Colorful Styling Tips from The Happy Bloom
Justin Brown of The Happy Bloom shares how he creates the happy, colorful flat lay photos that we love so much with composition, pizzaz and the right styling tools.
What are some of your favorite flat lay styling tools that you bring to weddings and shoots? How do you pack and organize them?
Funny enough, we use a small “handyman” tool bag! It’s small, compact and filled with plenty of pockets for organization. We bring this to every wedding - and it includes about 8 Mrs Boxes, dozens of stamps, coasters (yes, coasters!), painter’s tape (super important to protect paper from wind), scissors, Heirloom Bindery styling blocks and more.
What is your process for creating your editorial detail photos? How do you start and what are your final touches?
The first step is establishing what color board we want to use - which is a pretty easy step. Do we want to keep things neutral or opt for something bolder or more colorful? We go with our gut. The next step is the most important step, and where a lot of photographers struggle the most: composition. Simply, composition is the arrangement of things and how they relate to each other. I do credit our flat-lay images to my degree in Graphic Design from Auburn University where composition was the key to every project. With composition, every element needs to feel important and balanced. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with having too many items, or the opposite - underwhelmed because you’re maybe lacking an RSVP card or pretty calligraphy envelope or both! Final touches would be loose blooms, vintage stamps or implementing a ring box (the pizazz that takes an image from a B+ to an A+).
What are some of your favorite detail images to shoot?
Hands down - the paper goods. I love the challenge of taking apart an invitation suite and having to put it back together - but in a new and beautiful way.
Are there any details that are particularly hard to photograph? How do you tackle that?
I’ll speak on the behalf of many photographers who struggle with the messy invitation suite photo - which is actually NOW our go-to. When styling paper goods, we keep things in an egg or oval- like shape. Narrow at the top and bottom and a bit chunky in the middle. Using styling blocks to elevate certain elements is also a great way to get un-stuck when styling. We bring forward (elevate) the important elements such as the main invite and rsvp.
Have you always photographed details at weddings like you do now? How have you evolved?
Gracious, no. Much like everything in life, practice makes perfect. You have to get your hands dirty, make mistakes and get better. There are no shortcuts. We’ve developed our “gut instinct” and can now officially trust it. I will say that beautiful flat-lays don’t just occur naturally. Typically, there is a lot of pre-planning and discussions with the planner and florist prior to the wedding date. We often ask for loose blooms and important cocktail hour/reception items to be provided to us at the beginning of the day. This way we get all of our details done and nothing gets forgotten later in the day.
What is your advice for creating a distinct style in your detail styling?
Discover what’s important to you. Every photographer and creative will have a different answer. Our brand is happy, organic and colorful. Thus, we can easily get away with the more messy paper good images and include lots of flowers. A photographer that may lean more modern or edgy may keep things very symmetrical and rely more on geometric ring boxes or patterned backgrounds. It all comes back to truly leaning into your brand. Other than that - practice, practice, practice.