Friday, February 10, 2017

How to Take the Perfect Flat Lay Picture

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One of the most popular forms of imagery for bloggers and photographers alike are flat lay images. If you've been around here for a while (or have been following me on Instagram for a while), then you know these types of pictures are some of my FAVORITES to take! I love styling images - that's the graphic design background in me, but it's the funnest photography to play around with if you ask me. One of the most interesting things to see is how everyone manages taking their flat lays; there's lots of different techniques and ways to master the art of a flat lay and while no way is the wrong way, there are definitely some things I've learned that make taking your images *so* much easier. If you've been interested in this style but haven't known where to start or just want to up your flat lay game, here are my favorite tips and tricks to get the perfect flat lay image:


What a flat lay is


A flat lay image is one taken from a birds eye view; you stand above your target picture and shoot down. Flat lays are the best way to showcase products, tell a story through a picture and make for such pretty images! A flat lay image has much more work put into it than it appears (which means you're doing it right! ;) and is an image that's meant to tell a story to your readers and followers.


A photo posted by Adriana Nudo (@dailydoseofdesign) on

Tips to take the PERFECT flat lay


Always have good lighting. No matter what you do or how you style a flat lay image, ALWAYS make sure to have good lighting! Whether it's artificial lighting (I love this camera ring light and this soft box light kit!) or natural lighting, make sure it's good and that you have a LOT of it. There are great artificial lighting sources, but nothing can beat natural light.

I tend to take my flat lays either early in the morning or right before sunset; the sun isn't too harsh and there's minimal shadows. If you're shooting outside, try to find a spot that the sun indirectly hits - if it's a cloudy day find as much light as you can. If you live where winter is a factor (I speak from experience...) you can put your set up close to a window for almost the same effect, but bearing the cold is almost always worth it! Having good lighting also minimizes the editing you'll have to do later on, and keeps the pictures looking natural and effortless. These disk light reflectors are a great way to help reflect the sun if you're shooting indoors and they make a big difference in your lighting set up. Once you play around with different areas, you'll find that it's easy to tell what works best for you! My favorite outdoor spot to shoot flat lays is on my front porch, and my favorite indoor spot is next to the window on my window seat in my bedroom.

Use product placement to tell a story. All of your flat lays should have a clear and concise narrative and tell a story. You should be able to tell what your image is about before even reading the caption. This is something I sometimes struggle with and I know I can't be the only one! It's difficult to assure that what you're trying to convey is coming out how it is in your head. If you aren't sure, ask a friend or someone at home - I always show my sister the pictures I take and she always gives me her honest opinion (sometimes too honest LOL). For example, if you're posting an #OOTD picture, you'll include the clothes and accessories of your outfit. If you're posting a picture about traveling, your image should have things like a passport, sunglasses, bikini, beach bag, etc. Essentially your items should "go" together and it should be perfectly clear as to why said items are in said picture.

Find a set up that you like. Some people take their flat lays with the products fully in the image (see here), some take flat lays where only parts of the product(s) shows (see here). This is total personal preference and for me, it totally depends on the subject of the picture. As I scroll through my Instagram, I realize that most of my flat lays have cut off products - there's no right or wrong, but playing around with the set up of your products is super important for getting the perfect image.

Empty space can be a good thing. Don't feel like you have to fill up every space in your flat lays. Empty space is often a positive, especially when it comes to your Instagram feed. Blank spaces can make the flat lay look more cohesive and not so busy. Again, it completely depends on the subject and story you're trying to tell. For example, in this image of Christmas presents I left a lot of white (blank) space opened. On the other hand, I maximized my space in this photo. A photographer once told me that less is more and now I always try and remember that when I go to take a flat lay!

Take tons of test shots. When I'm taking pictures for the blog or just for pleasure, I can't even tell you how many I take! I fill up memory cards like it's my job. Especially since I've learned all about shutter speed, ha! But for real, the more shots you take the easier it'll be to pick the best out of the bunch. I always take a few, re-arrange a few things, add/remove things, and take even more. I'm super picky and doing this assures that I don't have to go and re-do my set up to take even more pictures.

