Since the rise of Instagram, flat lay photos have become an extremely popular way to beautifully style images. Whether you are looking to create a pretty Instagram feed, feature a product or create stock images for your brand, flat lays are where it’s at! But, what exactly is a flat lay? Well, basically it is a styled image taken from a bird’s eye view. In other words, its a photograph of objects laid down on a flat surface.
While taking flat lay photos may sound easy, photographing and styling a well lit image can be tricky. So, today I’m sharing my tips for how to up your flat lay photography game and style gorgeous photos for your Instagram or blog.
5 Steps to creating a gorgeous flat lay:
1. Find the best lighting for your flat lay
For flat lay images the best lighting is soft even lighting. Ideally, you want all of the items to be equally lit with as few harsh shadows as possible. The best way to do this is to take photos using diffused natural light.
I personally take all of my flat lay photos indoors and if it is a cloudy day, I’ll usually arrange my flat lays next to a south facing window. If it’s a sunny day, I’ll usually arrange items in front of a north facing window. Often I will use a reflector on the opposite side from the window in order to create more even lighting. A simple piece of white posterboard makes an easy inexpensive reflector.
2. Pick a flat lay backdrop
The best backgrounds for flat lays are simple natural textures that aren’t too distracting. My all-time favourite backdrop for flat lays is marble surfaces. However, as beautiful as marble is, it is crazy heavy and not very convenient for moving around your house depending on where the light is best when you are shooting. My favourite trick is to glue marble contact paper onto a piece of posterboard. The result is a super lightweight backdrop that photographs beautifully and is easy to store.
If marble isn’t your thing, you can also find adhesive prints in many other different textures. I also love shooting against this grey wood grain backdrop. A few other go-to backdrops I use include plain posterboard, my white bedspread, or the hardwood flooring in my house.
3. Chose your flat lay props
A good flat lay image should tell a story. Are you getting ready for the day with your favourite beauty products? Sitting down for a delicious snack? Or perhaps working at your office? Think through the products you choose. Do they make sense together? One of my biggest pet peeves is people photographing shoes in the same flatlay as food or makeup. In what world would your shoes be sitting next to your smoothie bowl… ummm no thanks!
Try to choose items with different sizes, shapes and textures. Balance round items like makeup compact cases with longer slim items such as a fluffy blush brush or delicate necklace. For even more texture and visual interest think about adding natural elements. I almost always include flowers in my flat lays because they add so much natural texture and pretty colour.
Another thing you will want to consider is choosing a colour palate for your image. To make your flat lay look more cohesive, choose items that have complimentary colour tones. Pair pastel products with similar colours or curate a flatlay using only bright saturated colours. If you are unsure where to start, try a monochromatic flatlay; choosing all black and white products always looks amazing.
4. Style your flat lay photo
Now that you’ve picked your backdrop and props, it’s time to arrange all of your products into a stylish flat lay. My biggest tip is don’t be afraid to layer! Some blogger like to have all of their products neatly lined in a row when they shoot flat lays but I prefer a more natural look. Stack a pair of sunglasses on top of a book, or weave a pair of headphones across the image. The more layering you can add, the more dynamic the finished image will turn out.
Quick tip: Round lipstick containers or nail polish bottles can be tricky to stay in place. My tip is to use a zot (removable glue dot) to stick the product down. They are super easy to remove afterwards and keeps everything in its spot until you are done photographing it.
5. Take the picture
Now that you have styled everything to perfection, it’s time to take the photo! When taking a picture of your flat lay don’t try to fit everything in your image. It looks more natural if products are cropped out, or if just a corner of an item just makes it into a shot.
So, did you find today’s tutorial helpful? I would love to hear what you think! Leave a comment letting me know your thoughts or any questions you may have about creating flat lays.