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Blogging 101: Mastering the Flat Lay

Jetset Lust, Blogging 101: Mastering Flat Lay Photography

Flat Lays are sort of the bread and butter content for bloggers. Its our way of making a boring product photo feel relatable and less commercial. When you have to shoot as many products as us, it’s one of the go-to options for churning out content quickly and breaking up the monotonous model photos on our feed. If you’re like I used to be, you probably find flat lays a struggle to shoot. Some people have a natural knack for composition, but even with that, I found it hard to get outside my OCD to sort of “toss” products and props down to look like an effortless flat lay. I used to have to map out flat lays I liked and study the composition to learn how to set up the perfect flat lay. Then one time I had to spend a few days shooting lots of flat lays, and it really clicked with me when I let go and got creative with it. Through that I realized what I was doing differently that made the shots looks so much more professional, and here is what I’m now sharing with you!

Read more to get all the BEST tips, first hand from moi, for mastering the Flat Lay! I promise these will give you a breakthrough for shooting these tricky photos!

Mastering the Flat Lay

  • Create length: spread the products vertically or diagonally across the frame, don’t let it feel circular or square. You want it to feel more real life and candid, and who throws their things down to fit a “square” frame?? You want to lead the viewer’s eye across the frame, preferably to the primary product. Use your backdrop as “white space”, giving some breathing room somewhere in the frame. The white space doesn’t have to be white, and it doesn’t have to be between the products, it could just be in one or two of the corners of the frame.
  •  Layer the products: Start with the surface you want as your “background”, whether it’s wood floor or table, marble countertop, paper backdrop, a blanket, or sand on the beach. Then put your biggest, flattest item down first and layer things in from there. Experiment with laying object down in different spots, or sliding them in between things. Be sure to make your focal piece primary within the composition.
  • Props: It’s good to collect props and objects you can continually use to make consistent Flat Lays (especially if you’re trying to match an Instagram feed color scheme)! I typically use a white sheet, and like to include vintage cameras, polaroids from my trip, gold jewelry, and something alive. Wether it’s plants or flowers, something edible, or even just shadows from palm leaves, this gives your Flat Lay its own life, creating a little world.
  • Utilize light: Take it outside or next to a window to give it real life light. I like to take my flat lays outside under early afternoon sun, sometimes with a light diffuser to soften the shadows and highlights, or with a reflector to fill light in the shadows and get a more well lit scene. I especially love playing with light refractions, reflected off shiny objects or through crystal cups, etc.
  • Utilize Texture & Color: Use props that present texture one associates with, like “quality, luxury, or cozy”. Such as gold, fur, knit, and marble. For consistency, it helps to repeat colors-whether over a spread of multiple flat lays, or inside one flat lay. Be sure to balance the objects of matching color in your composition. You can play with putting more of your color heavy on one side of the frame, or evenly throughout.
  • Create depth- Include 2D & 3D objects to make a more dynamic photo, such as layering flat magazines, trays, or polaroids, with tall bottles, glasses of wine, or a bouquet. And include items in between their depth like a film camera or perfume bottle.
  • Play with perspective- rotate your camera and capture many angles, allow some items to touch the edge of the frame or be slightly cropped out. You can also play with items in the foreground, like a tall flower in a vase becoming a blurred object close to the lens.
  • Don’t forget your horizon: If you rotate and tilt your camera perspective too much, you might end up with your focal product feeling more “up-side-down”, which creates an uneasy feeling. You want it to feel real life and candid, despite the amount of work and styling, so keep your horizon line/vantage point within what feels like a normal view point. You can shoot from straight above, or get some lower viewpoint angles that feel more experiential for the viewer.
  • Brand Name: If the brand name on a product is supposed to be visible, make sure it’s in crisp focus, and be sure not to let it get blown out by any harsh light! Nothing is more disappointing than doing all the work only to find out when seeing the image big on your computer screen that the tiny label was out of focus for everything. Be sure your F-stop is set to a high enough number that your flatly and label are both in focus.
  • Select the best image: I find it hard sometimes to narrow it down to the best image. Think ahead of your Instagram crop (even when shooting). I find it easier to see what image my eye naturally goes to when I zoom out and view all the top image selects as smaller thumbnails. It’s similar to how you see them on an Instagram profile, so you can decide what composition looks the most aesthetic this way.

So that’s all there is to it! I know it might be a bit to process, but the best way to improve is to start putting these lessons to practice!