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  • Andrea MacLeod

8 Top tips for Creating Flat Lay Photos

First of all, what is a flat lay? Simply put, a flat lay is an arrangement of items where the image of them is taken from directly above. There are lots of posts out there talking about how to style your flat lay, but very few talk about the actual how-to. I’ll mention a few styling tips, but mainly this is about how to make it look technically good.

1. Background - First of all pick your background area. It’s good if it’s a solid colour or only a simple pattern. You want the objects to be the main focus, not the background. A table top is always an easy choice, or a clean dish towel. I always like to give the background a clean before putting anything on it, as little spots and specks really detract from the photo.

2. Light - The easiest and often best option for lighting is natural light. You don’t want bright sunlight on your flat lay, but rather indirect light. So be near a window, but not actually in the sunlight. Direct light will cause dark shadows which can be distracting and make the photo look busy. So as close as you can to the light, without being in it. I pull my table directly under the window if I can.

3. More Light! - Get something smooth and white to reflect light on the opposite side from the window. I use a piece of foam core board, but you can use a piece of polystyrene, a big sheet of white paper, or even a bedsheet! Look in the example how it softens the shadows when I use the board.

Look at the shadows from the coffee cup above and compare them to the ones below where I added the white reflector. See how much softer and lighter they are?

4. Objects - You want to have your main object and then a few other items to complement it. You can pick a colour theme and use that, pick similar objects to your main object or just pick items you like. It’s often nice to include something organic, so some flowers or leaves can add to the photo.

5. Camera - I normally take my flat lays with my DSLR camera, but you certainly can use your phone. I took most of these on my phone so you can see what you can do with just that. If you are using your phone and you intend to use the photos on Instagram, set the photo ratio to Square. That way you won’t unintentionally leave something out of the photo when it gets cropped on Instagram, as you have already cropped it to square before taking the photo.

6. Tripod - If you have a tripod, now is a great time to put it into use. Set it above your scene, pointed straight down. If you use the self-timer function on your phone, you can then even set up a flat lay where your hands are included in it. I've done a quick example here.

7. Photos - Take lots of them! Change the position of the objects, change the orientation of the camera to the objects, have fun with it. Try to take a minimum of 10 photos to choose the best one. You'll be surprised how much a little change in position can change how much you like the photo. Look at how many I have on my camera roll!

8. Editing - As a photographer, I spend a lot of time editing my photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, but even using the editing program included on your phone can help your photo. If you aren't sure what to do, try the magic wand function, which automates all the editing. It's not always the best option, but it's a place to start.

Give these tips a try and then do one of my A+ Photography photo challenges! Perhaps take a photo of your schedule or planning system for this business challenge: Or take a photo of a meal or snack for this fun challenge:

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