Tips for Shooting Stunning Travel Flat Lays • The Blonde Abroad

Tips for Shooting Stunning Travel Flat Lays Header

We see so many pretty images all the time—from Instagram to Pinterest to curated fashion brands—that it’s almost become second nature to us. We know when we like an image…but if we were to go and recreate something similar, it might not be as easy. Have you ever experienced that?

A lot of thought goes into those expertly designed photos!

Those that are skilled in the art of flat lay photography know a thing or two about composition, who their audience is, lighting, and little details that make all the difference. When it comes to travel flat lay photography and styling, a whole new element is introduced: the feeling of a place.

For all my blogging babes out there that are wanting to up their flat lay game, I’ve got all the tips and tricks on how to perfect a gorgeous travel flat lay.

TBA Flat Lay Vintage Paris

Consider Where You’re Going

Are there any colors or feelings brought to mind by the place? Imagine the warm hues of buildings in Italy or the bright and bold colors of Tokyo. Just the colors alone can capture the essence of a place!

Imagine what a swatch palette of a location would look like.

Are there certain feelings you want to evoke? Perhaps you want to channel a more vintage and whimsical feeling if you’re traveling around Paris. Or maybe you want to go ultra modern and minimal with a cozy twist for a Scandinavian country.

Keep the destination in mind and let it inform the mood and feeling of the image.

If you’re really trying to hone in on your aesthetic and brand, it would be helpful to create a “target profile,” and answer as many of those questions as you can.

Example: A 20s-30 gal who shops at Free People and Anthropologie. Take a look at those sites and what color palettes they’re playing with. Are the sites minimal and refined or more wild and bohemian?

Use that information to inform your target profile and the style you’re after!

What Are You Packing?

What are you going to be wearing in the location you’re traveling to?

Is it somewhere tropical or are you going somewhere where you’ll need to bundle up? Include details of what you’re wearing there—perhaps a hat or sandals for somewhere sunny, or a scarf and beanie for a cooler destination.

What’s the Backdrop?

I have quite a few backdrops I like to use; my go-to backdrops are wood, concrete, marble, and plain white.

However, if you’re traveling, you most likely won’t be packing backdrops. So, look around the place you’re staying for tables with cool surfaces, interesting tile, and what kind of flooring the space has.


Source Inspiration

I like to create mood boards/inspiration boards on Pinterest to get the creativity flowing.

Here’s a tip: create a new board and start pinning things you like and are inspired by for a few minutes. Then, as you’re viewing your inspiration board you might start to notice patterns about the things you like: color, the way things are displayed, the lighting.

Figure out what those things are that you like and channel that inspiration!

Play with Small Details

Collect transportation stubs (metro), admission tickets, airline tickets, and even receipts from your travels.

While these things might seem trivial, receipts from other countries can oftentimes be fascinating to foreigners! Documents look different and they can help tell the story of where you were—think of these as like little scrapbook momentos. 

Other details that are fun to incorporate…

keys, lockets, your passport, sunglasses, wallet, perfume, bandana or scarf, hair clips, jewelry, little candies or dessert goods (think macarons), or foods specific to the area.

Texture adds so much dimension!

This is another “little detail” you can add to create interest in your photo—things like a piece of fabric, ribbons, or a knit sweater!

I like perusing flea markets and vintage shops for unique little trinkets to use as props.

Vintage-Frame Tonal Yellow Orange Flat Lay

Color Palette + Complementary Hues

Are you going for a neutral palette, keeping it completely tonal, or picking hues to offset or complement one another? Figure out what the right balance is—some of this will just take practice and seeing it visually as you work

Figure Out Your Lighting

This is key with ANY kind of photography and another thing that comes with practice. I mostly like to shoot with natural light streaming in through the windows.

Watch for your shadow when shooting overhead and try to get even light (unless you’re after a dark and moody look). I’ll oftentimes use foam boards to serve as reflectors and bounce light into the shadows to create more even lighting. 

Size + Frame

Is this for Instagram, your website or another social media platform? Think about how you’ll be cropping the image—will it be square, 4×5, or a long horizontal image?

Keep in mind that you’ll be cropping edges, so figure out if you want things spilling out from the frame or to be contained within the space.


Lastly, editing is what brings all the magic together!

Again, use your target profile to inform the editing style. Should it be dark and moody, light and airy, or somewhere in between?

TBA Lightroom Presets

Whether you’re just starting out with photography or have been shooting for years, these easy-to-use presets will instantly add a beautiful aesthetic to all of your images!

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TBA Takeaways

  • Consider Where You’re Going and What You’re Packing
  • Figure Out Your Target Audience
  • What Backdrops Do You Have Available?
  • Find Inspiration and Create a Mood Board
  • Play with Small Details
  • Figure Out the Color Palette + Complementary Hues
  • Find Your Light Source
  • Play with Composition and Negative Space
  • Know What Platform You’re Posting on for Cropping Size
  • Editing Brings the Photos Together

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