When you’re in the beginning stages of starting a brand or growing a business, it can be tough to build a following and increase engagement on your social channels. I use flat lay photography as a powerful tool to get my content noticed! The best part about this visually compelling photo style is that it can be used for any niche! I saw a massive spike in my engagement on Instagram when I started to include branded flat lays in my feed.
What exactly is a Flat lay Photo?
Flat lays are photos that are taken directly from above and have a variety of pieces styled on a flat surface within the frame. Flat lays are a popular way to show off your favourite products, outfits and more, simply and stylishly! This type of photo is eye-catching and often stands out in the sea of selfies that you will usually find posted on social media and therefore attract a lot of attention! Today I’ll be sharing my top five tips to help you get started on shooting a perfect flay lay!
1. Pick Out A Theme!
Before jumping right in and trying to curate a flat lay, the best thing to do is BRAINSTORM! It might be tempting to skip this step, but this will make a difference in your composition! You may already have an idea of what the focus of your flat lay will be (whether it’s fashion, beauty, food, fitness, etc.), but taking the time to plan out the details is critical. Establish a theme and determine what type of mood you want to portray.
A good starting point is to think about keywords that describe your brand. Do you want your flat lay to appear light and airy or dark and edgy? Is your brand style modern? Minimalistic? Feminine? Once you’ve settled on a theme, it will be easier to determine what type of background to use, which colour scheme to follow and what kind of props to include. Pinterest can serve as an excellent tool for inspiration, and I use it daily to create mood boards for my flat lays!
2. Create A Photo Prop Kit!
The most challenging part about flat lay photography is the PREP work! Figuring out which props to incorporate, gathering them, and styling can be difficult as it’s hard to find pieces on the spot that fit within specific themes and colour schemes. That’s why creating a photo prop kit is so important! Think about the different categories that your flat lays will fall into and be sure to select props to match! For example, most of my flat lays are “OOTD.” I like to collect fashion accessories such as hats, sunglasses & jewellery that will enhance the outfits and make the photos appear more attractive. I also love creating what I call “cozy vibes” flat lays, so my prop kit also includes a lot of warm blankets, mugs, books, socks and other pieces that complement that theme. My flat lays are well-received on social media because the props in each photo complement each other. Your props NEED to make sense! I cannot stress this enough! If the pieces in your composition are random and don’t relate to each other, the photo won’t resonate well with an audience!
Pro Tip: Backgrounds can also be incorporated into your prop kit. I keep a variety of foam boards, scrapbook paper and rugs in my kit, and they always come in handy! Creating a prop kit takes time and does not have to be done all at once. Eventually, you’ll have built up a large selection of items, and you’ll be styling flat lays with ease!
3. Let There Be Light!
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need fancy equipment to be able to take a great photo! These days, the camera on your phone is more than capable of producing a high-quality photo. That’s not to say that investing in a better camera is a bad idea, but I wouldn’t stress over it if it’s not within your budget.
If you are going to invest in a piece of equipment, I would highly recommend that you consider a tripod! While it’s entirely possible to shoot without one, it makes the process a lot easier. I used to hover over my flat lay using a stool or chair, but sometimes that would lead to unnecessary problems. Occasionally I would find my shadow in my photos, or they would turn out blurry, requiring me to re-shoot. A tripod has eliminated those inconveniences, and I can now play around with different angles and layouts with ease!
Ultimately, what will make a difference in your photos is the LIGHTING! I have always been a fan of shooting in natural daylight. It minimizes shadows and adds a soft and airy feel to the picture. The best time to shoot in natural daylight is in the late morning or early afternoon, preferably near a large window or glass door. I always try to shoot my photos between 10 am and noon as I find they turn out well and are generally bright and crisp. If you are using artificial lighting, make sure that the light source is bright, but diffused! You can use a softbox or sheer white curtains to help diffuse the light! They will help eliminate any harsh shadows that would have appeared otherwise!
4. Keep It Balanced!
Styling is, without a doubt, the best part of the entire curating process! You can play around with different colours, sizes and textures! Using textured backgrounds are a great way to add contrast to your photos! I love using faux sheepskin rugs, marble countertops and wooden tables as backgrounds. Alternatively, if the props you have chosen are brightly coloured and busy, a pure white or solid coloured background will work better. As you begin placing all of your props, be sure to leave enough space between the different pieces. You want your photo to look full but not overly cluttered. The key here is to create balance!
5. Take It To The Editing Room!
It’s quite surprising, but a lot of people don’t even think about editing their flat lays! Considering how much effort goes into setting up and shooting, I suppose I can sort of understand why editing may not come to mind. Flat lays are styled to look “aesthetically pleasing,” and the photos that are produced often look quite good on their own. However, editing is what will take your photo to the next level. Why settle for a good flat lay when you can have a great one!? Bring your photos into Lightroom, VSCO or any other editing software/app and try making a few adjustments. Play with the exposure, saturation and sharpness, straighten and crop your image, or maybe even try applying a preset if you have some that you use for your other branded photos!
Have you tried using Flat Lay Photography to grow your business? What are some of your favourite props to use? Share your experiences in the comments below!