I’ve been trying to perfect my flat lays for a long time and I’m finally at the stage where I’m happy with them, so here are my tips…
Us bloggers love a good flat lay don’t we? I know it’s something that’s taken me a while to perfect. Now, there isn’t a list of rules for the perfect flat lay, it’s what your idea of perfect is, every blogger is different and will have their own style of photography. However, a few helpful tips and advice, plus a bit of inspo can definitely help you along the way to achieve the type of flat lay you want. There are lots of different flat lay styles, some people just stick to one and have a real theme going with their blog or Instagram, and others like me go for different styles all of the time to get a nice mixture.
Some examples of different flat lay styles for instance are, clean minimal ones with lots of white space, the organised style where all of the products line up or busy ones that look like a huge stylish mess. My favourite type are busy ones using lots of props with loads going on. I also don’t like to stick to one type of background, I like to mix it up and the main three backgrounds I use are white floorboards, marble & plain white backdrops.
Whichever style of flat lay you choose to go for, composition plays a huge part in making it look good. Create space between your items because space is everything. Sometimes a few lipsticks cluttered together in one corner will look good but you don’t want everything in your flat lay to be in touching distance because that will just look crap.
Colour doesn’t always matter, but flat lays that stick to a certain colour theme definitely look really good. For example, for the flat lay that I took above, I stuck to a blush/pink colour theme and I think it turned out really well. It’s one of my most popular photos on Instagram too so it must have pleasing aesthetics. Sometimes you don’t need just one colour theme either, I often photograph a lot of different products but I will then have a ‘prop theme’ where I will add in lots of props of the same sort of colour, like gold or rose gold.
Aperture is reaaaaaally important, especially if you’re shooting with a DSLR. When shooting a flat lay, you want to make sure that everything is in focus. The larger the f-stop is and the smaller the aperture is, the more your objects will be in focus. However it also means that your shutter speed gets longer so it helps to up the ISO as well, especially if you’re not using a stand. I never use a stand when taking my photos (although they really help, especially with flat lays) so I usually shoot a flat lay with an f-stop of about 5.6 or lower. If I have no tall items that are closer to the camera then I can usually go a bit lower. If my flat lay has very few items in it, I sometimes shoot with a very large aperture of maybe 2.0 because I can get away with it. I do prefer to shoot with larger apertures just because it lets in a lot more light and makes for much brighter photos.
I think that a nice balance is the ultimate key to a good flat lay, if you shoot one with loads of items all of the same size, it’s going to look pretty awful. You want to be making sure you mix it up with items of all different sizes so that the photo doesn’t look unbalanced. This goes if you’ve got a busy flat lay going on especially, because it’s a lot more pleasing to the eye. Don’t put items of the same size next to each other, spread them apart and add in little bits and bobs in between, it looks loads better.
I think good, natural lighting goes for all types of photography, but obviously this plays a huge part in helping to achieve a great flat lay. It also helps not to have harsh shadows on your photos, especially if your flat lay is super busy, so bright natural light helps this. If you really want to minimise the shadows on your photos, natural lighting plus a flashgun is the perfect combo. Any flash that bounces off the ceiling down onto your photograph area really helps to reduce the shadows which is great for flat lays. For some tips on taking bright photos during winter, you can read a post I wrote here.
Props, props props, they are everything. The only time I don’t use many props is when I’m photographing a lot of different products that already make the photo look really busy. I’ve become a lot bigger on props recently, I’m just loving how they really add to a flat lay. My favourite types of props at the moment are things like bits of ribbon, string, sequins and other Christmassy bits. You can pick up really cheap bits & bobs from places like TK Maxx and Hema, but you don’t always need to buy in things to use. Some of my other favourite props are things like my scarves, candles, perfumes and makeup brushes. Just go around your home finding anything and everything and throw it all together because a big organised mess looks absolutely fab.