Don't over do it. This goes hand in hand with utilizing empty space! Every flat lay should look clean, even if you have lots of items in the picture. I tend to space things out and don't overlap too much (again personal preference) but making sure things are placed perfectly is a must. This is where a tripod comes in handy BIG time! It can be hard not to move or shake while taking a picture at a certain angle. Having a tripod allows you to 1. keep the camera super still and 2. be able to move things around in your image without losing your positioning.

Choosing a background for a flat lay


Choosing a background for your flat lay can be just as important as what's IN the picture. For example, if I'm taking a picture of food, I'm not likely to use a white fluffy blanket as my background. You should always try to match your background to the subject of your image as best as possible. While white spaces are common and usually the best in most cases, they aren't the only option!

White spaces: using a white background helps to brighten your image before even worrying about the lighting. You can get poster board for as low as .50 cents (literally...) and this is THE easiest way to give yourself a crisp and clean white space to work with. You can also use things like a white carpet, throw blanket or even a shirt!


Marble/faux marble: while having a marble counter top is on nearly everyone's dream home wishlist, it isn't always possible. Luckily there's SO many options if you don't have those crisp white counter tops in your kitchen. Go to your local Home Depot and you can buy samples of marble squares (12x12 or 18x18 are most common) for as cheap as $3! You can pick between the different tile squares and pick which veining you like the best, etc. You can also get faux marble roll up paper for a much lighter/easier to store option. I use marble a LOT for my images because of how clean and pretty it looks!






Different textures and patterns: most especially if you have something plain for your image (or food photography!), using a texture as a background is extremely visually appealing. My favorite place for items like this is Home Goods and Target. You can even use a fun patterned carpet/blanket for added pops of color and fun! Here's some of my favorites:




Use a pop of color: poster board comes in colors too; my favorite is light pink! You can also use fun patterned wrapping paper (always check Home Goods for THE cutest wrapping paper!) and scrapbook paper that's $.50-1 in Michaels.

Fabrics: a shirt (I love using lace tops, and here is an example of a flat lay I took using a sweater as a background!), colorful tissue paper, fabric from stores like JoAnn Fabrics - there's SO many different fabrics you can use! I love going to a JoAnn store and getting some pieces of pretty fabrics. It's again super cheap and there's hundreds of options to choose from.

Promoting your flat lays


Instagram is filled with flat lay images - to get yours seen and to search through for lots of inspiration there's some hashtags you can use/search through; my favorites are: #flatlay - #flatlayqueen - #flatlaystyle - #flatlayfriday - #flatlaysquad - #flatlayoftheday.



Here are some fun, behind-the-scenes photos of the before and after of how my flat lays often get set up:





Photography takes practice, and mastering the perfect flat lay takes LOTS of it! I still learn new things about flat lays every time I take one and I always am aiming to take better versions of my flat lays. Get creative, try new things and figure out what you like to use best to create the best flat lay possible. You can always search through Pinterest and my Instagram too for inspiration! The more you practice, the better you'll get at taking this style of images!

XOXO

70 comments:

  1. Love this post! Super helpful for bloggers!
    Hannah
    www.preppyandposhblog.com

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  2. I always keep my trusty step-ladder around for flat lay photos. My front porch has the best light and I'm sure my neighbors are often amused when I'm doing a party/food photo shoot on my front porch. :)

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  3. This is a great tutorial, and something I definitely need to work on. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. such a great post! you are nailing the flat lays!
    xx, Lo {www.rosesandrainboots.com}

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  5. This was so helpful! Last night, I was looking up tips for taking better blog photos because I feel like I really struggle. I think I struggle the most with finding a good spot in my apartment to take photos, because we don't get a ton of natural light. Thanks for sharing-- I'm gonna try these tips out!

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  6. I want to get more brave with using different patterns. I always get stuck in doing just a white background, but I think it would be cool to incorporate others as well.

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  7. I so agree with using items to tell a story! I always get so confused when I see a whole bunch of random items thrown together!

