If you saw my post earlier this week then you’ll know I’ve started a three-part series on how I take and edit my blog photos. Today I thought I’d tackle flatlays, because they seriously are an art form.
Styling a flatlay is a lot more difficult than your average product photo; deciding which item goes where, how to add in blog props and making sure the photo isn’t overcrowded is a skill that really only comes from a lot of trial and effort. Whilst I totally haven’t fully mastered the flatlay just yet, I do have a good idea of what goes into it and I’m so ready to give you guys some tips that I’ve learnt along the way.
One of the things I love most when taking a flatlay is to play with dimension and levels – I know that sounds a little odd for a flatlay but stick with me here. Something you’ll see featured in pretty much all of my flatlays is a few leaves from a fake plant that makes an appearance in practically every photo I take.
I’m a little obsessed with having blurred leaves right at the edge of my photos, it sort of makes me feel like I’m peeking through something to see the products on show. This also makes me feel like the photo has a more natural, unstructured vibe – plus it covers any empty, boring spaces!
Another thing I constantly do in my flatlays is have everything lying at different angles; there’s nothing duller to me than having everything placed the exact same way because it just looks too structured. Having products placed at different angles adds a lot more interest to the photo without being overly noticeable.
You may see a lot of this gold A appearing in my flatlays – it’s another favourite of mine for just adding a little extra something. One reason I love it is because it’s all angles, so it can work with/against the placement of other products. It’s also easy to use as much or as little of it as I want to, I often just use the edge of it right in the corner of my photo just to add another layer.
Speaking of layers, I actually do like to bring those into my flatlays a lot of the time. This marble notebook is absolutely perfect, it adds texture and something interesting to catch the eye but it’s also completely flat so products can lie easily on top of it.
Layers are a really great way to break up a lot of blank space, and you can use anything from a scarf to a magazine to do this.
I don’t always want to have a lot of layers in my flatlays though, sometimes a simple, white background is all you need. I love white bedsheets for this (who knew bedding would be a blogger’s best friend?), they have enough texture to keep things interesting but still look fresh and minimalist.
I especially like a cleaner background for more summery flatlays because it adds a vibrancy to the photo that I find reminiscent of warmer weather.
The funny thing about flatlays is that shadows are usually your worst nightmare… unless you’re using bedding as a background. Shadows in the ripples of bedding come across as intentional and aesthetically pleasing, whereas shadows on a completely flat background just sort of look like bad lighting.
I never edit out the shadows in bedding flatlays because I love the rustic feel they give to a photo – instead I just lighten them a little and add some warmth. Like I said in the last post, I use Snapseed for the initial first steps of editing before moving onto ColorStory for a filter (or five).
When shooting a flatlay of a lot of products, placement is definitely key. It’s so easy to make it look overly structured or completely messy, but finding that perfect medium is one of the trickiest things.
One of my best tips is to never put the biggest product directly in the centre of the photo, it just draws way too much attention. Instead, I like to place it either ever so slightly off-centre or right across to the edge of the photo. This way it’s still noticeable but it doesn’t take up all of the attention.
From this you can then place smaller products around the bigger ones, working out which looks best where and at what angle.
Another tip is to never be afraid to only show part of a product. I love cutting off some parts of products from the photo because it makes it look like you’ve scattered them more realistically – and also like you’re working with a way bigger space than you actually are.
You also shouldn’t be worried if some products are touching, this is another way to help your photos look a lot more natural than they are!
In terms of showing off some of the products, you always want to have some open and some closed. If you have all of them open then it becomes a little too busy because there’s just too much to look at, but if they’re all closed then it’s kinda boring. I personally think you should always have at least one palette, one powder product and one lipstick open and on show (obviously depending on what you’re photographing), but switching up how many you have on show keeps everything interesting.
When taking flatlays I try to stand opposite the window so that my shadow is behind me – you definitely don’t want to block that lighting! Unless you’re using soft boxes there’s really no way to completely stop shadows from being in your flatlay, but you can edit them out. Well, mostly.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this is through spot-editing on Snapseed and just adjusting the brightness, contrast and saturation until I’ve minimised it as much as possible. It’s practically impossible to remove all the shadows, but this way you can definitely decrease them.
As a final tip, I would totally recommend using ribbons in your flatlays wherever possible. They’re so much fun to style and they add a ton of dimension – plus they just look so pretty!
So that’s how I take and edit my flatlays! I hope you guys enjoyed this post and found it useful, let me know in the comments if you have any flatlay tricks. See you next time,