Disclaimer: I am not a pro photographer. My aim of writing this post is to share the beginner friendly basic flat lay photography tips I use.
I have seen beautiful pictures of stuff pretty much my whole life and didn’t know it had a name and everything. A flat lay is basically a picture where you lay items flat on a nice background and take pictures of them. See? flat lay. Meaning your items are actually laid flat.
Flat lays are becoming more and more popular these days, in fact, anything can make a good flat lay, even a slice of orange can be styled to look so good that you’d feel there’s something special about that particular orange slice.
I am still learning the ropes of flat lay photography but my family thinks I’m a guru. You can’t blame them, you know what they say; in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king.
In this article, I will share the basic things I have learned about taking flat lays and hopefully, it would inspire you to take your own flat lays for your blog and social media platforms too.
Tip: At the tail end of this post, I shared where you can get high quality flat lays in case you don’t have time to take your own flat lays or don’t have a good camera.
Basic Flat Lay Photography Tips For Beginners
1) Find inspiration
To find inspiration, I suggest Pinterest and Instagram. What you want to see is how people are already doing it just so you get an idea or two on what to do.
2) Use Natural light
Using natural lighting is the best thing you can do to get good lighting for your flat lays (I assume you are a beginner and do not have access to professional photography materials). You’ll grow into hating rainy days when you need to take that flat lay and the universe says we’ll see who is boss.
I take my flat lays in my frontage and sometimes in my dining room because I feel the light is brightest there. Find a good location where the natural light is bright enough.
3) Choose a theme (aka tell a story)
Every good flat lay tells a story. Perhaps you are writing a skin care post for your wellness blog then the answer is simple; skin care products. Pay attention to your story while choosing your props. It would be wrong to be telling a story about the perfect vegan diet and adding a piece of mouth watering steak to your props. You are trying to paint a picture of a healthy vegan diet in the mind of your reader and a mouth watering steak doesn’t help you achieve that.
When preparing to take a flat lay, I recommend you select a lot of stuff even when you think you won’t need them. Flat lays aren’t shoots you have to go to a particular location for. Just a flat surface close to a window or outdoors is cool so you actually aren’t packing.
Trust me, the things you feel are not ‘needed’ may just be useful after you take your test shot.
4) Choose a Background
Simple plain backgrounds are great. You do not want the background to be the main feature of the flat lay. It is only meant to complement your props.
You may wonder where to find good plain backgrounds. I know I did. Plain backgrounds are literally all around you.
Some good backgrounds around you include:
Card boards: the pros about using card boards is that they come in different colours, they are easily available and they are cheap (about NGN50)
Marble print out: Print out marble background from your computer (if your props aren’t large) and this will work just fine for your flat lay
Ankara material: this is an over looked aspect of taking pictures. You’d agree with me that some Ankara materials are beautiful and when used the right way makes a beautiful photo. I used my mum’s wrapper for the photo below which isn’t really a flat lay (because I didn’t shoot directly from above) and it turned out nice.
Duvets and bed sheets: Duvets are widely used for flat lays and they are just gorgeous
Table tops: ever seen a photo taken on an old table and you just want to have your own old table at home? Even old tables make for good vintage flat lays.
5) Use what you have to get what you want aka Improvise
You may need to take a flat lay and the exact items you need aren’t available. Try to improvise by using what you have.
You can use synthetic plants from crafts store, online stores like; aliexpress, jumia etc. If you can’t get them or are too much in a hurry to try things out you can go for life flowers and plants like I did on the flat lay below. I also cut out some leaves from the synthetic plant in my living room (what’s a girl to do?)
6) Leave spaces in between objects aka less is more
It is really important to avoid overcrowding your flat lay. You need space in between objects for texts, brand name, logo etc. Additionally, doing too many things at once makes it boring and less aesthetically pleasing
7) Shoot from above
What makes a ‘flat lay’ a ‘flay lay’ is the art of laying flat (that didn’t sound right but I can’t think of a better way to put it) shooting from above gives a bird’s eye view of the items you are trying to capture and gives everything a flat appearance
8) You might need help
Sometimes you might need an extra pair of hands or even body parts to do the holding while you do the shooting. Not necessarily a model; basically anyone with body parts will do. It would be a little uncomfortable doing both on your own.
9) Keep calm and shoot!
You need steady hands. Be still and take that photo. First you need to take a test shot.
After styling your flat lay you might think everything is perfect and just keep clicking away until you have packed up and are editing then remember that adding or removing one or two items would have made the picture just perfect. I recommend you take a couple of test shots and look at them from your camera to see what changes you can make to promote the aesthetic appeal of the photo.
Remember when I said take a couple of extra stuff even if you feel you will not need them? You might just see something you’d like so it’s better to keep them handy.
10) Editing Just enough
You know when they say legends are not born, they are made? Sure good flat lays are not born they are edited. Editing your flat lay just enough is key, going overboard with your filters can make everything look fake. Airbrush and VSCO are good free editing tools
11) Your camera matters
I use a Gionee A1 for my flat lays. It has a camera of 13MP and I wish I had a better one but then I am not a professional photographer and only ever take flat lays for my blog.
12) Practice makes perfect
Taking only a couple of flat lays and deciding if you are a bad photographer or the world’s best photographer is an ugly way of thinking. If your first couple of flat lays are not nice then you need to practice more to get to the level you desire and if your first ever flat lay was the boom then still great, all you have to do is practice more and you might just be the next sort after product photographer.
13) Understand that you’ll have bad flat lay days
Bad flat lay days are just annoying. You may take dozens of flat lays that you are just not feeling. It feels a lot like writer’s block/bloggers burn out
Now, you might not be big on taking flat lays for your blog posts because you are busy creating content or just living the baby girl life.
I totally understand. My intention when writing this post was to take all the flat lays I would need but I couldn’t meet up and had to add flat lays from other sources to the ones I took by myself to help me drive home my point.
That said, I hope you found this basic tips useful and it helps you take better flat lays for your blog especial when you need to review a product.
Other places you can get free flat lay photos
You can get flat lays from sources like canva, unsplash etc. All you have to do is search for flat lays. If you want my list of over 80 sources you can get FREE photos for your blog then head to the free resource library and subscribe to gain access.
#SpoilerAlert: you’d get other materials to help you in your wellness journey/ wellness blogging. The library is updated with new content very often and the fun part is you get all this for FREE! That’s about as good as it gets.
Are they any important points I missed that you use for your flat lays? Let me know in the comment section. Follow me on Instagram @wellnesskeep when you try this out so I’d see what you came up with plus follow your flat lay journey as you follow mine.