How to Style a Successful Flatlay
If you’re like many content creators out in this wonderful world wide web, you love or are strongly interested in taking better flatlay photography.
(Incase you’re new, a flatlay is a styled, organized photo, shot directly from above using either a phone or a DSLR/point-and-shoot camera. Flatlays are characteristically styled to be extremely aesthetically pleasing while telling a story that is easy for the target audience to digest quickly and enjoy. Upper-level definition: They are used strategically by Influencers/Bloggers to work with brands that are a good fit for their audience). Flatlays are the mini-magazine of bloggers, influencers, & creative business owners online.
So while participating in the #HERmovement Twitter Chat, I was asked:
What are the keys to a successful flatlay photo?
Let’s get some snacks. This is going to be fun!
Now I love flatlays so I feel like I could give 100+ keys, all based on specific angles relevant to different industries . And I know I can go into the specifics on lighting and home photo setup , or the basics you need for a flatlay setup and photoshoot.
Today, let’s get into the thinking & practicality of what makes a flatlay successful, so you have a better mindset going into your photography sessions.
The first key to a successful Flatlay is lighting. Clear lighting. Lighting sets the foundation for the quality of your image. Make sure your lighting is as bright and clear white as possible. The best light source for this is in-direct sunlight (think windows). How you get this lighting depends on where you live, but generally the lighting is perfect on bright, cloudy days (for instance) or, between the hours of 9:00am to 11:00am and 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Otherwise, you can use a soft light source (like this one) — affiliate link.
The items in the flatlay should have relevance to one another, as they are all coming together to portray a particular mood, vibe, & story. Choose props that uphold the context of your message to your viewers.
Keep your image as clear and sharp as possible. No shaky hands, no “extra items” keep your photography space focused on the story at hand.
Include personal work/life items that add authenticity to the mix of your story. Depending on your brand, you will do this more often or less often but the images that portray real things you come in contact with are so exciting to see.
Flatlays are putty in the hands of small business or the creatives. It’s our way of turning our Instagram & other social feeds into a mini-magazine, curated in the vision of your branding. Would you feel “invited” by your own feed?
Items like the ones:
- from your desk/office
- on your boudoir
- in your makeup bag
- in your purse
By default, the items you use day to day will be a good reflection of you and your brand (which is where I get the term I like to use called
“life-styled” branding). It all really allows us to see a refreshing view of a moment in “a day in the life of” because remember: We creatives are on the internet to become more visible so we can reach those that need our value so we can make a living doing what we love.
By being intentionally creative & strategic with our visuals, we craft our social media to tell the story of our journey so we connect with people who are more likely to rock with us for the long haul.
…by throwing in a dash of whimsy. You could get straight to the point of the story and, say, “Here’s my laptop. Here’s my desk. Here’s a pen I never use.” — and bam! We get it (…you… worked today?)
But we’re talking about successful flatlays.
And you want to be unique. Like, yourself.
Depending on your aesthetic, add in a piece of life in motion. Show the half-drunk coffee cup (keep the lipstick if it’s on there, but wipe away the coffee spill), throw some paper clips that you bought the other day SPECIFICALLY because they were rose gold. Include the stack of the 10 pages of marketing planning/research you’ve been writing for the past few hours.
We the audience thank you. You show us something we can connect to. Our next thought could even just be , “Hey girl–I see you!” <3
Flatlays give the opportunity to shake things up, in even the tiniest of ways
+ delight our audiences’ senses at the same time. Experiment & see how that works for you.
…alliteration is tough work. Style so your audience wants to pick up what you put down. Composition is perceived as difficult to teach but, the lesson actually comes with patience and trying different lays. Don’t worry–everybody is out here working on their compositional crafts.
We all do some form of…
- Put down some props, pick them up.
- Put other ones down.
- Step back.
- Pick up ONE thing.
- Move 2 things.
- Step back again.
- Add that thing again, but move the other one.
During all this time, we’ve captured at least 15 shots. That’s the fun of it. It’s a process that takes time, so enjoy as you create your work of art. When reviewing, note the energy as you look from left to right and the placement of the props as you’re looking at them from above.
Okay, two more!
Consider how eyes will flow across the image by playing around with placement of props of different colors. Especially if you are new or not as confident in styling flatlays, working with a color scheme (or 1-2 main colors) is a solid start to help with styling and composition. By simple trial and error, you will come to understand the spatial relationship between your props, as you lay them down.
Flatlays are rarely (if ever) a craft of randomness–so, revel in the details! Is this a seasonal flatlay? Is it about tranquility or nature? Sprinkle petals, or add a dash of sand and shells. Is it a natural feel? Add wooden elements: branches, green leaves, mint. Holidays? Sprigs or holly. Mistletoe. Candles. Here’s a secret, think of the word for the mood you’re trying to set. What items come to mind? See how you can incorporate those things or something similar.
SPRUCE IT UP
So, our last key for today comes in the form of a REQUIREMENT: Editing. Maybe you already have an aesthetic in mind, or the lighting wasn’t as great as you’d like so you need to “fix” some things. But the main reason for editing? Visual consistency. Photos become your visual vibe, of sorts. You want the look to match your brand/business’ spirit. If you’re posting photos on your social media feed, for sure you need to have a consistent aesthetic so that all of your photos give the same “look” or “effect”.
And there you have it! Keys to multiple, consistently successful flatlays. We definitely covered quite a bit but, I really just wanted to get to the heart of some of the care and concern that comes through your work when you create flatlays. Use them to infuse yourself into your branding and make sure you have fun with this type of visual content strategy.