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  8. you are the master of flat lays! love your tips, especially about the importance of white space.

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  9. So many great tips! I love all the props you linked too - so wish I had a Target for things like that but alas, there are no Targets in France:(

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  10. Thanks for all of these tips! I am bookmarking this for future reference. There are so many props that I'd never thought of using.

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  11. This post is so helpful! I really need to invest in some good backgrounds. I think they make the items pop so much.

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  12. I agree, there's no right or wrong way, it's all personal preference. One of the reasons I enjoy instagram is because there are so many things to look at that it's a happy place.

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  13. Wow, this post is amazing! And your tip about buying the one marble square is ingenious lol I've bookmarked this page to refer to when I get a proper camera soon. Thanks!

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  14. These are great tips! I love that you pointed out that it takes multiple tries! I'm a professional photographer, and that is so true for any type of picture! :)

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  15. I have now learned some new terminology I didn't know before. Most importantly you have given great instruction on how to get great photos.

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  16. The thing I am strugling with the most is when a shadow of my hands appears on the things I want to photograph :D

    http://quaintrelle-georgiana.blogspot.com

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  17. Such a great blog and tips! I love doing flat lays, but I feel like I am terrible at it.

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  18. LOVELOVELOVE. I'm a sucker for a good flatlay. And I wrote a post about 'em way back when...they're just so fun to set up, shoot, and NAIL!

    Coming Up Roses

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  19. I suck at flat lays... this was super helpful!! Thanks for posting

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  20. Ahh! Love this! I need LOTS of help with flat lays and this gave me just that! Keeping this for future/consistent reference. Thanks for sharing!

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  21. These are lovely pictures! I struggle with my photography but tips like these seem to really be helping!

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  22. Thanks for these excellent tips! I have been struggling with taking flat lays but with your tips it will be a whole lot easier.

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  23. This is so handy with so many great tips!!

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  24. My IG is getting transformed into flat lay heaven atm, and I am thankful for the tips you gave :)

    http://thesofieyahdiaries.com/fashion/valentinesday-outfits

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  25. I love this post!! I am definitely saving these tips for my IG!

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  26. This post is super helpful for me. Lately, I've been thinking about trying my hand at flat lay images. I just don't feel like I can photograph cute images. You've inspired me to give it a try!

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  27. Great post! A flat lay is harder to do than it looks. Thank you for these great tips...it takes a creative eye and tons of patience. I'm gonna keep practicing. You make it look so easy!

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  28. Great tips and tricks! I swear by my 50 cent sheet of posterboard as well as faux marble tiles from Home Depot! You're spot on about leaving some empty space as well... perfect for adding text to a photo!

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  29. These are such great tips!! It's one thing to have the vision of the shot in your mind, and quite another to set it up on the right background with the right lighting! xo, Lindsay | Paris, Meet Boston | www.parismeetboston.com

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  30. Such a great post!! Super helpful.

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  31. Thank you so much for the tips! I am trying to up my photography game and I always wondered how people got their flat lays so perfect! Will definitely be using your tips.

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  32. These are all great tips! If the weather is nice, I do my flatlays outside where there is natural light.

    xx,
    Amanda || www.fortheloveofglitter.com

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  33. Haha I have like a million pictures of the same objects in different angles and placements!

    Alix | www.apintsizedlifeblog.com

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  34. Thanks for the tips! I love doing flatlays and taking multiple shots is the best idea I always do that:)

    Mona | https://makeupwithmona.blogspot.com/?m=1

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  35. This was super helpful!! I've never really been good at flatlays so I've been trying to step my game up. The struggle is real with finding time to shoot in natural daylight haha!

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  36. Woah - what a cool lifehack with the marble squares from Home Depot. That's such an awesome tip! This post was packed with great info and now I know how to take the perfect flat lay photo!
    Katie | www.millennialonthemove.com

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  37. I like flat lay images too. The problem is that I have never been able to get them right. I always cut something out or leave it out completely. Your tips should help. Thanks!

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  38. I really like flat lay photographs. These are all great tips, I'm going to try taking some photos using these tips and hope I get better results.

