If you have seen my Instagram then you will know that I love a flat-lay photo, they are athletically pleasing and make for a great way to showcase a certain product in a more 'natural' setting.
Everyone has their own approach when it comes to styling flat-lays but this is a guide to how I personally create my flat-lays. Ever since I starting doing them more I have had a lot of interest from companies and brands who want me to create content for them in this same style. However, its not for everyone. I have had people say that they find the images too overwhelming and busy but I have had many more people say that the images grab their attention and make them stop to inspect each little detail of the image.
I always try to aim for either a completely plain background or one that has a bit of texture (such as wood or marble) to it but never anything with a pattern or more than one colour in it. I often use a plain white bed sheet or wooden counter top but you can also buy vinyl backgrounds specially made for flat-lay photography.
Depending on what your main focus object is you want to use colours compliment the colour of the object for example if you are focusing on a yellow book you would add things such as lemons, daffodils, custard creams or a straw hat around the book. If you was to use an array of different colours the book would get lost in the image and it would be visually overwhelming.
Adding layers to your image can make it look more visually appealing so I always work in 2-3 layers. The first layer is made up of things like chopping boards, breakfast trays, blankets or newspapers, this adds more of 'natural' and 'effortless' feel to the image. The second layer is made up of the bigger items that will compliment the main object (such as flowers, mugs, books, etc). Then I will add the third layer which
consists of small things (clutter) such as rings, sprinkles, sequins or oats, these add more detail to the image. If the feature object is something that can be 'spilt' over to the rest of the image then take advantage of that and add little bits from the feature object around the image. Below is an example of what I mean, see how I sprinkle the oats, raspberries and blueberries from the bowl of yogurt around the image.
I always find that photos with a human presence make the image feel more real, its not essential but where I can I like to add human presence to my flat-lays. It could be a hand holding a mug, a part of my leg in the image or my feet in some fluffy socks (giving it a cosy feel).
Lighting and editing:
I can not stress enough the importance of good lighting, I ALWAYS take my photos in bright and natural lighting. If you don't have anywhere in your home that has a decent amount of natural lighting then venture outside, as long as its not too windy you can get some great shots outdoors and you may even find a nice new background to use such as a wooden table or stone floor. You then want to edit your image nicely, the easiest way to do this is by adding a preset which will transform the image (you can buy the one I use here) its actually my favourite part of the process as my images go from looking cold and dull to warm and vibrant but its not essential if you know how to edit your image to get the desired result.
I know of some Instagram flat-lay photographers that keep a box of props that they regularly use in their photos, I myself have bought things specifically for flat-lays its a great excuse to treat yourself to something new and I buy flowers every week to include in my images. My partner is forever moaning about the amount of money I waste on flowers, I would have a bunch in every room of the house if I could afford it, I love them. That being said you can create some beautiful images without spending a penny by using the things your already have around the house and by picking flowers, leafs, etc from your garden. Remember, you can always crop your image down so don't be afraid to use a big surface area but most importantly have fun with it, flat-lay photography is a great opportunity to get creative and let your inner artist out.