A flat lay is exactly how it sounds. It's where you lie [lay] items down [flat] on some sort of chosen backdrop to display items. It's simple and makes a huge impact on your Instagram posts because if done right, it can really #wow your followers. A flat lay is simple and can be shot almost anywhere and contain anything from specialty items to things you'd find in your backpack. Read on if you'd like to learn how to perfect the flat lay!
The Right Gear!
In order to achieve to perfect flat lay, you have to have the right gear! An iPhone is great, but having the proper tools is just going to bring the quality of your content to the next level!
1. A DSLR camera or good quality point and shoot [We use the Canon Rebel T3i]. Many point and shoot cameras now come with semi-manual or even completely manual settings that will allow you to completely chose the composition of your photo.
2. Secondly, you'll need a tripod. A tripod is going to help you keep your camera in the right position and steady so you can get a crisp clear image. On brighter days, a monopod will help with any shakiness, but the safest bet is to have a full standing tripod. We are DREAMING about this fancy edelkrone tripod that makes flat lay photography a breeze!
3. Thirdly, you're going to need a computer with some sort of editing software (It doesn't have to be super fancy) so can change the exposure, contrast, saturation, temperature, and sharpness if need be.
4. Lastly, you will need some props and backdrops for your flat lays. The easiest and most accessible backdrops to buy are bristol boards. They aren't expensive and they allow you to chose from an array of colours.
Where to Shop 101
Props & Backdrops:
1. Your local Dollar store is a great resource for this kind of stuff! Some of our favourite finds include cut out letters, sparkles, sprinkles and colourful bristol boards.
2. The online site Etsy is a great place to find higher-end details or specific items that you've been looking to incorporate into your flat lays. Our last order was a funky wallpaper that we'll be using as a backdrop soon!
3. Indigo and Chapters (bookstores) are also great for getting little trinkets. They have a wide variety of playful and professional notebooks, mugs, blankets, pencil cases... almost everything!
Before taking a flat lay, it is very important to know the overall look and vibe that you want your followers to get. Some themes can include business (laptops, phones, pens...) others can be fashion (#ootd) and so on. Everything in your photo has to make sense and all the items have to work together to represent your theme and yourself. Also, another great way to add something special to your flat lay is to include something personalized like a monogrammed pen or necklace, something that ties the items in your photos to you!
Next up, it's time to chose a colour palette! For the items that are your main focal point, you want to have 2 to 3 unifying colours and designs that will compliment one another. If you have too much going on then your flat lay will be displeasing to the eye. It's all about balance! For the colour of your background, chose something that is simple and corresponds with the items in your photo. If you are taking photos of kitchen items or food, then a tile/white/clean background would be perfect (even a wood cutting board). If you are making a flat lay of business professional items, very neutral colours such as gray, white, or even wood (like a wooden desk) would work. If your overall theme is whimsical, then pastels may be in order! The best way to find these colour schemes is to brainstorm ideas and make inspiration boards so that when it comes to taking photos, you are completely prepared!
Once you have a theme and colour scheme, it's time to figure out how you are going to place all your items! It's always good to have items that vary in size to show scale (ie: a laptop next to a pen, a journal next to a necklace). Put thought into where you want each item to be and remember, if you take the photo wide enough, during the editing process you will have more room to play around with which section of the photo you'd like to use. Don't clump all of your smaller items together and bigger ones together; make sure to space everything out and mix larger and smaller items. Keep in mind, Instagram likes square photos, so when you are making your flat lay remember that the final image will be square. If you want to get an idea of what it will look like, you can use the square option on your phone camera to take a few snaps! Don't be scared to experiment and place items not completely in frame. Move items around until you're happy with it. It may take a few tries!
Lighting is everything when it comes to taking a colour popping crisp flat lay! You want to have the most natural light possible, such as a big window that lets light flood in! Ideally, you want morning light so that the light isn't too strong, but is enough to illuminate all your props in a balanced manner. If you take it at noon, your lighter colours may be overexposed, and if you take your photo in the afternoon/evening, your photos will be of a warmer yellow-y tint. If you can't take your photos in the morning, don't fret, you can always edit the colours later! Having the right lighting is also going to stop your photos from being blurry, grainy, too dark and of a gray-ish tint. If the lighting isn't right, no one will be able to appreciate the work that was put into your flat lay. Having the right lighting is going to let you have the best possible quality!
Once everything is set up, and you have the proper lighting, it's time to take the photo! Like the name, FLAT lay, your camera has to be parallel to your work so that all the items are proportionate to each other as in real life. If you take your photo on an angle, some items will appear bigger than others and you will lose those nice proportionate straight lines you're looking for.
Lastly, there is the editing process. A good flat lay has nice crisp lines and bright whites & colours, but don't worry you don't need photoshop in order to achieve those! Most computers come with a general editing tool for photos. The important buttons you are going to want to play around with are exposure (brightness), contrast, saturation (for colours), temperature (to make whites whiter), and sharpness (to make lines a little cleaner). If your lighting and focus were right during shooting, none of these should be used excessively. They are simple little tricks in order to make your lines a little cleaner, your whites a little whiter and colours and little brighter. We still want the images to look natural and untouched, not heavily edited.
There you have it! The guide to a perfect flat lay!
- The Frenzr Team