Make Stuff

7 Tips for the Perfect Flat Lay

May 26, 2016

Flats lays.  The internet is full of them, especially when it comes to Instagram.  There are entire accounts devoted to flat lays, which are great to follow for inspiration and guidance on how to create your own beautiful, Insta worthy, flat lays( my favorites are @onthetable_project, @onthebed_project, @_justynaniko_, and @blacktable_ ).  I really enjoy the art of the flat lay and don’t mind the time, effort and sometimes looking like an idiot, that is involved in getting a good shot. Most of the ones on the 30th & Weldon account are designed and curated by me. (Using the word ‘curated’ helps make me feel better about spending 15 minutes trying to get a shot of doughnuts at a bachelorette party, while 13 girls stand behind me like ‘Bitch, are you done? Can we eat these now?) When it comes to flat lays, practice really makes perfect. I wasn’t always so proficient at it, and even now I have times where is just doesn’t come together so I have to scrap the idea completely and start fresh.  Today, I’m sharing the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way in my quest for perfect flat lays. Hope they inspire you and help you create your own #instagoals.

I kept this flat lay simple to make sure it didn't get too busy with this beautiful agate backdrop

I kept this flat lay simple to make sure it didn’t get too busy with this beautiful agate backdrop

 

1. Have a clean background – White bedspreads, granite counter tops, hardwood floors, a marble slab, black Ikea table, even a large white poster board, will all help your items pop. If your backdrop has too much going on, you run the risk of losing some of the items in the spread or having it look too busy. Have a favorite flat lay background in your home to utilize regularly (my bed and my floors) but also keep this tip in mind when you go out and take pictures of your food. Not every bar or restaurant has the right table tops for a clean flat lay and you may have to get creative.

Unless you will be in direct sunlight, always take the option to sit outside.

Unless you will be in direct sunlight, always take the option to sit outside.

2. Lighting is everything – Unless you have a tiny professional photo studio you can carry around with you (not out of the realm of possibility), natural lighting is the best for taking flat lays.  Stay out of direct sunlight, being careful of shadows and glares. The early morning, slightly overcast days or a fully shaded area outside are best for taking your pictures so you can get directly over the flat lay without the outline of your arm and iPhone in the shot.

The perfect green tea latte.

The perfect green tea latte.

3. Pick a focus item – Decide what you want to the focus of the shot to be and then commit to it. Since flat lays are usually taken from directly above, there is always going to be something a little off centered (unless you are taking it from very, very high up and have a the kind of camera and lens that will ensure the photo’s resolution is still sharp and crisp – this is not so practical for the average Instagrammer). If I’m highlighting a particular beauty product or tarot card spread or just a cup of coffee, I make sure that is the first thing my eye is drawn to in the shot.

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Coffee, knee caps and flowers – my favorite props.

4. Use extras – Without them, most flat lays would be kind of lack luster and a little boring. You want them to enhance the shot, but not take away from the focus of it. Dried flowers and fresh flowers are my favorite prop of choice so I usually have multiple options on hand.  Books, sunglasses, watches, utensils, magazines, tarot cards, candles, plants, headphones, your legs, your hands – literally anything can be an extra.

The bottom right shoe is being tilted up by a crystal and a box of matches underneath

The bottom right shoe is being tilted up by a crystal and a box of matches underneath.

5. Fake it – Flat lays don’t happen naturally despite the intent to make it look like all these items just “naturally” fell into place here. Sometimes I’ve had to use adhesives (tape, clay) to keep an item from rolling around. I’ve propped shoes up on their sides with little rocks or a box of matches. Sometimes my hand is just out of frame, balancing the item. You do what you gotta do.

Option 1

Option 1

Option 2

Option 2

Option 3

Option 3

6. Try a couple of options – If you have the time and resources, play around with the layout and items in your flat lay. I took a couple different shots of the Baltimore Style Magazine that we were featured in – they all came out great but Danielle, Julie and I each had a favorite. You may find that you can get a better shot if you switch out a prop or move something to a different corner. Adjusting angles, move things slightly out of frame, zooming out, zooming in – all good things to try when you are still figuring out your flat lay groove.

Thankfully I was with a group of bloggers when I took this so they knew the drill

Thankfully I was with a group of bloggers when I took this so they knew the drill and no one gave me a hard time.

7. Be prepared to be “that person” – Y’know, the person who stands on chairs in restaurants, who moves all the drinks and plates around on a table to get the right spacial proportions, who makes everyone wait to eat so they can take a picture first…that person. Well that’s me on a regular basis but as annoying as it can be, it is what needs to be done if you actually want to get the best photo possible. At this point I have embraced it (and fortunately my friends all recognize that there is value and necessity in this for me as a blogger). So own it, get the best shot and then watch as all your friends who were rolling their eyes ask you to send them that picture.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Have any tips and tricks of your own? Take a sweet flat lay with the help of this post?  Tag your best work with #weldonflatlay for a chance to be featured on our Instagram!

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