Flat lay photography is HUGE right now on fashion blogs, and of course Instagram. If you’re new to fashion blogging and want to learn how to take flat lay photos, this article should clear up any questions you have, and give you some tips and tricks to make your flat lay photos better.
What is Flay Lay Photography?
The meaning of the term flat lay (or #flatlay as you might have seen it on social media), is basically a photo that focuses on items laid flat on a surface (makes sense right?). Fashion and beauty bloggers use these types of photos to communicate the products they use, and the lifestyle they live through the items displayed in their flat lay stories. Most commonly we see beauty products, fashion accessories, fashion magazines, folded clothing, office supplies, and food/drink used to showcase a bloggers lifestyle. The best flat lays use a combination of those items to tell a rich story. After all, you can tell a lot about a person from the type of lipstick they wear and the magazines they read.
Flat Lay Photography on Instagram
Flat lay photography is super popular on Instagram, so if you’re looking to build your Instagram following – fashion flat lays are a great way to do that. Most fashion bloggers use flat lays as a supplemental to their outfit posts, which helps to break up the content on their Instagram feed. Flat lay photos also give fashion bloggers a way to focus on the products that they use in addition to the clothing they wear.
Tip: Make sure you’re hash tagging your image #flatlay so people can find you. When you post your flat lay take a look at the other recent flat lay posts and like the ones that show on the recent feed to help boast your photo.
Flat Lay Photography Backgrounds
Flat lay backgrounds really matter, you want something simple and clean so your items really pop. Most people opt for white or a light neutral background, but if you’re going for a moody look using something that compliments the photo will work too. A lot of great flat lay photos are taken on counter tops made of stone, marble, concrete, or just plain white lament. The thing to remember is the surface should be simple to help highlight the items. Texture works fine if it makes sense with your story, for instance if you’re going for a cozy look a neutral knit throw, or faux fur under your items will help highlight the cozy feeling of your photo.
Tip: You can fake a great background in a few ways. If you don’t have a clean white table try using the back of wrapping paper or a wrinkle free sheet. If you want marble but don’t have a marble table try buying marble contact paper (like this stuff) which you can stick to large flat surface.
Creating your Flat Lay Photo grid
A lot of great flat lay photos use a grid style with even space between each item. Although this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s a good way to start out experimenting with flat lay photos. To do this place each item in an evenly spaced grid remembering to create spacial contrast in the photo with items of different sizes. It’s also important to note here that there should be a nice balance of white space in your image. The best flat lay photos aren’t cluttered, they’re carefully curated to give the item or product enough space to breathe in the composition.
If an organized grid isn’t really your style, plenty of fashion bloggers use a style that feels more random to the eye. Although rest assure, there’s nothing random about their placement at all. Product styling is an art form that takes practice and an edited eye.
Tip: Don’t forget to create a cohesive color story within your flat lay photo. Limiting colors in your photo will make the image stronger but don’t forget to create a bit of contrast with a little pop of color.
Flat Lay Photography Lighting
Successful bloggers and Instagramers understand that lighting is the key to a great photo. So before you start snapping it’s a good idea to take some time to work on lighting your image. If you’re blessed with good lighting in your home, that’s a good start. If the lighting in your home is less than perfect you can always set up your supplies outside for better light, or find a nice large window to shoot near.
Remember to choose the right time of day. Early morning light is good, as is afternoon, but near the end of the day you’re going to start seeing a lot more shadows.
Tip: If you’re next to a window and your lighting still looks a little drab, grab a large piece of white paper and stand it up behind your items (with the window in front). This will bounce the light from the window back down onto your items.
Flat Lay Photography Tips
Always, always, always get above your items so your photo has a birds eye view. Grab a chair or step stool and position your camera over your items. Even through this sounds easy you’ll see once you start shooting it can be tricky to get your phone or camera positioned property over your items without any odd angles. On an iPhone you’ll see the auto grid over the image which you can use to help keep your photo straight, but if you’re using a camera, you’re going to need to take a few shots to make sure you’re items look perfect.
Make sure you move around your items to see where the shadows fall. By simply moving your camera around the objects you can reduce dark blurry shadows from creeping into your photos.
Tip: If your flat lay photo is for Instagram and you’re shooting on your iPhone, shoot in a square format so it’s easier to see how your items fill the screen.
Flat Lay App
If you are familiar with Photoshop you probably already know lots tricks to create a nicer looking image (sharpening, brightening etc…). If you aren’t into heavy duty image editing tools here are a few apps that can help you take your flat lay game from meh, to magical.
This is a bit advanced but the learning curve isn’t too steep. You can easily adjust most elements of your photo with this app, and the results are fairly professional. There is a small cost associated with this app, so you might want to give some of the free ones a try first.
This is a powerful little app for photography will really help you make the most of your flat lay photo. It allows you to easily change the color of selected areas of your image (say, brighten up that yellow toned background).
If you’re into filters VSCO is far superior to Instagram. The community who loves VSCO images tends to veer towards a more vintage looking aesthetic though so it might not be for everyone. You can also do any of the other basic edits inside this app, but really the vintage, ‘real-film’ quality of the filters is what draws people to this app.
Good Old iPhone Camera App (free)
Surprisingly there’s a lot you can do with the camera app on iPhone. You can easily adjust the light, exposure, brightness and adjust the black point all within the camera app.
Tip: Don’t over do it with the image edits. The most popular flat lay images are ones that are crisp, clear, and bright, so focus your edits in those areas. The edits you make should only enhance the image not make it look totally different.