1. Clear Up Your Intentions
Narrative/Call to Action
Start your process by focusing on your intention. What is the purpose of this flatlay? Are you featuring a specific product? Do you need to leave space for text or a graphic? What Call To Action are you associating with it? What do you want your audience to do/feel when they see it? These will guide the creative decisions you’ll be making.
2. Gather Your Props
Your predominant color will impact the mood of the viewer, so pick a palette that evokes your intended message. For more on the psychological element of color palettes, read Creative Bloq’s article on color and emotion. Your color palette may already be built into your branding or social aesthetic. The bottom line is your aesthetic choices should remain consistent with the content you’re already sharing on social. In these product photos for our client, Love Quotes NYC, we payed attention to picking props with colors that were complementary to the colors in their scarves.
Although props are key, it is important to make sure these objects complement the focus of your image and do not take attention away from them. If your props are too dominant, your audience can get your message confused. Don’t be afraid to use products from complementary brands. It’s a great opportunity to tag! 😉If you do decide to include other products, be sure to style them so your product is front and center, like in this flatlay we did for our client, Bling Wipes.
Prop ideas: plants, magazines, faux flowers, jewelry, tile, accessories.
3. Assemble Your Image
Keep your background simple. Marble, colored paper, and wood are our favorites! We’re especially obsessed with a combo of white poster board and textured pretty paper from Paper Source. We especially love these: Natural Teal Handmade paper, Gold Brushstrokes on Peacock paper, and Silver Stars paper. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that dominant prints will take away from your subject, so stick to simple geometric patterns and abstract prints.
Texture keeps the eye moving, which keeps audience attention on absorbing your content. You can break up your images with either pieces of texture or using a textured item as the background. We love this image that we shot for our client, Kikori. We used rice as a beautiful contrast to a dark background, to provide some interesting texture, and to pay homage to the brand identity of being a Japanese Rice Whiskey.
In this image from our shoot with Sara Happ, we took texture to the next level. We experimented with the texture from the tile, marble counter, and took advantage of the natural textures of the products themselves!
Like texture, layers add dimensionality that holds the viewer’s attention. Consider building depth by layering your props to make your scene feel more authentic. See how this pretty display at Facile doubles as a source of texture and depth, leading the eye to the featured product?
Start with your object of focus and build your scene around it, leaving space between each object. Balance large items with smaller items and colorful pieces with monochrome ones. Be sure to experiment with layouts. Try a shot that utilizes negative space and one that fills the frame. Try laying out your objects in neat lines or looser, authentic layouts.
Quick tip: Round objects can drive you crazy rolling around on your surfaces, so keep props in place with mounting putty (you can buy it at an office supply store or from Amazon here). If you’re in a pinch, rolled up teeny pieces of clear tape can help keep you sane!
4. Compose Your Shot
A DSLR is nice, but newer iPhones have incredible industry-grade lenses, so don’t let your lack of a big professional camera stop you! Grab a chair or stool to make it easier to shoot from above and use your iPhone camera’s square crop to check that your layout will look great when cropped in Instagram.
Soft overhead lighting is best for flatlays, so we recommend using natural light! It’s super bright, free, and already set up for you! Shoot near a big window or go outside. You might notice that the sun’s rays can be too bright at high noon when the sunlight is the most direct and overhead. The best time for outdoor lighting is in the morning and late afternoon or on overcast days, when the light is the most even and you’ll have less harsh shadows. Once you start to get in the hang of it all, you can start to play with light artistically!
Though flatlays are traditionally flat and shot from above, consider shaking it up to see what works best for your project (and to generate more content!) Consider shooting your project straight on and at a 45 degree angle (halfway between straight on and overhead) as well! Make sure you rearrange your props according to your various frames!
Our images rarely come out of the camera looking the way we’re going to post them, even when there are no humans in the image. Why? Because editing is such a powerful tool to giving you images life! We know it’s an extra step, but this little extra effort goes such a long way! Whether its a simple boost of saturation, brightening the image, or doing a full-on overhaul in Photoshop, we encourage it!
How to edit your photos will always depend on your account’s aesthetic, and as you’ve heard us say many, many times before, you have to remain consistent. For more on photo editing, check out our article on our favorite Editing Apps here. Or DM @calli about an upcoming photo editing workshops in West Hollywood.