Do you love seeing those lush flat lays on social media? Me too! If you want to get that same pro look but don’t know where to start, then we’ve got you covered.
Flat lays are a really important tool for showcasing your products or menus in a way that will hook potential customers or clients. We’re going to go through 10 ways you can up your flat lay photography game to create some killer images!
1. Plan Ahead
The best flat lays are planned out before you even pick up your camera. What do you want to show off in your flatlay? Is it one product, an array of items, or takeaway menu food for websites like UberEats or Menulog?
In the planning stage, it helps to take a trip to Pinterest and create a mood board with the things that inspire you.
2. Create a Theme
Themes help tell a visual story, so you should choose a theme that ties together the items you are showcasing. Perhaps you want to do a food flatlay? In that case you would decide which dish you want to cook, and maybe build a theme around the country or cuisine that the dish originates from by using props like spices and herbs or rustic tableware.
If you want to shoot a flat lay for travel, then you may choose to include important stuff like passports, camera, sunglasses, sunblock, etc.
Maybe your theme is centred on staying home during the pandemic? Include some items that speak of home comforts and activities as well as your products.
Bathroom themes can include fluffy towels, soaps, sponges, and maybe a fun item like a rubber duck as well!
Have a good look at lots of themes that catch your eye, and play about with your ideas to make sure the images will tell the viewer what your theme is the moment they look at them.
3. Collecting Props
This is where the fun begins! Start by going on a prop hunt around your house for items that fit your brand aesthetics. If your brand is girly, then have a look for suitable cosmetics or jewellery that you (or your daughter!) already own. If you have a more eco-friendly vibe, then natural items and perhaps some potted plants may fit the bill.
Keep your overall colour palette neutral with splashes of your brand colours to add pop. The main factor is to keep a consistent look throughout, and it will help you to get more regrams by big accounts when you keep your colour palette neutral.
You’ll probably need a lot more items than you think. This will ensure that you have enough to keep switching and rearranging your props to give a selection of different images.
If you don’t have much at home in the way of your brand colours, then go shopping for some extra items to add a splash of colour. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but try and get some items that are taller, some shorter, and some textured, so you can add a feel of depth and richness to your flat lay photography.
4. Pick a Colour Palette
If you don’t have any particular brand colours that you want to use, then it helps to pick out a couple of colours that work well together while still retaining your neutral background. Use a colour wheel app (you can get free ones for both iOS and Android) to help you choose the colours that work best together.
5. Use a Paper Backdrop
Flat lay backgrounds look best when they are solid (or nearly solid) colour backgrounds. Classic white always looks good, but other great options include patterned backdrops like marble, concrete, wood, tiles, or grids that you can find in our Flat Lay Backdrops collection.
If you prefer plain colour backgrounds, then why not try a Half Paper Roll? These rolls come in the perfect size for flat lay photography. They are economical too, and when the paper starts to look a bit worn, you just cut that piece off and roll out a box-fresh new bit of background paper.
6. Compose Your Shot
You may find that you have to swap things around and move them to get them looking good. What looks good to you from eye level may not look great from up above, so you need to play around with your placement and take test shots from up high. Or, you could create your flat lay on the floor, then you will be able to compose your items in a pleasing way and see immediately what works and what doesn’t.
7. Utilise Negative Space
Negative space is the space in between the items on your flat lay background. Use negative space to stop your flat lay looking cluttered and too busy. It’s sometimes easier to start off with more items, then remove them to give a clean, minimalist look to the items that are left.
8. Play Around with Angles and Texture
You don’t have to use the traditional grid layout for your flat lays. Try angling your items to give a different look. Decide what style you are going for, and choose whether your objects look best in straight lines or at an angle.
If you have a lot of items, angling them usually works better because you can fit more objects in. Add some texture by overlapping some items, or feature some swatches.
9. Use Great LED or Ring Lighting
While natural daylight is the go-to choice for flat lay photography, it’s not always reliable. Mother Nature can sometimes throw you a curveball by making it too cloudy or too sunny to get good flat lays. And what if you want to shoot after dark?
LED or ring lighting offers you consistency and flexibility in lighting, and you don’t have to wait for the sun to come up, or stop when it goes down!
Here are three flat lay lighting setups that will work for all your compositions. They will help make your products look good whether you are shooting for Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, UberEats, Pinterest, or Grab.
Lighting Setup 1
This setup is created by using a large ring light like our 18” Diamond Luxe II Ring Light. This ring light features a bendable gooseneck so you can light your flat lay from the perfect angle. The circle of light gives even illumination to reduce shadows, and the Half-Paper Backdrop gives you plenty of space to lay out your items.
Lighting Setup 2
Again, this uses a 18” Diamond Luxe II Ring Light and a Half-Paper Backdrop. It also makes use of the Collapsible PopUp Backdrop Stand with Peg. This allows you to use a reflector such as the Large 5-in-1 Reflector.
A reflector can make a real difference by bouncing light back in to an image to lift any shadows and lighten it up even further.
Lighting Setup 3
This setup uses a softbox like the Spectrum Pro S-Beam Light Kit with an octagonal softbox. This setup is also used to shoot flat lays, and the large softbox diffuses the light coming from the continuous lighting of the Pro S-Beam.
10. Don’t Forget to Edit
Editing your flat lay images will give them that final polish before posting them to your website or social media feeds. If you shoot on a smartphone you can make use of free image editing apps like VSCO, Afterlight, etc.
You can use Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Luminar, etc on your desktop if you prefer, but you will need to pay a monthly subscription.
There you have it! Hopefully, this guide has given you some insider know-how on creating your own flat lays. But, before I go, here’s a couple of extra tips for you:
- Only use a couple of big statement pieces at a time. You can probably get away with three big items at a time, but often your flat lay will look overcrowded so two may be better, Add some smaller accessories or items to fit with your larger pieces.
- Experiment with layering. Try adding items on top of others to add more interest and to stop your flat lay looking too...flat! Pop a pair of sunglasses on top of a T-shirt, put a drink on top of a notepad or stack those pens and lipsticks.