Flat Lay Friday Featuring Jill Sahner

Flat Lay Friday Featuring Jill Sahner

I'm excited to introduce Jill Sahner, a wedding photographer from New Jersey who has an exceptional eye for creating stunning wedding flat lays. Jill's flat lays are aesthetically pleasing with a hint of romantic flair, making her a true kindred spirit. In our interview, Jill shares the intricacies of her creative process and her journey before becoming a wedding photographer. Join us as we explore the artistry and dedication behind her beautiful work, and gain insights into the world of wedding flays through Jill's unique perspective.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your wedding photography business!



"Hi! My name is Jill, and I am a wedding photographer based in New Jersey. I have always loved channeling my creativity through artistic outlets, ever since I was a little girl. At first it was through drawing, but then around the time I was 12 I got my first camera and everything changed. I fell in love with photography, and although at the time I was mostly photographing animals (horses, dogs, etc.) it served as an essential building block for what would eventually become my career. Truthfully I never thought photography could support me as a full-time job so I went to college for marketing, fell away from photography, and worked in branding and graphic design at an EdTech startup in NYC. When I eventually picked up my camera again, intending for it to simply be a hobby, I realized it would always be so much more to me and thus my wedding photography business was born. Well, it wasn't really that simple, but I started photographing engagements and showers and then began shooting intimate and, eventually, full-scale weddings. It's hard to believe picking up a little point-and-shoot camera almost 20 years ago has brought me here! "


How long have you been shooting weddings, when did you start incorporating flat lays?

"I've been focused on weddings for the past 4 or 5 years, and began incorporating flat lays at the very beginning — but boy, they were rough. I have admittedly always had an eye for design, but creating flay lays was a totally new challenge. It's so much about creating a visual balance that is not only pleasing to the eye, but also highlighting important items that couples want to look back on and remember for years to come."


How long do you like to reserve for morning detail photos?

I feel like I could spend hours photographing flat lays, but usually it takes about an hour on wedding days. I typically have 30-45 minutes reserved for flat lays on the timeline, but I always arrive early so I don't feel rushed and can take my time to be creative and style something I'm proud of and that my client will love.


How do you prepare your clients for wedding flat lays? Do you ask for anything specific? Any tips for being prepared?


"On our check-in call the month before their wedding, I explain to my clients that they do not have to buy anything additional for their flat lays and that I have styling items I will use to complement whatever they already have — but I always provide them with a list of items they can include. I typically advise my clients to have their details set aside and ready for me to photograph as soon as I arrive. For women, it's usually the invitation suite, envelopes, any additional stationery, the rings, shoes, jewelry, veil, bouquet, perfume, vow books, etc. For men, it's usually the boutonniere, dress shoes, tie/bowtie, belt, watch, cufflinks, tie clip, suspenders, cologne, etc. Communication ahead of time is super important! I also ask that they request loose flowers from their florist to incorporate into the flat lay design, to help visually tie the day together from start to finish. I email my couples the day before their wedding as well, reminding them which details they should have ready for me as it can easily be forgotten in the shuffle of preparing for such an important event."


Let’s get into the technical side of shooting stunning flat lays . What camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your preferred lens for detail photos?

"I shoot with the Canon R6. Most of the wedding day I am on my Canon 28-70mm RF lens, which I use to shoot details as well at any focal length between 50mm-70mm, but I will also use my 100mm macro lens to photograph individual pieces of a flat lay as well as individual rings, jewelry, etc."

What aperture do you like to shoot at?

"I will typically shoot the pulled-back, overall flat lay photo around f/4.5 to make sure all pieces of the image are in focus, and that the text is legible on the invitation suite. For other angles of the flat lay, I will shoot at f/2 or f/2.8 depending on what lens I'm using."

Any tips for how you find/make good light for flat lays?

"I always look for as much natural light as possible. If a couple is getting ready in a hotel room, I will either get as close to the window as possible and turn off all overhead lights, or I'll take the details to a different location where there's better natural light. If a location is dark and doesn't have sufficient window light, sometimes I'll do details outside in open shade — but the wind can make that difficult, depending on the weather that day. It's important to have as much even, clean, natural light as possible."

Are there any rules of design you try to follow?

"I do utilize rules of design, but admittedly it's completely subconscious. I won't start creating a flat lay design with certain rules of design in mind, but as I begin to place items I will find myself asking myself these subconscious questions and making choices as a result. Balance; does the design look balanced, is it too top- or bottom-heavy, does it seem unnatural? Repetition; are there too many types of the same flower too close to one another, should the wax seals be more scattered throughout to tie it together more seamlessly? Depth; which cards from the invitation suite should be elevated on acrylic risers to add dimension? Movement; how is the human eye interacting with the design, what path does it follow and does that make sense? Color; is the color palette used in the design cohesive with the rest of the wedding in terms of florals, bridesmaids dresses, etc.? The list goes on!"


Do you have a shot list for morning details you try to stick to?

"I don't have a specific shot list, but I do similar things at each wedding. I typically start with the larger, full flat lay, then photograph individual pieces of it from the side and above. I will try to do 1-2 different flat lay designs per wedding, and then I will shoot individual details (rings, shoes, jewelry, etc.) pulled out of the overall flat lay design."

What are your go to items for flat lays?

"I love using flat lay mats (either hand-painted, printed, suede, or linen) as well as ring boxes and small ceramic dishes or trays. I feel like I use the Georgian Ring Box in almost every wedding day flat lay I create, it's so timeless and versatile and I have it in so many different colors so I love having options that go with each wedding day color pallette. I also bring my own envelopes with liners in case my couple only has plain white envelopes, which I find really elevates the design and makes any suite feel more high-end and cohesive. I bring a styling kit with me that I have built out over the years that includes acrylic styling blocks, ribbons, ring boxes, stamps, envelopes, wax seals, wax seal stamps, dishes, trays, artificial florals, etc. People always ask me if it's a sewing kit or a fishing tackle box — nope, naturally just for flat lays!

How do you feel adding flat lays to your portfolio has affected your photography business?

"Some couples are more excited about flat lay photos than others, but I do feel like they really help to tie all of the details together and help to elevate the final wedding gallery. I think a well-executed, beautifully designed flat lay can be incredibly attention-grabbing, especially when included in a portfolio, so I do think that improving and showcasing my flat lay designs has positively benefited my business."

Any advice for someone who wants to start incorporating flat lays into their portfolio?


"Invest in a flat lay course, whether online or in-person. That is something I probably should have done when I first started out, versus just arranging random details on a carpet, photographing them with no real thought or intent behind it, and hoping for the best. 2) Build out your own styling kit so that you can arrive on a wedding day with unique and interesting details to supplement whatever your couples give you to photograph. 3) Order sample invitation suites from stationery designers to create and photograph flat lays at home in your spare time, without the timeline constraints or pressure of a wedding day. Practice makes perfect!"


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