How To Shoot A Flat Lay and Product Image // 12 Days Of Christmas
I began shooting “flat lay” images a few years ago. In fact, the reason I began taking them was to promote Atlas Magazine, when we were in print. The style of image was becoming more and more popular on Instagram, and I knew that it would be something which would catch the eye of potential customers!
Let’s just say that those first few attempts were pretty awful.
Turns out that product photography, and flat lays, aren’t quite as easy as they might seem!
However, as the years have gone by, and with a lot of practice, I’m happy to say I really enjoy taking these kinds of images! I’d do many more of them, but at the moment its proving a bit difficult to lay things on the floor with a five month old puppy running around trying to eat everything!!!
I’ve been asked plenty of times to do a blog post on how to shoot good flat lays, and I should really have done it much sooner. Who knows why it’s taken me this long. But better late than never, right?
So why would you even want to take a flat lay?
Well, put simply, they’re a lovely and easy way to showcase products. So this style of image is amazing to master if you’re a designer/maker.
1. Gather Your Props
Before you can start anything, gather all the items you think you might need for your image. Get the props, your backdrops, your camera, everything, and lay it out somewhere easy for you to grab.
2. Find a Big Window
The best light for your images will be natural light. Shooting in the dark isn’t advised for flat lays, as the light given off by lightbulbs in your home is very orange, and not the most flattering. If you have no choice but to shoot in the dark, it might be worth investing in some lights. You can get flashes and LED continuous lights really cheap from Amazon now! Here are some I can recommend.
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3. Face The Window, or Be To The Side of the Window/light
By either facing the window or being to the side of the window/light, the subjects of your image will have more dimension to them. If you shoot with your back to the window/light, you will find your image looks really flat. You’ll also create a shadow, which you most likely don’t want!
4. Don’t Worry Too Much About The Camera.
A lot of people tell me that they can’t take a nice photo because their camera isn’t good enough. Of course having a big DSLR is nice, but don’t let the fact that you haven’t got one stop you! You can do amazing things with an iPhone now.
5. Once you’ve got everything together, start with the object which is the focus of the image.
I like to take the main item of the photo first, lay it on the floor/cardboard/whatever I’m shooting on, and then built around it from there.
6. Build around the object.
Once you’ve got the focus of your image placed how you want it, the next step is to begin to build around it. This can be the longest process, but I like to take my time, and move things around quite a lot until I’m happy with the composition of the image.
7. Think About Colour
Different colours will draw your eye to different parts of an image. It can also help to shape the mood of the image. For example, if you use one single colour palette, i.e. blue tones, the image will feel calm. However go for reds and you’ll get a totally different emotion. Think about colour theory where you can.
8. Think About Texture
Texture is also important. I like to use different textures in the background of the images to create different moods. For example, sometimes I’ll shoot on a simple white backdrop, which will keep things looking very clean and minimal. Whilst if I’m going for a more romantic, rustic feel, a white sheet or table cloth adds just the right amount of softness; so don’t be afraid to play around with different textured backdrops.
9. Think About Layers
Layers are also sometimes the smallest touch which can make the biggest difference. Layering adds a lot of depth to images, which can make them feel more “real” (thats the best way I can describe it!). Play around with objects of varied heights, and layering objects on top of each other until you’re happy with the result.
10. Consider your composition
Composition is the best way to convey the message/emotion you’re after. Images with lots of negative space will say one things, whilst images with objects filling the frame will say another. It’s important to remember that each item in an image should serve its purpose. Take time to step back and look at your composition from a distance: is it working?
11. Think About Your Angles.
Generally speaking, there are three angles to stick to when it comes to product images. Obviously today I’ve focused on the flat lay, so for that you’d want to be directly above your objects. However if you wanted to take it a step up, you could get directly in front of your objects (at 90°), or also at a 45° angle. When shooting directly above your images (ie. birds eye angle for a flat lay) be careful not to be slightly at an angle. Images can very quickly look wonky when they’re at a slight angle! Try to get as directly above the objects as you can.
12. Try to fill your frame
I see a lot of beautiful flat lay and product images which could be even better if they were cropped just slightly, or if the frame had been filled just a bit more. Letting parts of your objects be cropped out makes the viewer feel like they’re able to get a bit more intimate with the scene, like they’ve been invited into a special moment.
13. Straight Lines vs Curves
You can lay objects out in two ways; very straight lines, or in a more curves composition. Both work, but will give off completely different vibes. Straight lines feel more masculine and harsh, whilst curves are more feminine and fluid. One tip is to think in “S” curves. Imagine an “S” on the floor below you, and place your items along it. If you need a hand, why not actually draw the “S” on a piece of paper and lay your items out on that, before removing it when you come to take your image.
There you go! A pretty extensive guide into how to shoot a great flat lay. I hope that is helpful for you, and you can take it into the Christmas month, as well as the new year, to help you shoot some product shots, and ultimately, make your business more profitable in the long term!