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My Top Tips On How To Take Better Flatlays

 Flatlays are probably one of my favourite types of content to create. As much as I like snapping pics whilst I am out and about and capturing real, in the moment shots, there is more of an art to flatlays that I really enjoy. I guess it makes me feel more creative as you have to consider so many elements like placement and colours and depth and textures. There is also so much more room for experimentation and creativity in flatlay style photography than in the other styles of photography that I work in. And I feel a lot more comfortable doing this from the comfort of my own home where I feel free to spend unspeakable lengths of time moving things around and swapping props in and out of the shot and playing around creating different layers to the shot and experimenting with texture. 

Since I have been focussing more on flatlay photography, I have had a few people ask for tips so I thought that putting together a full post might be helpful for some people so you can see what I have learnt in the last year of trying to up my flatlay game and maybe you could apply some of these tips to your own photography!

Invest in a backdrop

One thing that can instantly elevate your flatlay game - especially if you are taking quite basic flatlays with few props and want just to focus on one particular item within the shot (such as for product photography) - is buying a backdrop or making one of your own. When I started getting a bit more serious with the product photography for my Etsy shop and balancing everything on the windowsill wasn't quite cutting it anymore, I decided to buy a vinyl backdrop (vinyl is perfect as it is waterproof and really easy to clean). I spent £30 on slate grey textured backdrop from Backdrops By Lucy and I am really happy with it. For me, £30 felt a little steep just for a backdrop but I can safely say that it was worth it - at least, for me. Having a backdrop that works on all types of flatlays (whether it was for a beauty themed one or a food themed one) and can be cleaned so easily made getting a good shot so much easier for me. 

However, you can also make your own backdrop. I have a cream coloured curtain with a lighter, thinner material as its lining that I often stretch out and use (especially on days when I want to create a homely image of say a breakfast in bed setup but the bedsheets are all crinkled - whack the curtain down on the bed and instant ironed bedsheets without the fuss!). Wooden surfaces are also a good call - wooden pallets for a rustic look. You'll be surprised what could work once you start looking around.

Add flowers to your photo

One thing that I have discovered since trying to improve my flatlay photos is that flowers just elevate everything. Whether that is a bunch of flowers in a little jar, dried flowers tied up with some twine (I use a bunch of lavender as a makeshift bookmark in some pictures and I always love the outcome), flowers just strewn out across the shot, flower petals scattered in corners to fill space, or even just a few flower heads just dotted around to add a little colour. Flowers are always a good idea and fill up empty space without changing the focus of the image too much or altering the theme of the shot. 

Let it get a little messy

This is probably my biggest tip on how to take better flatlays: get messy. I find this works especially well with food photography (say you are shooting a cake - dust a bit of icing sugar around, drops some of the ingredients around the shot like spare strawberries or whatever you're using). My favourite things to litter around are little matches next to a match box and candle or flower petals or droplets of water on a vinyl backdrop if you are doing a beauty themed shot. It fills up the space between the props and makes the set up a little more realistic - and it just adds a little bit of fun to the flatlay.

Add fabric to create texture

One of my best investments for my flatlays was a multipack of linen muslin cloths off Etsy in a range of colours. I was drawn in by the pinkish, rust toned one but there are also sage green and creams ones in there that I adore too. And I feel like these pieces of fabric just work in all types of shots. I particularly enjoy using them in food shots as if they were tea towels but they work in almost every shot and just add a little bit of texture and movement to the flatlay without being distracting at all. 

Play around with depth of field  

Depth of field is basically the focus in the shot - like deep depth of field is when everything is in shot and shallow depth of field is when only one thing in the photo is in focus. I enjoy playing around with shallow depth of field especially by putting things like flowers close to the lens so it is out of focus and then it focuses in on the object behind it thus creating more layers to the image. I find this works especially well when you want to draw extra attention to an object in an image - like in a product photo.

Create a colour palette for your shot

One thing that I really got wrong when I first started taking flatlays was that I would just grab anything from around the house and then I couldn't understand why the images looked so chaotic. Then I realised - I hadn't even considered the colours I was putting into the shots and it was all really clashing. Nowadays, I like to stick to quite neutral tones for props and then correspond the colours to the season - I like to use pink tones in spring so expect lots of pink on my instagram right now. Also using white flowers will add the texture and fill gaps without switching up the colour scheme. 

Don't wait until you have 'the right equipment'

And, finally, the biggest mistake you can make when taking flatlays is waiting to get the 'right' equipment. There are no barriers to creativity! I shoot all of my flatlays on my phone and have been creating content on much worse models of phone and with minimal props and equipment (and money to buy them!) but I have always enjoyed the process. So, don't feel like you have to wait to buy a backdrop or have a 'proper' camera or a better phone or nicer props or a tripod. 

Also, don't forget to download Adobe Lightroom for the editing!

You may also enjoy:

5 Things You Can Buy To Instantly Elevate Your Flatlay Game

Instagram content you can create at home

How to take cute pics of your kids

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