Hey guys! How are you all today? I decided to write you a little guide to flay-lay photography as I have learnt a lot after taking lots of them myself over the course of time, for this blog. I pride myself on being relatively good at these by now. I use this kind of photography for Product Photos, my blog and Instagram (although, obviously, the process is simplified with Instagram. I love it because you can make simple, pretty images which are suitable for most blog posts, without being inherently *of* a subject in particular. It tends to make life easier.
So, here are my tips for successful flat-lay photography:
Have a Backdrop Why do you think I have a white desk? ;) It is so much easier if you have a nice, flat, white space which is reserved for the purpose of taking flat lay pics. Obviously you can layer up fabrics, textures, etc on top of it to make for more visual interest, but it is so helpful to have a flat, purpose-built starting point.
I use a piece of mount board, or for bigger items, I use a big canvas that I also used in my shop product photos that is plain white. Also, if you are more colourful than me, you can totally use a coloured backdrop too. Also, another word on backdrops is that it is so useful to have something portable so you can move everything to the best light source, which brings me to my next point:
Find Some Good Light I use my big bedroom window, and I think this kind of light source is absolutely fine. In most scenarios, you are going to get some shadow unless you start investing in fancy lights, but I actually think these shadows make everything look a bit more human and a bit less corporate. I have heard of some people use a reflector (a big circle made of wire and tent-like material, covered in a gold or silver foil) to bounce some of that natural light back onto the shadows, if they are particularly stark. You can get these for pretty reasonable prices on ebay.
Also, you can always, to some degree, edit out shadows a little when editing afterwards. It is always ideal to get your photo as perfect as possible on the camera, but I think we all are happy to know we can fall back on editing software when you can't get the exact shot you want.
Find a Colour Scheme These things can also look a bit more cohesive if you have a noticeable theme running through, little hints of the same colour balancing throughout. I don't always do this, but it can make a little more sense if there are a few elements of the same colour.
Get a Good Distance I like to take my flat lay photos from pretty high up - I find it super frustrating when you can't get everything you want in the frame. I have found the best way to achieve this is to use my standard 18-55mm kit lens on my DSLR, which at its "furthest" zoom is a good deal further away than what my eye sees. I also like to put my flat lays on the floor, to get me even more distance.
I also find that putting things on the floor helps to get the angle straight and 'directly from above' as I have room to actually hover over the shot with my camera, rather than just brandishing my camera above my head and hoping for the best.
Picture the Frame I don't always do this, because usually I end up adjusting it as I go, but it can help to be aware of the shape of the frame while composing the image - where will the 'edges' of the photos be and do you want things entirely in the middle of the frame, or extending outside of the frame.
Positioning items to extend outside of the frame is particularly useful when one is a lot bigger than the rest, such as What's In My Bag style photos, where the bag tends to be a good deal larger than your keys, phone and lipstick. Here's an example of that which I posted to Instagram a while ago where the bag extends out of the image. Obviously this works for loads of other things too.
Edit Them Good I edit all my photos in photoshop, and one thing I really like to use, as well as the standard 'brightness' and 'contrast' is the shadows/highlights tool. Sometimes I find lightening the shadows and bringing down the highlights slightly can banish those pesky shadows, without making it look eyewateringly over-exposed like it might if I had used 'brightness' instead.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! Share in the comments your tips for flat lay photos!