Recently I have gotten back on the Instagram flat lay hype. What can I say, you can take the girl out of the flat lay but not the flat lay out of the girl… Yeah, that makes no sense, but you know what I mean. For so long I did nothing but flat lays on my Instagram, and I like to think I mastered them. However I started to mix things up a bit and forgot about the humble flat lay. However I have rekindled my love for them and thought I would share my tips (after a fair few requests).
Whether you’re going bright or white, you want something plain that doesn’t distract from the items in the flat lay. There’s no use in having the most perfect product layout if the background is fussy/busy and you can’t make out the items. Keep it simple; flooring, marble, coloured plain card and plain fluffy rugs. Anything that’s not overly busy or patterned.
When it comes to props you can never have too many. I have a few giant boxes filled with plates, glittered card, fabrics, rugs, towels, throws, makeup brushes, succulents, bowls, ribbon, hair pins, watches, rings, chopping boards, flowers, light shades… You name it and I have it. Now you can see why I need several large boxes to house them all.
Props add a little something extra to any picture, but especially so a flat lay as they don’t have depth. Ruffling blankets or rugs up add great texture as does layering fabrics. These will give you an extra bit of background and depth, but the real props come with accessories which will add a ‘real life’ feel.
Nailing the Competition
As much as we all love accessories and props is important not to overdo it and just throw everything at your flat lay. Make sure the ration is accessories to products isn’t off, and don’t have items all bunched up together. It’s great to fit loads in to a flat lay, but make sure they’re spaced well so you can make out the items; you still wanna see plenty of background. I personally like to leave at least thumb sized space between items so that the eye can make them out clearly.
If you’re just focusing on one item use the rule of thirds; place the focus item in the outer thirds. So, if you imagine your picture split in to thirds by column and row you would place the focus item on the grid lines of the top right third for example.
Make it Flow
With most of my recent flat lays I like to have a colour theme with them, so for example if the product packaging is rose gold I will use rose gold accessories like makeup brushes, lash curlers, etc. If I’m going for a monochrome look I will use my black plates, black makeup brushes and hair grips. It seems a simple thing to match colours but it really does make the world of difference.
Light & Shade
In an ideal world we wouldn’t need artificial lighting for our blog/insta pictures, but we don’t live in an ideal world – especially here in the UK – so we have to rely on artificial lights. I never used to use lighting and would just pray for a sunny weekend day so I could take all my pictures between 11 and 3. Now a days I use 2 soft boxes – one at each end of my set up – and a ring light to light downwards from above. By lighting all the angles it minimise the shadows items leave on my white background, and heavy shadows on a flat lay are not a good look.
To edit my pics I tend to use a variety of apps on my phone, or Polaar if I used my DSLR to take the shot. I up the brightness, minimise the exposure, up the highlights, lower the shadows (to add colour back in) and fiddle with the vibrancy.
Taking the Shot
I tend to use my iPhone for taking flat lays as I can set the frame to take square shots so I know everything is in view, etc. Also, I find it easier and less of a faff; I use my DSLR for standing shots as I like to mess with the bokkah (background blur), but as I don’t need this for a flat lay I chose the simple life. Having the ability to set the frame to square on my phone (my camera doesn’t have it) makes life a lot easier as I can see how the shot will look immediately, what needs to be adjusted and removed.
Mess Things Up
Don’t just take shots of the items in the first layout you try, mix things up and add/remove items, use different styling and accessories. The only way to learn what works is to play around and experiment.
Happy ‘gramming folks.
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