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7 Tips to Creating Your Own Flat Lays

9 Dec 2020

‘What are flat lays?’ I hear you ask? Well, have you ever seen a photograph shot from above, of a styled scene that traditionally includes products, or props, that tell a story? Well then, you have seen a flat lay! These are great for business-use on social media, to show a different angle to your business, or show off your products, and can absolutely be taken yourself!

However, there are some key factors to consider before taking your own flat lays.

  1. Planning! It helps to spend a little bit of time planning your shoot. What do you want to get out of it, what story do you want your images to tell, and how can you best achieve this. Do you want bright and airy images, or dark and moody? Is this to promote an upcoming season, i.e. Christmas? Colours need to be considered. For example, flat lays for Christmas will potentially look very different from those designed to be used during summer. Do a bit of research for inspiration on Pinterest. Think about your brand colours, and try to keep a certain amount of consistency throughout your flat lays, either through using the same or similar backgrounds, or similar prop colours.

2. Lighting. As with all photography, lighting is the key! Generally, soft even lighting is ideal for flat lays, and this can be achieved easily with natural light. Set up close to a window, or outdoors if it’s not sunny. If there’s not enough light to achieve a smooth look next to the window, use some white card on the opposite side of the set-up to bounce light back onto the scene. It’s harder to achieve this look artificially, but it can be done by using different light sources and white card to reflect light. However, you will notice that not all flat lays have the same lighting. As part of your planning process, you’ll need to decide whether you prefer no shadow, a little bit of shadow, or lots of shadow!

3. Background. Different backgrounds can be achieved relatively easily. I myself have created a number of different flat lays using my kitchen worktop, my dining table, or my floor tiles! If you can’t use these, you can easily find some foam core board or colour boards from suppliers such as The Range or Hobbycraft. Think outside the box – you can used wallpaper off-cuts, scrapbook paper, a marble chopping board, or a small wooden panel. Think about the texture and the colour. You can get creative here, but don’t let it detract from the main purpose of the image – the items in question.

4. Props. Choose props that aren’t too large. Once you know what your ‘hero’ item is (this will be the product or the main prop you are using), you can then choose different sized props to go alongside this, and these can also include the ‘deconstruction’ of other props. For example, if using flowers, you can use petals. If photographing food, you can use ingredients. You can also use height to add interest to your images. Choose props that are relevant to the hero item, and each other, and help tell the story. Also think about what colours you are using, and try and stick to a minimal colour palette. Less is more!

5. Setting Up – 1. You will be photographing directly from above, so make sure you can easily (and safely!) do this before you get started. I find setting up scenes on the floor is the easiest, to get the most height safely, and the most direct angle.

6. Setting Up – 2. Getting your props set up requires attention to detail. You don’t want to overly fill the frame, or leave too much space. You should keep in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ and unless you are striving for symmetry, stick to an odd number of items. Think about using different sizes of objects to add interest, and remember not all the props need to be completely contained within the frame – leaving some to fall outside of the frame adds interest! Place your hero item first, and then play around with different placements for the other props. It helps to bear in mind which platform you intend using your flat lays on too – square crops will obviously show less than a rectangular image.

7. Take the photo! Try and take the photo bigger than you need it. This gives you lots of flexibility when it comes to cropping, and also ensures the items in the image aren’t distorted. Use an editing software (such a Photoshop or Snapseed) to make sure the style is exactly as you want it, and just keep practising!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and helps you to get creative with your own business imagery! x