I have been slowly trying to perfect the flatlay image - a style of photography when you are shooting a subject on a flat surface from directly above. I am finally at a place where I can be proud of my images (I am hard on myself when it comes to photography), so I wanted to share some of what I have learned over the years.
Spring is one of the most colorful seasons already, so naturally flatlay images that reflect the season are usually bright and happy. That is my style already - a bright, fun, food-centric Instagram feed (@sharayray).
Spring Flatlay Tips:
Start off with your “hero”-- it might be a product you are trying to promote, or maybe a recipe you just created, etc. Yes, you can have more than one hero, but any more than 5 can get jumbled (see my Whole Foods beauty image on Instagram for an example).
Figure out the goal of the image. Are you trying to send someone to a website to purchase the product, start a conversation, showcase the beauty of spring, or share a recipe for a dish you just created? Pick one goal for your photo (you don't have to write it down or anything.. just have it in your head) and remember, not every photo needs to be targeted at everyone. Sometimes a photo's goal is to practice with a new backdrop, or a new editing style!
Now that you have a goal, choose a color scheme. Flatlays don’t need to JUST be on a white background. I have green, pink, blue, brown, yellow and many, many white poster boards. I also have a marble cheese board that I LOVE for backgrounds. If you are going for a moodier vibe, check out some of the dark photography backgrounds on Etsy!
Now for the Props! These are the items that help tell the story for your hero product. You don’t have to stress too much about this, sometimes props are just pretty flowers you found in your office parking lot. Sometimes, they are stale peeps that are leftover from a photo shoot from last year (yuck, I know!)
Your camera. For flatlay style images, I am not a fan of using my huge Canon EOS 5D Mark III. It is bulky and great for outdoor shots, or lifestyle images, but it seems to fall flat when it comes to flatlays (bad pun, I know, I know). I use my iPhone 7+, or a Canon Powershot that I bought on Amazon for $400.00. Originally I bought it for my vacation to Cabo, but it fits in my smaller purse so I take it everywhere. It is great for taking quick pictures out at restaurants, or styled shoots at home!
Lights. You may hear everyone say that natural light is best, and I will agree with this statement. Natural light, with some shade, is definitely going to make your image look more natural. BUT! Sometimes that doesn’t work out for all of us. This is where fluorescent lights can help. I use two of these Lowel EGO Digital Imaging, Tabletop Fluorescent Lights to help bring in as much light as possible to my flatlays. Make sure to use white poster board to help create some shade on your scene, or else the light will just wash everything out.
Styling. Keep it simple and play around with the location of your props. Take a million pictures, work the angles because not every photo needs to be a flatlay, maybe it will look better front facing, and check them out on a different screen than just your camera (on your phone or desktop). You will eventually start seeing trends on what type of photos you like. Check out my Pinterest board for even more tips on photography style.
Spring props. Bring in some natural elements to your photos. Grab a tree brand that just bloomed in your front yard, or spring vegetables - even flower petals can make a spring photo come alive. Remember to use your props sparingly. Overwhelming your image can take away from the "hero" of your photo.
My biggest takeaway for you when it comes to creating spring flatlay images is to play around with your style. The more you practice, the better you will get! Share some of the images you have taken with me by tagging me on Instagram at @sharayray.