Flat-lays are truly awesome because they have a strong visual impact and have the power to up-level your photos on Instagram, your website banners, facebook ads, etc. They can add life to everything you have going on in your online world.
So maybe you’re here because you LOVE flat-lays as much as me and you want to take them to the next level or maybe you don’t like flat-lays you want to learn exactly how to master them like a pro? Either way, this post is for YOU! I want to empower YOU to create beautiful visuals for your brand without feeling discouraged or lost because that’s totally my jam.
I’m going to go through some essential components (with examples!) to help you start flat-laying like a pro. It’s going to be funnnn, so put on your creativity hat, grab a cocktail (or coffee) and let’s get started!
First and foremost, we have to talk about lighting. Without a great lighting environment, your photos can look really sad. I have a HUGE textbook from college about lighting environments and I won’t bore you with any of the crazy technical stuff.
So here’s the secret to great lighting – outdoor lighting is the BEST. Outdoor lighting not in direct sunlight. Usually early morning or evening light is perfection because it’s not as harsh as mid-day lighting. You’ll get a more diffused light rather than dealing with stark shadows.
Of course, if you have a room with tons of natural light, you can try shooting there. Just be aware of the pesky shadows that show up and move your set-up around until you find the ideal lighting environment.
I know that increasing the exposure in editing is great and all, but you need to start out with a great lighting or you will be losing clarity in your photo. No one wants that! Blurry photos are no fun to look at so keep this mind.
You can always get a reflector if you are having trouble achieving that lighting perfection. This is the one I use – HERE.*
It’s great if you don’t have access to great outdoor lighting and you want to manipulate your indoor lighting situation.
Now that we have the lighting down, you can basically achieve flat-lay rockstar status! But composition is also important. The key thing to keep in mind here is that a good composition can be subjective. What one person thinks is great, the other may think is not. This means you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself to achieve composition perfection.
Instagram is truly a place for visuals so in order to stand out, it’s best to educate yourself on composition basics. You don’t need to become a professional photo stylist to understand it either. That’s what I’m here for, my friend!
I’ll just share some basics with you so you can fly free with your flat-lay creativity.
- Make sure there is a flow to allow the eye to circulate through the photo. You don’t want your props to lead the eye off of the photo immediately. Say you have props all going in one direction to the left. The eye then looks to where the props are pointing and it is led off the photo. This doesn’t keep visual interest so counter-balance it with something pointing in the opposite direction. You can also arrange secondary props to point to the most important subject in the photo.
- Leave some breathing room between objects. This allows the eye to comprehend everything you have going on in your photo. Organized chaos is kind of what flat-lays are all about.
- The eye enters visuals from the bottom left corner so keep this in mind when you are setting up your flat-lays. You can use something to guide the eye from here to your focal point.
FLAT-LAY SUPPLIES AND PROPS
Hey, you truly don’t need to break the bank here with supplies. Here’s some things I use and highly encourage you to look into because they are the staple to my photo styling shoots for clients and for own Instagram photos.
- WHITE FOAM BOARD
This is probably the most useful tool I have! It’s so awesome for creating that white background. I love white backgrounds because they really make colors pop like WHOA! If you’re into that too, make sure to invest in a foam board. I get mine from my local craft store.
- REFLECTOR*We talked about this in the lighting bit above, but this is an awesome tool if you don’t have access to great lighting. You can use this to manipulate your lighting environment.
- MARBLE CONTACT PAPER*If you want a textured background, this is for you! There’s tons of different options and my favorite is probably the marble textured contact paper.
TELL A STORY
You have cute nail polish, your coffee, sunglasses, notebook, and a fork…. wait a fork??! That doesn’t make sense! Make sure you are creating a story with your flat-lays. A lot of people can arrange pretty things together, but the story it tells goes deeper and create some serious intention behind your visuals.
Most of my flat-lays are of a desk lay-out and I always keep in mind that it has to make sense. The thing about creating effective visual for your business is creating them with purpose. Creating a story with your photos also allows the viewer to easily relate.
This is also fabulous if you are taking product shots of your physical products you sell. You want to create a lifestyle around it. When you place things that go along with your product then your audience can then see your product fit easily into their life.
You can also create color stories, which are super fun (because color is probably my favorite thing in the world)! You can keep a color palette of 2-3 colors and repeat them throughout your flat-lay like the above example. This will also keep things balanced and flowing.
Even though visual don’t have actual words, remember they can say a lot and you can use them to tell stories about your brand, business, products, etc. Go out there and start telling your stories!
Ok, I’m not one to talk about organization because I’m creative and organization isn’t even in my vocabulary… except when I’m talking about flat-lays, of course!
Flat-lays are truly a composition of organized props. And the magic comes in organizing them creatively. You can group things together in size, color, or shape. You want to achieve some sort of structure in your composition so we’re not just looking at an explosion of items. You want to create a flow (like we talked about before) that allows the eye to dance through your photo.
These items should work together to create harmony. I like to group things together in odd numbers. It’s visually harmonious and creates some serious visual interest. It’s a great thing to think about when you are arranging your items. So keep those odd numbers coming and remember to be creatively organized here.
Ah I love me some editing! Editing is where a lot of magic happens. This is also where you can create consistency to make your Instagram feed look like a cohesive masterpiece. There are endless possibilities and I highly encourage you to create your own consistent editing routine.
Make sure you look over some inspiration and understand what visual results you want to achieve when you are creating your own editing routine. If your brand is colorful, you can increase the saturation, contrast, and exposure. If your brand is more romantic and soft, you can decrease the saturation and contrast.
You can also always create a subtle color tone by increasing the temperature (warmer tones) or decreasing the temperature as well (cooler, blue tones).
Try to stay away from Instagram filters that are built into the app. They are meant to make your photos look like they are vintage (mostly). They are a bit overused and most of them distort your photos rather than enhancing them. Creating your own editing routine is waaaaay better.
MY NEW $10 FLAT-LAY MINI E-COURSE
If you loved this post and want to see exactly how I style my photos from A to Z, I’m super excited to announce my new $10 e-course. I show you 3 ways to style your flat lays so you can see my process and create your own. I also go deeper into really rocking it with your flat-lay styling.
Enroll here and get started today… like right now! This course is in video format with notes to follow along. You will get a unique login to access the course in my membership site – brand love academy.
If you are a student in my INSTA workshop, this mini course is already included in the workshop. If you aren’t in my INSTA workshop, then there may be a special surprise in there for you (but you’ll have to check it out to see)!
*This post contains some affiliate links. I only share things I’m absolutely in love with and believe in 100%!