I am so pleased to share some flat lay tips from the lovely Anya Kernes, destination wedding photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Anya has consistently impressed me with her wedding & editorial galleries which always include beautiful light filled images. Here she shares about her background, getting her work featured, and how to perfect flat lay styling.
Tell us about your background and how you got into photography, how long you have been shooting weddings, etc.

Photography has always been a part of my life from an early age and something that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Turning my hobby into a career happened serendipitously and I’m so thankful to be entering my 5th full time wedding season this year. A lot of the inspiration for my style aesthetic comes from cinema and history, as I always gravitate towards images that feel refined, authentic and timeless. 

How have you found detail images have impacted your business? Does it bring you more features and a more discerning client base?

Although photographing people has always been my biggest passion, details come in close second. If your goal is to get your work published, having beautifully composed lay flat images of the details is a must. It is something both print and online publications are always looking for because it helps them create cohesive page spreads and blog posts. Editors heavily focus on details when sorting through submissions because lay flats offer an interesting and different visual perspective than most of the images taken on a wedding day.

Having a portfolio that showcases my strength in styling has also helped me attract the type of client that is looking to create experiences for their loved ones and care about details. These couples make a big effort to have those details be intentional and personal, and they want these memories to be preserved in the most beautiful way. 

Your flat lays are always perfectly lit. Can you share some insight on your set up?

Finding good light is always my first step. I like to shoot outside whenever possible, even if that means bringing the bride’s details to a completely different location from where she is getting ready, whether it’s a balcony or hotel lobby. I look for a shaded spot that doesn’t have any colorful walls nearby that would be reflecting onto the details. I don’t like having strong shadows, so I’ll also often use a reflector and this especially comes in handy if I have to shoot next to a window. You can also use the pillows from the hotel room (assuming they are white) and they will get the job done. I try to avoid adding extra work for myself in post, but something I found to be really helpful is using the Mask tool in Lightroom to perfect the light and make it more even if one side is a bit darker than the other. 

What are your typical camera settings and gear set up? 

I most often shoot at f/4.0 and will close the aperture even more when photographing high heels or using macro filters. I’ll keep it f/4.0 even if I’m not using risers and shooting something that is flat because opening your aperture causes the image to have a vignette which I don’t particularly like. I always hand hold the camera without using a tripod and try not to go any slower than 1/60. 

How do you like to schedule time for flat lays on a wedding day?

My clients usually set aside an hour for details, but I will always arrive earlier before my scheduled time to get a head start. Having to rush makes it hard for me to be creative and the styling just doesn’t flow the right way, which is why I prefer to give myself extra time. I often take the invitation suite home and photograph it the next day. It often takes me about an hour to style it until I’m happy with the way it looks and I also like to create a different version, so that editors have a few options when we are submitting the wedding for publication.

What kind of communication do you have with your client in order to know what details to photograph?

Getting to know my couples and their style is a big part of the pre-wedding process. One of the things I do is send out a questionnaire about the overall aesthetic and details that they are incorporating into their wedding. This not only helps me put together a shot list for myself, but to also prepare which props and Locust Collection surface to take that would match the color story of the wedding day best. A recent wedding had figs and grapes included into their tablescape decoration, so when styling their invitation suite, I added some of those elements which tied the whole story together. 

Do you have any general parting advice for a photographer looking to take better lit flat lays?

Here are a few guidelines I use as a rule of thumb when styling:

  • Keep darker and heavier elements on the bottom of the image

  • Pay attention to colors to have a more balanced composition

  • Keep a close eye on what type of light causes unfavorable shadows

  • Remove any extra props or elements that are distracting, less is more

The best advice I can give is the more you practice styling and finding good light, the faster you’ll see an improvement in your lay flat details.

Find more about Anya's beautiful work on her website 


or through social media @anyakernes.

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