How to Flat Lay – 5 Top Tips
The flat lay photography format is a big trend, seen everywhere from the pages of Vogue magazine, to our home feeds on Instagram and Pinterest. The format can communicate aspirational, lifestyle feel and when done right, can also deliver several marketing opportunities, such as brand positioning and networking.
Already one of my favourite brands on Instagram, Black Milk are dab hands at the flat lay format and have run competitions inviting the audience to submit the flat lay entries to win prizes. Westfield shopping centres have also taken part in the photography trend with #flatlaythenation.
The food & drink sector has also produced some lovely examples – I am particularly fond of the snaps of latte art and photos of fresh ingredients from behind the scenes in a restaurant, cafe or kitchen.
Flat Lay Photography Guide
To access the full value of this photo format, you have to compete with an army of talented fashion bloggers, stylists, photographers, who are producing beautiful examples every day. To prepare you for flat lay battle, here are my top flat lay tips:
To create a flat lay photo, the camera (I use my iPhone) must be held perpendicular above the items. Post-production can cover up a multitude of photographic shortcomings, to change the brightness, exposure and angles too. We use apps such as: VSCO, A Color Story and Snapseed – plus Skew, to straighten images.
2. Avoid Shadows
Lighting is one of the key elements for a successful flat lay photo, so avoid shadows as much as possible.
When shooting a flat lay your body, hands and phone can cast a shadow over the items – this can be avoided if you place your flat lay in the shade (if you are outside) as you will still get the benefits of the sparkly sunny light. Alternatively, you can place the items between you and the sun – your shadow should cast behind you and not over the subject of your photo.
If the sun is behind you and you lean over the flat lay, you are going to cast a big shadow – you can use this – what you need to achieve is even lighting all over the flat lay area.
3. Negative Space
Focus the layout of your flat lay items to highlight the subject, while allowing for sufficient negative (blank) space so the image does not become too busy.
4. Focal Point
Pick the focal point and ensure the eye is drawn immediately to it – all other elements should be complementary, not distracting. Play with angles, choose a plain background (black, white, wood, slate are all winners) and leave some space between the items.
5. Tags: Hashtags, Location & Profiles
A flat lay presents many opportunities for brand positioning and networking. If you take the photo at a location – such as the beach, or a restaurant – make sure you tag the specific place. When there are other people or brands featured in the flat lay, you can tag them using the @profile name. The flat lay community is highly active on Instagram and many images on Pinterest for the fashion and beauty brands, follow this popular format, so you can join them by using hashtags such as #flatlayinspiration.
The most successful flat lay photos do more than arrange objects for a high-quality photograph – they also harness the format and optimise the post for maximum benefits. Follow these five tips and you will be well on your way to becoming a flat-lay pro.
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