Flatlays are my kind of fun! The creative freedom, instant satisfaction, and the ability to 'swipe left' to start all over again, and again, and again ... is perfect for my style obsession.
New to social media (cough Instagram-land)? Flatlays are images of styled or arranged items laid out on a flat surface, and photographed from directly above like this...
If you are unfamiliar with this concept, keep reading because I will step you through how to create a successful flatlay of your own.
In it for fun and need a bit of motivation to get your flatlay on? It's fast becoming a very popular way for brands to showcase their products. Brands are working with stylists and social media influencers around the world to create this type of content for them. Also keep reading for some of my top flatlay tips. Who knows, you may be one step away from a new career!
The most crucial step to get right is the lighting on your flatlay. This can make or break the shot! Finding natural light is key in creating crisp clear photographs free of dark shadows, and really makes the editing stage a lot easier. When we say natural light, we're not talking about sunny spots, but instead a bright filtered area usually indoors or at least undercover. The problem with shooting outside in the open? It can be too bright and you risk losing a lot of detail, saturation, and structure in your image. If you have the funds to purchase a lightbox to use in a studio great, if not find a light area next to a window or a shaded spot outside.
- Tips -
- If you are flatlaying from home, find that perfect morning and afternoon spot to shoot all your flatlays. You will become experienced in editing your images in that light and end up with an overall cohesive look.
- Take a photo of the backdrop on it's own then have a go at editing (see final stage) to see if your lighting is good, before going too far into your styling. If in doubt use white, it never fails! Fabric, wallpaper, marble/stone, slate, foam board, floorboards, concrete, decking, just to name a few. The sky is the limit when it comes to backgrounds so let your creative imagination run wild!
- If you find an area that is good, but you're wanting to direct more light from another angle, purchase a white foam board or make a board with alluminium foil and position it where necessary to reflect the light to the right spot. This is a neat trick in helping minimalise shadows. Here's an example of bad vs good lighting. Your aim is to achieve the 'natural light' to photograph in.
Concept design and styling work needs a brief. Here are a few tips on what to consider.
What's the intent of this flatlay? What feeling am I hoping to evoke? Is there a popular theme or relevant upcoming event? Are there current trends or product release? Can I draw inspiration from my favourite outfit or beauty regime? Or what's on my table, in the garden or coming out of my oven! Today we have decided on a beach style theme by incorporating some Beach Rd products, and a Grace Garrett fish scale tote.
With our concept now in mind, it's time to choose the perfect backdrop for the product and story. Having considered and ruled out white, charcoal, navy and oak, I have settled on a similar colour to the bag - just a few shades lighter. ‘Posey Green’ by Haymes Paint will support and highlight all my hero pieces beautifully, and will look fresh and bright, just like the beach.
- Tip -
- The sky is the limit when it comes to backgrounds so let your creative imagination run wild! Fabric, wallpaper, marble/stone, slate, foam board, floorboards, concrete, decking, are all great options just to name a few. If in doubt though use white, it never fails to highlight product!
Now for the fun part! Props are items that add personality, style, colour, and texture to your image, they are also sometimes just there to be practical. The props I have used here in this flatlay and why;
Part of a shell chandelier - to add a textural element, some lightness and a reference to the beach
Kafir lime leaves - for colour, life, and reference to Beach Road Neutrals product fragrance
Mortar and Pessel - incorporating the warmer tones of the beach, and to add some natural texture
Sea salt - also to reference product fragrance and the beach, and makes a beautiful textural element. Also is a bit of a 'body salt' lookalike
Marble soap dishes - marble is sophisticated and cooling material, I have chosen it for highlights and texture
Blue tack - stopping the bottles from rolling around
Water and plastic syringe - to wet kaffir lime leaves, increasing the freshness and vibrancy
So what didn't make the cut?
Coconuts - none available, and had enough texture and highlights without adding shaved coconut, and it would create more of a tropical image
Shards of ice - a great glossy emotive texture, but perhaps just too cooling
Pewter tray - the biggest decision for me, timber mortar and Pessel or a pretty pewter tray. In the end I felt that the relaxed timber took my image to the beach and the sophisticated tray kept it in a marble bathroom.
Sunglasses - was just a bit too kitsch and cluttered the image
I recommend having all your props ready to go, all lined up next to you, (apart from temperature affected ones), then when it comes to composing your flatlay, you can make the edit on the spot.
Composition The first thing to consider when planning the layout is the style. A perfectly aligned, straight flatlay, or a relaxed layering flatlay. Today I am relating to the relaxed days at the beach, so let's layer.
Next consideration - what is the intent of this flatlay? Here I am wanting to promote the Beach Rd products and make them the hero pieces, so I will place these front and centre of the shot, and balance the image by placing a couple toward the corners. It can be edited to be larger, brighter or off centre slightly, as it's scale or vibrancy will draw the attention over. The beach tote with it's beautiful pattern and texture is a great base layer piece, and will give an extra dimension to the background. Now let's work our props into the space to support our product and to add layers, texture, and overall composition balance.
To shoot your flatlay as a flipagram or video time lapse, you should invest in a tripod, as the camera needs to remain in the same position through filming and shooting. Before I got my digital camera and fancy tripod, I actually used a single storey clothes horse as my support with my iPhone lying on top capturing the images. Shadowing wasn't an issue, as I would always shoot in the shade. Yes quite funny I know, but it really did work! Today though, we are just taking a simple photograph of our flatlay, so a tripod isn't necessary. I like to shoot on the diagonal of this timber panelling, this way I won't have any issues when it comes to editing with lines.
Using your phone? Make sure your HDR (high definition resolution) is on as this will create a sharper image. Try rotating your phone around, this the lighting, until you find the best angle. Shoot in full photo mode, allows more scope for rotating and cropping come edit time. Lucky enough to have a digital camera? Shoot in macro mode, this allows you to focus on the detail of the products close up.
The point of editing our photo, is to make it look just how it does in reality. We're not trying to distort out image or create a false representation, just to mirror what we are seeing in the flesh. Stylists have different ways they edit an Image, but first I like to get the zooming, cropping and rotating done first. Once I am happy with how the composition looks, I start to make my adjustments in this order.
Brighten - the overall image and selective brightening above lower left bottle
Reduce noise slightly - reduce the fuzzy detail in the image overall, as the slight shadowing was grainy, (this adjustment smooths out detail)
Sharpen - to bring back and sharpen the smoothed out edges of the product, (enhances the pixels to define lines)
Add clarity - increases the detail in the bag, salt and mortar and Pessel (sharpens mid-tones and fine detail)
Increase contrast - to sharpen and darken product label, (the difference in brightness between light and dark areas)
Add Highlights - brightens the salt, and light tones of the bag, whilst also highlighting product, (manipulates only the lighter tones)
Remove blemishes - some dirt was removed from the background, and some discolouration of a soap label, and what looks like a small bug on a leaf.
Here we have it - our final 'Beach bodies' image!
Goodluck creatives and remember, I'm only an email away - firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Jane x