Our Favorite Tool for White Flat Lays | Erica + Jon Photography

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We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.

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Our Favorite Tool for White Flat Lays

Little known fact: Erica + Jon Photography was originally just Erica Hayes Photography…like, for a solid 4.5 years. Jon worked a full-time corporate job while Erica steadily built her photography business. She invested in education, learned on the job, and had a lot of trial and error experiences. One thing that always had her hung up was wondering how in the world everyone else seemed to be taking beautifully styled photos on clean, crisp, white backgrounds that she could never manage to pull off herself. She tried a lot of different solutions until she finally learned a simple but effective trick that led us to our favorite tool for while flat lays!

Before we get into that, let’s talk about why she wanted to create this look. Originally a wedding and lifestyle photographer, Erica wanted to be able to effectively style bridal details in a consistent way for her brides that would look high end and beautiful. She’d also style flat lays for images to post on social media and wanted them to pop without distraction from colored or patterned backgrounds. Her best attempt before being let in on the secret was flipping a small white play table our kids used upside down and shooting inside the surface area on the bottom. It was a great attempt, but didn’t quite get the results she hoped for and didn’t leave much work area for creativity…

Now, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. No small ‘shoulda known that’ detail that should make anyone feel silly. So instead of feeling silly, Erica felt ecstatic when she learned that everyone was simply using white foam boards to craft their beautiful flat lays! Yep, white foam boards, like the ones you can buy at the dollar store, were the key to those beautifully styled photos she so badly wanted to create. It instantly upped her flat lay game and gave her a whole lot more room to style…

We still use white foam boards for photo styling all the time today! Although we don’t focus on bridal details any longer, we still need to style out client products and create intentional imagery for their brand where a white foam board is the perfect solution. I’ll never forget showing up to our first real ‘brand’ photoshoot with a bunch of foam boards and the strange look on our client’s face when we explained what they were for. But it works guys, trust us!

To take white foam boards to the next level, you can even create a lightbox with them! We do this by taping two boards together lengthwise and creating an ‘L’ shape. We then use the L shaped boards to bounce light back onto the board we are styling on. It looks like this:

Simple, yet effective. It costs just a few dollars to create these little setups, so we use them for everything! We’ve styled white flat lays with food on them, used them to layout apparel, and shot intentional branded flat lays on them for brands. 

In a pinch, these white foam boards can be used as light bounces in the same way you use a reflector. We’ve also used their all-black versions as flagging to help shape lighting setups! Can you spot it in the photo below? (Hint: Look near the big white umbrella! The black foam board was flagging off the light that was spilling onto the tile backsplash in the kitchen).

If you’re looking for a crazy versatile, low investment tool to add into your arsenal – take a look at picking up some foam boards! You’ll be amazed at just how handy they are.

What is YOUR favorite use for white foam boards? Have you used them before?

What other tips and tricks can we help you with? We want to hear from YOU – so feel free to leave a comment below and let us know what you’re struggling with and how we can help.

comments +

  1. Saleme says:

    I use them too:)) The only thing I find is that the white can give off a blue tinge. What are some tips on editing the white?

    • Erica + Jon says:

      Hey Saleme, great question! You’re right, sometimes white foam boards can give off a very cool, blue temperature light. My first recommendation would be to make sure wherever you are styling the flat lay has good even light from top to bottom. Second, if you are styling in front of a window, know that some windows (especially popular Low-E windows) can alter the light. We like to style ours in front of our sliding glass doors so that we can open them before taking the shot and let the natural ambient light in unfiltered. Finally, use the ExpoDisc! The ExpoDisc is a white balance tool that we can’t live without. You can read all about it in our blog post here. If you’re interested in the ExpoDisc tool, use code ‘ERICAANDJON’ at checkout for a discount!

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