Behind the Scenes: A New Column!

before and after // styling tips for DIY projects

Hope you had a nice, long weekend! I’m back today with a new column!

Over the years, I’ve created a lot of DIY projects. And I do mean A LOT (over 100 DIYs last year alone). While creating those projects, I am always mindful of what the end product is going to look like – paying close attention to the styling and photography for the finished DIY, as well as the step by step instructions. And there is a good reason for this.

Projects that have thoughtful styling, purposeful placement, and strong photography do better on social media and in the blogosphere (in general) than ones that don’t. Of course the project idea itself is important. But let’s face it, sites like Pinterest aren’t just for sharing clever ideas, they’re for sharing beautiful imagery.

So…with that in mind, I am starting a new column today dedicated to tips and tricks to make your DIYs look even more awesome. Every so often, I’ll be showing you some behind the scenes photos of a recent project, and then I’ll break it down into helpful tips for making your DIY projects look as great as they can be.

The first behind the scenes look is of this cupcake topper project I created for Momtastic. Ready to jump in?

setup near a window to make the most of the light in a room

Here are today’s tips…

1. Explore different setups: When I’m shooting something indoors, I like to set up next to the double windows in my office. I have a long table that I can use as a prep surface and switch out backdrops super easily. As you can see in the photo above, my table is setup perpendicular to the window. This particular setup works great for me, but I can also shoot with my back to the windows onto the opposite wall when I need something further away, like the photos from this post (and this one, which was shot by Sarah Eddy).

You’ll also see in this photo, that I’m using a canvas as the standing backdrop and it is being held up by vases filled with flowers (from a previous shoot). How very professional of me. Hehe.

behind the scenes setup

2. Invest in backdrops and backgrounds: If I lived in New York and had a prop house like this at my disposal, I could literal rent a different (and totally awesome) backdrop/ background every day of the week. BUT I don’t live in a city that has prop houses, so I make do with what I can get my hands on.

Mat boards in different colors (like light grey and cream) work pretty well. Here are a couple of examples of projects I’ve used the grey for, so you can see what it looks like in photos: one // two.

I also use a marble slab / cutting board for a lot of food related shoots. Works great, but man, is it heavy!

3. Work with what you have: Don’t forget about the supplies and materials that you used to create your DIY project. In this case, that would be Fruit Loops and pipe cleaners. They make great props in the finished shots and help tell the story without having to explain it in words.

styling tips and tricks

4. More is more: Whether it’s a cupcake or a couch, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to styling, more is more. That doesn’t mean that you have to stuff each frame from floor to ceiling with objects/ materials. But it does mean having more than one option, in case things aren’t working out, can be a very good thing.

So if you’re working with cupcakes and only need to photograph one, have three or four on hand in case you drop one or the icing is messed up on one, etc. Or if you’re shooting DIY plaster votives, for example, make 15 and then choose the best 5 or 10 from the bunch to photograph.

I realize that’s not always convenient to do, but if you have the time it’s worth it to create those kinds of options for yourself. I promise it will result in better looking projects and styled photographs in the end.

messy behind the scenes

5. It’s going to get messy: The above photo is real life. It’s a total mess and it’s how that table looks at the end of nearly every day. It’s not perfectly styled. It’s not even remotely organized, but it works for me.

At the time this was shot, I had piled up pipe cleaners, flowers, an empty bowl, sheets of paper (from a failed project), an iron, some of the bags from that mylar hearts project I did a couple of weeks ago. There is even an empty Coke Zero bottle in there. It’s not glamorous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of glamorous, but you’d never know from the finished photos. And that’s really all that matters.

6. Vary your angles: I keep a ladder in my workspace so that I can get multiple angles (especially for the above shots) without having to balance on my tip toes on top of a chair. Not that I haven’t done that a zillion times, but having a ladder gives me more flexibility in how far up I can go and saves me the trouble of having to pull a chair in.

what it looks like behind the scenes

Still have questions? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

And if you’re looking for more ways to create beautifully styled, share-worthy tutorials, check out my Skillshare class, The How To on How Tos: Creating Compelling Tutorials for your Blog.

57 comments | Click here to reply

Loved this post and really helpful tips. I use a wooden chopping board and a white tray for my background, tee hee, when photographing products, whether its cloudy or not the pictures come out great 🙂


Thank you for the tips! I love this post! I kind of do the same for my backdrops, but mostly use large sheets of drawing paper of coloured paper for my backdrops 🙂 I’ll be following this column for sure, it looks like I can learn a lot from you!


LOVE THIS. love that you took the time to share this and I seriously can’t wait for the rest of them! Thank you so much, using a blank canvas as a backdrop is completely genius!


[…] love seeing behind the scenes of other bloggers – brittni shows her photo setup and tricks which is a million times more profesh than mine (via paper & […]

i link you | almost makes perfect

Oh man, I’m so happy I’m not the only one using random things to hold backdrops! Love that marble slab you have there!


Ah! This is awesome and sure to become my new favorite column on your blog. Your project styling and photos are always gorgeous so I’m excited to hear more tips. I’ve been learning as I go, so this will be so helpful!

Becca | Ladyface Blog


I absolutely loved this post! It always makes me laugh thinking if people could see behind the scenes of my pictures. (the mess surrounding!!). Love the marble board, such a nice touch!


wow so beautiful… what camera do u use


Great post, B! Love this idea for a column. Miss you! xo

Melanie Biehle

Thank you very much for the new column. Just coming on the right time for me!


Amazing!!! I am so excited you started this column. You are a styling and photography MASTER and we can all learn so much from you! Like using a canvas as a backdrop. Never even occurred to me, but it would certainly solve my problem of always accidentally bending/creasing my poster board I often use and throwing it out! Can’t wait to see more posts like this!

Kelly @ Studio DIY

Thank you so much for letting us glimpse into the secret of what makes your photos so beautiful!


Great Post! Loved how you shared pictures of your process and the idea to use everyday items like fruit loops! 🙂 I’m considering taking your tutorial class, but was wondering, do you think it would be good for someone who primarily does tech tutorials, i.e. not tutorials with physical products? I’d like to offer more step-by-step tutorials related to software, websites, apps, etc… particularly for teachers and creative business owners, and was wondering if this course could help with that. Thank you!


love this and am so happy it’s going to be a new column. SO helpful!


LOVE the behind the scenes look! I remember when I came over to your apartment and saw your GENIUS setup, so I’m glad you’re sharing more about your process with us readers! Can’t wait to see more!


I love to see your process! Great that you’re using a canvas as your background, I will keep that one in mind, thanks so much!


This is so helpful, Brittni! I can’t wait to see what else comes up in this series. Thanks!!


seriously LOVE THIS…thank-you for doing a behind the scenes!!


LOVE this!! Thanks for sharing your secrets:) xoxo Katie

Katie Cook

Thanks for sharing this! I am new to blogging and all the tips are helpful!

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