Regular checkers of my Instagram will no doubt be familiar with my windowsills. They are a semi regular backdrop, and one of only a handful of places in my house that are photogenic enough to be used in my photo-taking. I think windowsills are a great photo setting, and here I’ll share my styling tips.
(And look out for the new hashtag alert at the bottom of the post!).
But first of all, why windowsills?
There are many reasons why windowsills make a good backdrop, the first one being that almost everyone has them (or at least access to one). Not only does this make them cheap and easy to use, but also relatable – whether you are selling products or a lifestyle, everyone can relate to a windowsill, right?
On top of that they have strong lines to base your composition around, they are neutrally coloured to fit any Instagram palette or style, and they come with a ready source of natural light. What’s not to love?
How to style yo’ ‘sill
One of the benefits of using your windowsill is that the human eye recognises and gets it, so you don’t have to worry about things looking weird or out of proportion by standing them up like you would in a flat lay. The viewer’s eye will recognise the the familiar windowsill and compensate for it.
That means that unlike with traditional flat lays, you can afford to use items like clocks, picture frames and candles standing up rather than laying them flat. Using height adds interest and depth to your composition, helps to sell your subjects and creates a relatable and engaging image.
One of the best things about windowsills is that they’re flooded with light. One of the worst things is that at certain times they are flooded with too much light. So tip one is to shoot when the sun is on the other side of the house – this creates a lovely soft light and reduces the shadows.
Another way to use light is to stand back from the sill and include part of the wall. This creates a lovely contrast, whites out any nasty views and is good for especially tall subjects like flowers. You also get some nice squared angles. See the example below – you can’t see the horrible roof outside the window, there’s a nice contrast of dark and light and the square angles of the window complement the delicate flowers.
I’m willing to bet that 99.9% of windowsills are rectangular. While those straight lines are a godsend for lining up your composition, if your subject is a book, or a print, or absolutely anything else made up of straight lines, it all ends up looking a little angular. And not in a good way.
My toppest tip for sill style is to bring in curves – cups, bowls, pots, pine cones, pebbles, even your hand. Circles soften the composition, create a visual contrast and make the whole image so much more interesting.
Working your windowsill is all about working the angles, as they are by no means perfect spaces. Maybe it’s the line of cars outside, maybe it’s the hideous plastic roof right below it, or maybe it’s the view of other people’s satellite dishes (these are all things that are true in my case, by the way) – there will always be something to ruin your perfect shot.
This is where you use your props to your advantage. Strategically place them to cover up the big white van, or use a book to cover up the flaking paint work. Use your focus tools to blur the background (you can do this on your smartphone) or shoot from slightly lower than you usually would so that all you can see is sky.
Take the two pictures below from the Tea Journey – the first image uses books to the lift the subject higher, and a print to block out the cars parked outside. the second image is clearly shot from below, avoiding the ugly roofs and sheds, must using a cushion as a feature in the composition to soften the upward effect.
If you’re shooting straight down onto the sill, think about your floor. Use a rug to pretty it up or let the composition spill over onto the floor to add more interest. If you have a radiator issue, drape a blanket over it or prop cushions along the offending area to cover it up (although sometimes judicious use of brightness and contrast in editing can solve radiator woes).
In the shot below the curtain, and my washing basket(!) are included, while the napkin falls off the edge of the sill. This adds depth and more interesting shapes and textures.
If you’ve been inspired by this to go dust off your windowsills and scatter some petals, I’d love to see your work! I’ve started a new pun-a-rific hashtag for us to share our windowsill works of art: #a_sill_life. There’s also a Windowsill Styling board on my Pinterest you can check out for inspiration (and give this pinning a newbie a follow 😉).
Tag your Instagram images with #a_sill_life so we can all see and comment, plus I’ll do features on my feed too!