How To: Take Flat-Lay Photos
a lesson in the new art of social media photography
If you are present at all on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and dare I say WeHeartIt, I’m sure you’ve seen loads of images like this. I’m sure you’ve even taken your own, or at least attempted to. Flat-lay photos are taking over the Internet and I am loving it.
While flat-lays aren’t necessarily a new thing, I have noticed that more and more people have been attempting to take flat-lay photos. Flat-lays are nice because they are simple, even if they are busy, they are fun to take and set up, and they are usually extremely visually appealing.
Flat-lays do a number of things, but mostly they are an opportunity for you to highlight or show off something while also taking a chic looking photo. Even though these photos look nice, they aren’t super simple to take, and can actually take a lot more preparation than it seems.
Here are some of my guidelines for taking flat-lay photos (featuring flat-lay photos from my Instagram):
1. A little goes a long way
This is the number one rule about flat-lay photos. Keep it simple. The best flat-lay photos exhibit something called controlled chaos. While it may seem like items are just strewn about, they were most likely strategically placed to emulate chaos, even when it isn’t genuine. There should be a main focus or subject of your photo, so make sure that is the most prominent item you are featuring. Go from there and add smaller accessories and accents to add more texture or interest to the photo. My advice is to go with the rule of accessorizing, which is always take one off, or in this case, take one thing away. Too many items in one photo can be distracting and overwhelming so keep in mind that simplicity is always the best route.
2. Lighting is muy importante
This is a general rule for almost all photos, but natural lighting is super important especially for flat-lay photos. A lot of the time, flat-lays will be taken straight on, meaning the photographer (you) will have to hold your camera or phone perfectly above the items you are photographing. If you have the wrong kind of lighting this can cast shadows or disrupt the overall feel of the photo with too harsh or too dim of light. Going with natural light that isn’t directly head on is the best to take photos with so whenever you can, take advantage of it. If you can’t access that, there are tons of ways to fashion artificial lighting to your needs (just google some tricks) and there are editing techniques to tweak it afterword.
3. Take your time
What some people may not realize, is that taking any kind of photos, even if its just for Instagram, takes time. Being “serious” about Instagram or taking quality photos is hard work and takes a bit of time. I’m not saying its going to take you an hour to take a flat-lay photo, but don’t feel rushed while you’re taking photos. Especially with flat-lays, it is going to be a series of trial and error with adjusting and readjusting so allow yourself to take a few minutes to make sure you get the perfect shot.
4. Quality control
When taking photos for anything, take a million. Keep snapping away until your camera roll is filled. The most important part of flat-lay photos is quality. A flat-lay photo with poor quality doesn’t even compare to a flat-lay with great quality. The difference that lighting, sharpness, focus, and framing makes is huge. Set up the flat-lay with the final product in mind and take photos in the square-camera mode. Using square-camera mode ensures that you will fit everything into the shot that you intend to. Don’t skimp on quality, seriously.
5. Mix it up
Lastly, have fun with it. Flat-lays can be done in a seriously wide range of ways and can feature a crazy variety of things. The most important part is to be creative with it. Mix colors, textures, backgrounds, and different accent pieces to add variety. As long as you like the final photo, that is all that matters!
I know this post may seem a little stupid, because who knew Instagramming could be so serious?! For real though, being “good” at Instagram takes a lot of work, and I’m glad I could be here to help you out! Flat-lays are a fun way to feature things in photos and everyone should try it out! (Check out my Instagram while you’re at it!)
What Instagram/photography tips do you have?