Flatly photography is a great way to quickly communicate important brand messages
What exactly is flat lay photography?
Flat lay photography is the art of photographing items from above on a flat surface. It sounds simple right? Well, it may not be as simple as you first think. I have learned that lesson myself through many attempts at creating an appealing flat lay. It is, however a really good skill to learn if you have a small business, or are a blogger. You can easily create stories for your audience using your products, or items that you champion. They look brilliant on Instagram, as Facebook headers, or website headers/images within blogs to visually convey what you are trying to explain. From my point of view, there are certain types of businesses where the ability to create an appealing flat lay is not just nice to have, it’s essential. These businesses would be those predominantly focused on food and drink.
How I mastered the Flat Lay
As I become more practiced in photography I am quickly learning that a good photo tells a story. If there is no meaning behind your image, then your audience will feel confused and any message you might have been trying to convey will be lost. When I first attempted flat lay photography everything looked like a shambles. Wherever I placed the items they just looked like an unorganised mess. Nothing I tried seemed to work. It was about one month ago now that I decided that I wanted to master the flat lay once and for all. So I signed up for a couple of online courses and watched some YouTube videos to get my head around the art of telling a story through a flat lay. It was then that I realised that I was doing some key things wrong.
- COMPOSITION – I was not using some key composition rules. This I feel has never affected my portrait photography, but is critical for a good product photography. Keep on reading to discover some of the composition tips that have worked well for me.
- LIGHTING – I’ve always known that good lighting is essential for photography. In portraiture in most cases you are meant to shoot with your subject facing towards the source of light (although not a hard and fast rule). However, good product and flat lay photography requires back/side light. So if you don’t have access to a source of good quality natural light, then I’d suggest investing in some artificial lighting. You can most probably get away with a ring light. It is also a good idea to decide whether you would like a dark and moody photo, or bright photo before you shoot as this will dictate what and how to use light in your photo.
- COLOUR THEORY – Learning basic colour theory will help you style your flat lay and will also assist in the editing process. Colour grading is the most satisfying part of the process for me. It adds so much character to your image. To colour grade well you do need a basic understanding of the colour wheel.
- ANGLE – Although a flat lay is technically taken from above your items, some items just really don’t look good from above. Tall items such as drinks are better from a 45 degree angle, and if you have a longer focal length, then this will also help your image to POP!!
- PLANNING – I noticed the biggest improvement in my flat lay photographs when I sketched out my idea before photographing. By finding inspiration on Pinterest and then sketching out my idea using the composition theory, it made the layout of items and the story I was telling more concise. Of course, there will always be an element of experimentation, but having a plan before taking photos really did help save time and effort.
Basic flat lay composition tips
Rule of two thirds
This is all about keeping your main (hero) item in either the left or right of the image. So looking at the image below you would place items in any of the yellow spots in the frame below.