You may not know the term flat lay but surely you have seen many photos of this style on Pinterest and Instagram. This type of photo in which objects are arranged on a flat surface and photographed from above is becoming more and more popular and it’s one of my favorites.
The cool thing is that while preparing this post I researched the origin of this style of photography and discovered that the initial inspiration came from a method of organization known as knolling. The term is from 1987 when an employee of a furniture factory (which produced chairs for Knoll) routinely arranged objects on a flat surface at 90 degree angles. In 2009 the sculptor Tom Sachs adopted the technique as an art form and so the flat lay photographs become more popular.
I love shooting flat lays and putting together different compositions. Over the last few years I have tried and learned a lot with this technique. It is a delight to think about the objects, care about color harmony, theme, proportions, even if at the end of a session I am with a terrible back pain for being trying to find the angle and the correct position of each element.
Since the beginning of the year I have been producing pictures in flat lay more often so I will share with you some of my favorite and 6 tips to produce a beautiful photo!
1. Alignment and arrangement of objects
The way you dispose the objects on the photo is essential for the result of a flat lay. At first the objects used to be carefully arranged symmetrically as a form of organization, but in this style of photography it is also possible to work with a carefully planned asymmetry. Sometimes the best thing of a picture is precisely in this perfectly misaligned disposition.
Still about the organization of the elements it’s worth paying attention in the space between them and in the proportion of size of what will be photographed. Sometimes you need to shoot a few times to analyze the result on the screen of the camera and make small adjustments, dragging something else to one side, moving away something or looking for new elements. It takes patience and dedication!
Working with a specific color chart helps to have an harmonic photo. I love choosing a certain color as inspiration for my photos and from there I look for other elements to compose the photo using color as the connecting element.
Set the colour it’s time to search the entire house for objects that can be used as complements, this part is fun and can yield photo compositions you would never have imagined. In this case the black and white is an infallible classic!
Besides the colors, establishing a subject can also be very useful when choosing objects. It’s cool to tell a story with the photos! It can be a flat lay about sport, a more romantic one, maybe about food or inspired by a special moment. The important thing is to make sense and show some connection between the elements photographed.
Still about telling a story I like to include my hands or feet in some of the photos as a way to make everything more personal. In that case it’s time to ask for help for your boyfriend or a friend to click the photo!
The background of the photos is almost always basic and neutral. This way you can highlight the objects and it is easier to have an harmonic photo. But that’s not a rule and there are some incredible flat lays with backgrounds with prints or textures.
Down here for example I photographed two flat lays inspired by the summer using the sand from the beach and a wooden deck as a background, as this is essential to tell the story I wanted to share.
Sometimes the flat lay has a picnic fabric, a green grass or a walkway as the background and all of these options can also work perfectly. But if you’re starting now, the od and good white background can be the best choice. I use to photograph on a white cabinet, it is practical and efficient.
The flat lay photos are always taken from above, parallel to the ground. To find the perfect angle you may need to use a ladder!
So the ideal is to put the objects on the ground or somewhere low so that you can shoot properly. In small photos with accessories sometimes it is possible to photograph with the camera and without the help of the ladder. But in flat lays with larger pieces of clothing some steps makes all the difference.
Once the photo is donet it is still possible to correct some mistakes in the perspective. Some photo editing apps on the phone have this option (I really like Snapseed for that!).
Last but not least, something essential for a good photo: light!
Natural light is always better in my opinion. I have already photographed flat lays on the street, in the beach or even indoors and I always wait for the best time to enjoy the daylight. At home I always photograph near the window with a translucent white curtain, so I can better control the light and shadows of the objects and still be able to position myself exactly on top of the objects without having any shade.
There’s a lot of nice inspirations for a good photo! Besides my pictures that you find here and on my Instagram account I also have a folder on Pinterest full of cool references to try, just follow me there too.