How to STYLE A flat lay like a pro
In case you’ve been lost on a deserted island for the past few years, the biggest style of product photography on Instagram is the #flatlay. It’s an easy and modern way to photograph everything from what you’re eating, to what you’re wearing, and it’s big business for stores to display what they’re selling. For some of us it takes a few minutes to put a flat lay together, but for others the struggle is real. So how is it done? Follow these easy steps you’ll be a master flay layer in no time.
The most important factor to consider before photographing a flay lay is the light. Natural light is the best, although the time of day is important in order to ensure there are no shadows over your layout. Usually in the morning when the sun isn’t too harsh or even on a cloudy day is the best. If you’re new to flay laying experiment with one product first in different areas before setting up a magnificent display only to realise the light is all wrong. You shouldn’t need to use editing apps but filters to help brighten or clarify are always helpful. You can sharpen your images with apps such as PhotoToaster, VSCO and Appleseed.
The background for your flay lay is just as important as the light. A plain colour such as a white sheet or an artist’s canvas is perfect. Even a timber table or hardwood floors work well. Remember your products are the feature not the background so you don’t want anything fussy. Decide what is best for you and stick to it in order to keep your Instagram feed consistent.
It’s important to have a theme for your flat lay. Let the photo tell a story and be consistent with your Instagram feed. Include products that naturally work well together. Neutral tones such as linens and wood complement each other, just as much as copper and marble. Your theme should be obvious as soon as your flat lay is seen. It is hard and edgy or soft and feminine? Perhaps it’s bright and funky or corporate and polished. The decision is yours.
A flat lay should have one product that is the star of the photo. Your hero piece. This is usually the largest piece, and the focal point, maybe a print, a piece of clothing, even a book, and everything else is the supporting cast. The hero piece will also reinforce your flat lays theme and everything else works around it.
You don’t need to fill the whole area when positioning your flat lay. Start with your hero piece in the centre of your space and work around it. You’ll often find that you will need to move products several times until you are completely happy with the positioning of everything. If you are using an iPhone to take your photos, switch your camera onto the square setting. You can also do this with digital cameras and Andriod. This will save editing and make it a shot you can upload to social media straight away.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Learning to flat lay takes practice and even after a lot of practice you will most probably still need to shift your products, take several photos and adjust your lighting. Take your time. Step back and look at your flat lay. Stand on a ladder and get a bird’s eye view. Even take your photos from a ladder to create height, and then look at your photo several times before uploading. Check if something needs straightening or should be taken out. It’s very rare that you will get a perfect photo on the first shot.
Make It Yours
In the end the flat lay is yours so show your own style. Flat lays are everywhere so it’s important you create a vision that belongs to you. Use props such as flowers or stick to a strict theme that will showcase you as the photographer. It’s perfectly acceptable to look at other flat lays and follow social media feeds that you like, but rather than copying someone else, add your own unique touch.
Tag, Tag, Tag
Tagging in photos is a MUST on social media if you are including someone else’s product in your flat lay. It’s simply social media etiquette! If someone has created something that you love enough to photograph, then you owe it to them to give the recognition they deserve. Tagging also draws attention to your page, which could lead to a new follower or a new customer.
Finally have fun, but if you’re frustrated or simply don’t have the time to flat lay, then outsource to someone who does or try your hand at a #stacklay.
A stack lay is exactly what it sounds like, products stacked on top of each other. Like a flat lay, you need good lighting and a plain background. The hardest part of a stack lay is balancing everything with one hand and photographing with the other, although there is no golden rule that says you can’t rest your products on a table or chair.
Start with the largest item at the base (such as a book) and work your way to the top. Bring out the Egyptian Pharaoh in you and build a pyramid. Take your time and try to stay steady. Remember, unlike a flat lay, a stack lay doesn’t showcase the products in the same way so make sure you TAG.
FREE FlatLay Handbook
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Listen to my interview with Nicole
Nicole is the founder of Shalimar Baby Box. Shalimar Baby Box curate luxe subscriptions and gift boxes for mothers and babies. Nicole is passionate about attention to details and styling. She loves working with gorgeous brands to showcase their products. To discuss styling options, please contact Nicole.
As the founder and CEO of Mums With Hustle, I have the best day job in the world: teaching entrepreneurs how to grow their beautiful businesses online. When I started the business, that was everything I wanted, but since then, it has grown into something much bigger. Now, I get my joy from helping women find their zones of genius within a community that truly celebrates their success. I truly believe that when women choose to band together, we can do anything - and if you feel the same, there’s a place in the MWH community for you.
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