If you’ve seen my Instagram profile you’ve probably seen that I love to make flatlays. A flatlay is basically just a stylized picture of random things like magazines, food, coffee, flowers, clothes or accessories, taken from above. I feel a little silly doing them and lately my mind always goes to that guy in the Instagram Husband video (you know the one). “Oh, you’re taking pictures of your stuff. Cuuuute!” (In a really strained voice). Yep, taking pictures of your stuff from above may seem a little silly, but I just can’t help it, it’s so much fun. It is also a great way to show off your #detailsoftheday, your #ootd, or what you’re doing at the moment, without having to be in the shot yourself.
There really aren’t any set rules for how to take flatlay photos. You can use your creativity, play around and find your own unique style, however I can give you some of my tips on how I make my flatlays.
The most important thing you can do to make any photo look good is to use natural lighting, this is extra important if you are using your phone to take the pictures. I always take my pictures next to a large window. Using (lots of) natural daylight is what’s going to make the biggest difference in the quality of your photos. Slightly overcast days are best, but sunlight can make for some interesting high-contrast pictures and cool shadow effects. Sunlight can make your pics look a bit yellow though, so if you want a cooler look make sure to adjust the temperature in one of your photo apps afterwards.
The easiest way to make good flatlays is to have a clean and neutral background. I like using a black or white table, or a white bed sheet. A wooden table also works, though it gives a bit of a different feel, and if you have a themed Instagram I would recomend sticking to somewhat the same color palette. I’ve seen people rocking patterned backgrounds, but this is slightly more difficult to master.
Once you have your background and natural lighting in check, it’s time to get creative. I like to have sort of a theme to my flatlays. Like enjoying a cup of coffee and a magazine in the morning, my outfit details or even my whole outfit. Some things that always look awsome photographed from above incude magazines, coffee, books, flowers and food, but shoes, clothes, make-up and jewlery also works. Again if you stick with a maximum of 3 color palettes in your flatlays, it’s easier to make them look good. As for composition the most common is to put the main subject in the middle of the square picture, but don’t be afraid to play around a bit. Try placing your main subject in one of the lower corners and spread your smaller items around the larger one, or you could spread everything around a bit and go for that “beautiful mess” look. After a while it will be easier to see what works. Make sure to have enough negative space in your photo, there’s a fine line between “beautiful mess” and just plain messy.
Don’t forget to edit your pics afterwards to give them that little extra something. I love the selective tool in Snapseed, which I use to brighten my white backgrounds a little and remove darker areas and shadows. You can use filters, but don’t overdo it. Natural is usually always better.