Ah the flat lay. Everyone loves a good flat lay right? I don’t for one minute think myself as an expert on creating this style of photo, but I figured I’d try to give a few pointers and show my methods. Also, don’t you just love the quote below mixed with Jon Snow’s unhappy little face? I do.
Photography is an art. Just having a ‘good camera’ will not get you good photos. Yes they may technically look good – meaning they’re in focus, they have good exposure, colours etc – but having an eye for composition and detail is what makes a great photo. You can’t just shoot photos without thinking and expect every single one to look good. Those instagrams with the perfect shots? It probably wasn’t the first snap, let’s be honest now!
Anyway, hopefully these tips will give you a few more ideas of what to do with your photos and get a little more creativity in there.
Backgrounds and props
The background is arguably the most important thing there. It gives you a clear canvas to start rearranging your items in the flatlay. I personally like to keep my backgrounds as simple as possible. I mostly use a white wooden background that I have, but I do like a good dark wood too. Pretty blankets or bedding also work really great for this.
Depending on what you’re actually taking a photo of, props are super useful to have. I keep a load of random bits and bobs in a little box within easy reach. Polaroids, prints, quote cards, ribbon, fabric, papers, trinkets etc. My advice? Save everything! Any tags, pretty packaging, notebooks, ornaments, flowers – pretty much anything can be used as a prop. Just make sure that what you’re throwing together looks cohesive.
Have a theme
Which brings me to this point – have a general theme in the photo. Whether that’s objects all relating to each other, the same colour, the same concept… Just make sure they fit together. There’s nothing stranger than seeing a flatlay with REALLY random objects on there. Like sports wear and then a book on gardening. Random.
Yep. I usually take photos in my room for ease – it means I don’t have to drag everything out into another room in my house. The best lighting is obviously right in front of the window to get all that lovely natural light. My bed is in front of the window. This means I have to be a little creative. Most of the time I will lean over the side and try to get as above as possible, but sometimes I just need to stand on my bed. Like in the lovely post-gym selfie above. Excuse the mess, please. No, my bedding does not match. Bad blogger right? ;)
Best results are really going to be taken using a tripod because then you can easily keep your camera in one place above the objects whilst you figure out the composition below. Effort though. Definitely make sure you’re taking the photo directly above the objects, and watch out for distortion from wide angled lenses.
Spacing and layout
This is the hardest thing to get right in my opinion, and honestly you just have to keep playing around and taking shots until the composition works. Generally, you need a main focus in there, but it doesn’t always have to be so. I like a mixture of flat lay styles. Sometimes I’ll go all out and include loads of little things and then others I’ll go very minimalist.
The ‘Hello Spring’ photo is a prime example of the latter. I liked it because it reminded me of a scrapbook layout, and I just think it looks all neat! It’s a good blog post title photo. I used some patterned card stock, polaroid photos, bits of plant from the garden and a quote card.
The photo below is one I was really happy with, as an example of a busier flat lay. I used lots of colour, I picked props that related to the main focus (the journals, right?) and I kept the composition balanced. Well, I think I did. In my opinion, angled items and things chopped out make a busy flat lay work. It views more like a table top then. ‘Artfully messy’
Small movements can really make a different in your photo. In the ones below, just a slight change in the background position, and with the order of the books, gives it a more balanced composition. Having the two books with text titles on the outside definitely looks more balanced, and I also think the lines leading into the books works better than just flat across. What do you think though?
To be honest, you’ve just got to keep practising and moving things around. The more you do it, the more you’ll recognise what shapes or colours work together. Like I said, photography is an art form. Always new things to learn and improve.