There are so many ways to style and take photos today, and one of the most popular ways are Flatlay photography. Personally, I love Flatlays. They are so much fun to create, style and shoot!
A Flatlay image is basically when you’re shooting items directly from above. Usually, there´s made an effort to arranged or style the elements on a flat surface in an eye-catching way.
Flatlays are very pleasing to the eye, creative, inspiring, stylish and a great way to evoke a visual interest to your blog readers or Instagram followers.
In today’s post, I´m sharing 7 essential tips for creating beautiful Flatlay photos like the pro. So if you´re you passionate about Flatlay photography and ready to uplevel your styling skills, then this post is for you.
Are you ready?
Here we go!
#1. Choose Your Main Object
You gotta have an overall idea before your start. Meaning that you need to know what item will be the main character of your story. Also, known as your hero object. I always suggest that you choose something beautiful that you absolutely love.
Choose an item that inspires you. Because if you´re not inspired by it and if you don´t love it – what´s the point. You gotta put love into your photos, right.
The hero piece will be the main character of your story, and everything else you put in the frame will play a supporting role. Just like in the movies where you have a star actress playing the leading role, and everyone else in the film are playing supporting characters.
Coming up with an idea doesn’t have to be complicated. You just gotta find one item that you wish to photograph. And it can be anything really. Just look around you.
It can be a new notebook you recently bought. A beautiful flower from your garden. Eggs from the fridge. An old vintage plate you have inherited from your grandma. A postcard you´ve written to your BFF or a delicious cake you just baked.
Anything goes as long as it looks pretty from above, so try and avoid things that are too tall.
#2. Choose a background that compliments your hero item
Choose a beautiful background that compliments your hero item. If your object has a dark colour try and go for a lighter background and if your object has a lighter colour go for a darker background. It will make your object stand out more.
There are two things you should look for when choosing a background. First, make sure your background is not too shiny. Go for a matte surface to avoid reflections that will disturb your final image.
Second, look for a background that has some kind of texture. Texture and patina add so much atmosphere to a Flatly photograph – if chosen carefully this can easily set the whole mood of your photo.
You can also make your own background. See how to make homemade backgrounds for food and still life here >>
Avoid using a plain background such as coloured paper. It will most likely make your photo look flat and boring. Creating contrast is key to a strong image, and you create that by choosing a background in a neutral colour and preferably one that has some texture to it.
Fabulous background choices are things like; a marble table, concrete floor, stone tiles, old wood with patina, painted wood with patina, hand coloured linen, tea towels, used cutting boards, wooden floors, a vintage carpet, an iron tray and bed linen.
The possibilities are many, and you got to be creative with this because it truly sets the overall mood of your photo.
Don´t be afraid to experiment. Move your scene out of your home if you need to – perhaps the concrete floor in your garage has some beautiful texture?
Perhaps The wooden table in the nearby park has some gorgeous patina, or maybe the tiles in your bathroom will look great?
Open your mind to new possibilities and test different backgrounds until you find something you like.
#3. Easy composition with the rule of third
Alright, now it´s time to place our main object on your chosen background. Composition is key to a good Flatlay, so to help yourself get a good start with your composition I recommend using the rule of third. (see photo below).
To effectively use this rule, turn on the photo grid on your camera. The main subject should be in one of the gridlines.
Keep your lines clean, consider symmetry on both sides of the frame and create space between each object. Space between items is super important in order to make it pleasing to the eye. Often you need a bit more space between props than you think because your eyes will see it differently than your camera.
#4. Pick a simple colour palette
Based on your main object and the background you´ve picked, consider what colour theme is a good choice. Stick to a simple colour palette to make it pleasing to the eye. When your image is a mish-mash of whatever colours, it gets too messy to take in for the viewer.
So how do you choose a colour theme? It´s simple. Look at your main object. Look at the background you picked. What colours are they? Now, you pick things from that same colour palette and place them inside your Flatlay frame.
For example, if your background is made of dark brown wood, you can pick things that range from earthy tones to golden tones. If your main object is a pink peony, you might include a pastel pink ribbon or a nude coloured coffee cup.
Don´t overcomplicate this phase. Just stick to a few colours to simplify the overall look.
When you add a colour to your Flatlay scene, think about how it will blend in. A good question to ask yourself is; will this object blend naturally in or am I introducing a new colour that stands out?
If it blends in, then great. If the colour sticks out consider removing it completely or add 2-3 other props in that same colour. It will tie everything beautifully together.
Remember: colour balance is key when styling a Flatlay. Using a defined colour palette will bring harmony to your composition and give your Flatlay maximum impact.
5. Add depth and volume with layering
When you start to add props to your Flatlay frame, try and think in layers. For example; you can begin by placing a newspaper on your background, then on top of that a magazine, then on top of that a postcard and then on top of that a cup of coffee.
Playing with layering creates depth and volume. It´s a great way to create interest and add storytelling to your photo. You don´t have to layer everything, but layering parts of your props will often make it look more natural, casual and professional.
#6. Play with distance between the objects
The distance between your objects can make or break your styling. To truly take control of this process it´s important that you look through your camera to study your scene. Notice how the placement of the objects and the space between them plays a role.
Some objects and props might need more space in between them, and others might need to be closer together in a group. The only way to find out what looks good is to keep moving the props until you find a composition that you absolutely love.
And keep in mind that even though this is called a flatly, it´s okay to have some objects standing up. Not all items have to lay down. When you mix and match the sizes, the height and the position of your objects you will create a more dynamic composition.
#7. Use soft natural light
I´m sure you´ve heard it before: beautiful photography is all about the light. And, in most cases, soft natural light is your best choice.
Always turn off any artificial light in the room. It will give your photos an ugly yellow colour.
Move to a window with good even light. Avoid harsh direct sunlight and avoid shadows that are too dark.
If your camera doesn’t have enough light available to create the image, your images will be grainy – no matter if you use your iPhone or your big girl camera. So make sure you have enough light available.
So how do you know when you have good light? Use your eyes. Take a test shot. Look closely at it. Does it look good? If the shadows are too dark or if the light is blown out in some areas of the photo, try again. Move your Flatlay scene elsewhere until the light compliments the scene and the styling beautifully.
Alright, that´s it. I hope you feel inspired to be playful with your Flatlay photography.
Remember, you don´t need to get it perfect, you just need to have fun creating. Keep testing and experimenting. Keep exploring. Remove things from the frame, add more props, move items around, change the background, change the light. Explore, be playful. Enjoy.