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  39. These are great tips! I'm so glad you mentioned buying white poster board because that is what I do. I actually need to get another one because I smeared black on mine on accident. Oops! Ha! I didn't know you could get marble squares for so cheap, though! Now I want that!

    xoxo Lauren | Glitter & Grandeur

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  40. Your flat lays are always so great, girl! Thanks for these tips.

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  41. Flatlay pictures are so fun to look at, and they're actually quite inspiring to be more organized and put together too!

    Jasmine / www.jasminekeclipse.com

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  42. I love this! Great tips

    Ash - www.theashtreejournal.com

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  43. Okay, tell me more about your camera ring light. I've been setting up my own diy home studio for flay lays and I'm a total newb to this photography thing. How does the camera ring light help?

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  44. This is a great post. A few new to me ideas I'm definitely going to try. Thanks!

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  45. Thank you for the tips! I will look into the light ring option. I'd like to have better food photography and I'm hoping this will boost it a little more.

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  46. At the bottom, what was the wood you were using? Adhesive?

    Rachel | The Confused Millennial

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  47. This is something I have to practice! I haven't gotten into flat lays that much but now I see why we should. Then photos are more interesting, more alive, and more appealing. Thanks for the tips!

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  48. These are some great tips. I love how your pics turned out. Lighting is definitely key. I love using natural light but I also have a lighting kit.

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  49. Your flat lay shots are so creative! I don't have a lot of these in my feed- definitely something I could do more of

    xoxo A
    www.southernbelleintraining.com

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  50. Thank you for posting this helpful write-up. I love taking pictures but often have problems getting the flat ones to come out the way I want them even after trying for like a few times.

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  51. Goodness I love this post. I always see lay flat photos and have been experimenting but have yet to perfect. This is so perfect for me to move forward with taking better photos.

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  52. I want to start making my own flat lay pictures but have yet to start. Thanks for the tips.

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  53. Great tips, I;ve been wanted to start doing Flat Lays! I'm definitely Pinning this. Thanks.

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  54. I always love your photos and these are some great tips, so thank you!

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  55. You are the flat lay queen! You always have such amazing photos!

    Greta | www.gretahollar.com

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  56. Flat lay photos do really look great. There is many things to do to perfect them and using the different patterns and textures is something that makes the photos look better. Thanks for sharing these awesome tips for taking flat lay pictures.

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  57. These are perfect methods every blogger should try! I have already recently bought the marble faux foil paper! I really love a good flat lay! Thanks!

    www.travelbeautyblog.com

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  58. gotta love a good flatlay! Good lighting is my #1 tip too, it's super important for any pic! x

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  59. Such great tips- loved seeing your behind the scenes! I have a white poster board and marble tile specifically for blog shots. They're so helpful.

    xx, Jamie

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  60. Your post is so helpful for those who love to take pictures. This is the first time I learned about the flat-lay. Thank you for the tips! I will now have more instagramable pictures! -Anosa

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  61. Flat lays are tough!! Great post!!!

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  62. Great tips! I love using poster boards for backdrops. They're super cheap and come in a variety of colors! My marble pastry board is another favorite!

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  63. These are great tips! I am a home decor, craft and DIY blogger and these flat lay pictures are really popular with crafts and the supplies used. It takes a lot of work to get that perfectly imperfect look.

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  64. I'm a big fan of the flatlay! I love all of your tips and tricks. I need to invest in some backgrounds for my flatlays.
    Lianne | Makes, Bakes and Decor

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  65. These are all such great tips! I love how your photos came out.

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  66. I love a good flat lay image! They are perfect for showcasing products or just your favorite things! Thanks for the tips!

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  67. buying all of the posterboards is such an easy fix to so many problems!

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  68. Definitely learnt a lot here. i have been thinking of trying faux marble background for my pics.

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  69. these are so good tips thanks so much., i know i have trouble with flatlays. i will use these tips moving forward

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  70. Great tips.. I love taking flat lay photos! So fun, especially when playing around with filter!

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