WHAT I KNOW ABOUT FLAT LAY PHOTOGRAPHY
FLAT LAY photography is super popular among bloggers, instagramers and pinterest users lately. My first attempts of taking flat lay photos were kind of a small disaster and I was never satisfied with the outcome nor did it look like all those beautiful flatlays I would stumble upon on blogs and Instagram. I was disappointed and thinking how I'm never gonna get that flat lay thing... But every start is not the easy one. Especially when it is about photography and following the photography trends that we so want to be part of.
I am not saying that I mastered the flat lay photography. I am not saying that I am a photography expert or anything like that. And the photo above is probably blurred and imperfect enough to prove that. But I feel confident enough to share with everyone what works for me, a complete photo amateur, when it is about taking the flat lay photographs.
The photo posted above is one of my recent photos that I published on my INSTAGRAM, and a reason why it is so grainy and blurred is mostly because of my poorly attempt to download it from my INSTAGRAM account which is almost a mission impossible due to all the restrictions of photo downloading from that platform, which I will never be able to forgive them!
So, here's what works for this girl when it is about flat lay photography:
HAVE A THEME - the idea or the theme of the photo is important no matter if you are taking a flat lay or any other photo. It is a story behind the photo, and it is as important as the layout or setting or lighting or anything that I will list below. Pick a theme and stick to it. Taking some random items around you might create a beautiful flat lay, but it is more likely those will just be a bunch of things that just do not go together or they will create a confusion and have nothing in common that would connect them into a story. If you are creating a fashion outfit flat lay, there is no need to add cat food into the picture, right? You get the point..
NATURAL LIGHT AND THE POWER OF A WHITE BACKGROUND - before anything else, pick a good place to take the photo at, as well as the good background on which you will arrange your items. Natural light is the best light to use. If you do not posses any photographic equipment to boost it, indirect natural light will do well. I usually take my photos a bit away from my studio window, but still close enough to have enough light without any big shadows falling onto my items. And I am a huge fan of white backgrounds - they make all the items stand out and the photo looks very bright and minimalistic which is another big trend in photography these days. If you do not prefer white backgrounds, at least try to pick a solid colour one or very simply patterned, because a pattern that is too strong and occupied will just distract from the items you are photographing and make things more complicated when it is about editing the photo afterwards. Lots of people pick desk surfaces, sheets, white carpets, light marble countertops or similar simple backgrounds, no need to invest in something huge and expensive - use what you have but use it smart!
COLOURS THAT GO ALONG - colours are fun, colourful photos are beautiful, but you do not have to have the entire colour palette in your photo to make it look pretty and interesting. Personally, two or three colours turned out to work best for me. I prefer to go with white or other neutral colour as main and prevailing in the photo, spiced up with one or two contrast colours to make it more interesting. I work mostly with white, black and blue, sometimes green. But black and white are the colours that I end up with in most of my flat lay photos. Few different shades of one colour work great, too. There are many colour combination examples that professionals came up with and that can be found on Pinterest, that might help you decide on what colours to put together and include in your flat lay setting.
CENTRAL POINT - very important if you want to have a nice, appealing and symmetric photo. By a central point, I don't mean you have to centre all your items in the middle of the photo. No. I am saying that you have to have one or two items that are star(s) of the entire layout and then other items to accompany it/them. You can have your layout in the corner of a photo, or taking 2/3 of the photo or in the centre if you really want it. But deciding on what items in the photo are central points is crucial, because you do not want your flat lay to look scattered and unorganized.
DON'T MAKE IT TOO CROWDED - it is not about quantity, it is about quality. There is no need for 10 items to make a flat lay, sometimes even two are enough if picked wisely.
ITEM THAT IS CUT OFF IS FINE! - though your jeans are great from top to bottom, even if you show just one part of them it will still be ok and everyone will get how awesome they are. Play with the setting of your flat lay items - show few of them completely, but leave some cut off the picture. It will make photo look more spontaneous and off-the-cuff.
PLANT IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA - or part of the plant, like a branch, or a flower, or just half of the plant and its planter... Whatever you prefer. It ads the spark of liveliness to the stillness of the layout and can be such a beautiful detail to make your outfit or desktop or food arrangement looking prettier.
SQUARE FRAME - is something I always think about when taking flat lay photos. Most phones have it already integrated in camera settings because of the crazy popularity of Instagram that allows you to publish only square frame photos. But even if you visualize your items within a certain, invisible square, it might make things easier for you when arranging them and make them look symmetrically in the very end.
SHOOT FROM ABOVE / BIRD'S-EYE VIEW - it is the most popular way of taking flat lay photos and the most effective one. A stool or a chair can be very helpful when taking photos in this way.
EDIT YOUR PHOTOS / FILTERS AND PRESETS - we all use photo filters to edit our photos, let's be honest. Even professional photographers use photoshop to perfect their captures. For all of us who are not masters of Photoshop, there are so many presets on Instagram and apps like VSCO or AFTERLIGHT that can make your pretty flat lay look even prettier. My advise is to use same or similar filters/presets all the time, just to keep things unified and consistent. It also helps you create your own certain recognizable style.
LOOK FOR ITHE NSPIRATION - on Instagram, Pinterest, VSCO or any other photo sharing platform. If you would like to create a certain flat lay but you are not sure how to do it right, there is nothing wrong in exploring photos that already exist out there. Just bare in mind that noone likes copy cats... Be inspired by other people's work, but make sure to do it in your own way.
Do you have any advice on taking the flat lay photos? Feel free to share in the comments!