! I find that that is the best way to get it to look good and not too fussy. Sometimes is the little imperfections look so much more real than a perfectly curled ribbon.
The big picture
Don't over complicate it
Often I think that people who are unfamiliar with styling paper tend to err on the side of putting too much into their flatlays when they are styling. Although there are some who do an amazing job with very busy images, I think that it is best to start simple when you are learning and your style more maximal when it comes to styling, to learn that as you go. It is just fine to keep things very simple with a small, pleasing arrangement of your suite on a clean background with good lighting. Again, that is just my opinion and my style does tend to be very minimal. Almost to a fault.
Ask for critique if you are struggling
If you are newer to styling wedding invitations and paper goods, don't be afraid to reach out to a more seasoned stylist, preferably one that you have a relationship with, and ask for feedback. I cannot speak for everyone, but for myself, and I think for most people, I am happy to help if someone asks me for feedback on how they are styling. Of course everyone will approach things with their own unique style and opinions but feedback can be really good for growth.
Don't be too hard on yourself
Lastly, don’t overthink things and so not be too critical of yourself. It is easy to overthink and re-style a flatlay so many times that we cannot even tell what looks good. Trust your first instinct - they are usually good!
I hope that a few of those tips are helpful to you whether you are a beginner and are unsure how to even begin to style a stationery suite, or if you just picked up one little bit of advice. If nothing else, I hope that these encourage you to do a few flatlays this coming week and to enjoy playing with paper.
Do you have any go to stationery styling tips? Please share them below!