How to Flat Lay like a Pro - Fashion Photography – The Zebra Effect
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How to Flat Lay like a Pro - Fashion Photography

Posted by The Zebra Effect on

So your pre-ordered Lost in Lunar Tasmin Cold Shoulder Top from The Zebra Effect has finally arrived on your doorstep! Woohoo... It’s white it’s gorgeous, it goes so well with your Black Refuge Denim and those new suede ankle boots you picked up on Bridge Road, and it’s too hot not to share! Your #instafans will love it!

But if you’re like me, no Instagram filter can ever get rid of clutter in the background, mirror reflections, or photo-bombing housemates ruining your next Instagram sensation.

Hashtag frustration!

It could be time for you to get into flat lay pictures. Instagram’s finest have been doing it for years – but with a few simple tips and a little practice, you will find that flat lay photography isn’t difficult at all. In fact, it’s lots of fun!

How to Flat Lay

What’s flat lay photography?

It’s a picture of an object, or a few objects arranged together on a flat surface, taken from directly above. Hashtag #flatlay – you’ll get the idea. These modern-day still life’s are bright, beautiful, and they tell a story in a clever, visual way.

Group your latest #Sephora haul with your Sunnies, Starbucks and Sandals. Having a Pancake breaky? Flat lay your ingredients on your collectors vintage linen tablecloth. Got your catch up with the girls look sorted? Show off your ensemble with a flat lay. It’s modern storytelling at its finest!

Flat lay photography is creative, interesting and - the best part? It’s easy – and you don’t need expensive equipment to do it well!  

How to take the perfect flat lay photo

  1. Think about theme and storytelling

The best flat lay photos tell a story through objects grouped together.  What do you want your picture to say? Whether your story is foodie, fashion inspired, about found objects or an experience, everything you include should make sense when you put it together as a whole.

  1. Find a source of natural light

Unless you’re using expensive flash equipment, you can’t take a great flat lay photo without good natural light. Find a spot near a window or under a skylight which will let soft, natural light fall across your scene. Shoot mid-morning or afternoon if possible (never at night or in twilight) and watch out for harsh light which will cast distorting shadows or worse – leave a phone shaped shadow across your shot!

  1. Create a surface

Work off the floor to make it easier to shoot from above. Floorboards can look sensational in a flat lay photo; although it is safer to start with a white background when you’re starting out. Use a clean sheet or even some sheets of paper, and arrange your items on it. While it’s easier to work on a white or block-colour surface, think about textures and patterns as you get more practice, and choose backgrounds which accentuate, rather than overwhelm your objects. Coloured fabric, timber floorboards, or paper make the best flat lay background foundations.

  1. Place your items

Select one or two main objects, and place these first. Whether it’s your pretty new Refuge White Soft Kylie Crop Top and clutch or your favourite item of jewellery or even a movie ticket: your main objects should be the focus of your story. Next, pick two or three secondary objects which help set the scene or act as embellishments. Check your arrangement from a birds-eye-view (get up on a chair and look down on your flat lay scene) and make some adjustments if you need to. (If you really want to take your flat lay pics to the next level, check out this great article from Wikipedia on the rule of thirds). Don’t forget Instagram photos are square – so flip your camera settings to square so you can visualise your picture.

  1. Think about white space

White space is the area between your objects, and around the edges of your frame. If you don’t have enough white space, your objects will feel cramped and your flat lay will look too busy. If you have too much white space, your objects will get lost and appear too far away. Try lining your objects up for great symmetry, creating patterns with your objects, or mixing up large and small objects together. Make sure there’s the same white space around each of your objects, and enough space around the edges of your frame.

  1. Get the angle right

This part is easier if you’re using an iPhone, which has a handy grid feature which will help you get your picture flat. Shoot your flat lay from above by getting up on a chair. Don’t worry if you’re too high up, because you can crop your flat lay later. Your aim is to keep the lens as level as possible; otherwise your picture can look distorted. You will get better with practice! Shoot a few frames and choose the one which makes your objects look in proportion.

  1. Have fun!

Lastly, experiment and enjoy yourself! The best flat lay photographs are unexpected, quirky and playful. Flat lay photography is a great way to express yourself and the things you’re passionate about! As you practice, you’ll develop a sense of what will work – and your storytelling will improve. One of the best ways to learn is to re-create; so if you find a flat lay picture you love on Instagram, have a go at re-creating it yourself with your own set of objects. Learn from the masters! Follow flat lay Pro’s on Instagram and get to know what’s possible. Have fun!


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