Photography Tips for Better Flatlays

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Let me start by saying that I'm obsessed with beauty flatlay's. Every time I see one I like I save it, either using Instagram's save feature, to my Pinterest board or to an actual flatlay inspiration folder that I have saved on my desktop. Because I've spent so much time looking at them, and then even more time shooting them, I've picked up a few tips and tricks that I thought I would share with you here. As everyone has a different eye for what they like to see in a photo, this is definitely not a checklist for things that you should or shouldn't do! This is just the way that I like to shoot mine. 


We all know that good lighting is the key to good photography, but sometimes finding the light can be tricky, especially when it's 4.30pm on a dreary, rainy day and the sun has already started to set. My best advice for taking well lit images is to use a portable background. I use an Ikea table top (you can buy them separately and they're really affordable) which I position directly under my bedroom window. If the sun has started to set then I pick it up and carry it to my office, because it has the best evening sunlight. If you prefer to use marble or floorboards as your backdrop then you can still use this technique, just pick up a small square of laminate flooring or some marble adhesive film from a DIY shop. Much as though it can be tempting, try not to resort to using your camera/iPhone flash, or artificial lighting in the form of a lamp or ceiling light, as your images will probably come out looking gloomy and low quality. 

Another tip for maximising light is to bulk shoot your flatlays on sunny days. It requires serious motivation to give up time spent in the sunshine for taking photos, but for me it's a sacrifice I'm happy to make. I try to shoot between 5 and 8 images at the weekend so that I have enough for at least one Instagram post a day, as I work full time so I'm not seeing any sunlight at all on weekdays right now. 


I usually take between 10-30 images of one flatlay, making small tweaks to the positioning of the items in the photo between shots, it takes a lot of trial and error as often the image you have in your mind doesn't actually translate on camera. 

I've found that adding different textures and levels helps to make a flatlay more interesting. For example, I'll often lay scarves in the corners of my images to break up the white space a little, as I don't want it to look bare. Positioning products on top of books or magazines helps to draw the viewers eye to the part of the image that you want them to look at, as they will be physically higher than the other elements in shot. If you use scrunched fabric it can give a comforting feel to the photo, as naturally you think of snuggly blankets when you see it. 


I actually started with a tiny box of props, and now my office has essentially become a prop storage space. Props are amazing for breaking up white space and for helping to evoke a certain mood or theme in a photo. For example, if I use a pink scarf for the background and then add some candy hearts and a heart shaped cookie cutter, the flatlay will feel romantic (this works well for rose coloured/scented products). If I use a black and white magazine page and some little silver stars with white flowers, the flatlay will feel minimalist and chic (this works great for skincare products which are usually monochrome). Some of my favourite props to use are below (with links to where you can buy them). 

- Cookie Cutters 
- Stationary (especially if it's rose gold!) 
- Sequins and confetti (great for filling excess white space!) 
- Other beauty products (Nail polishes, eyelash curlers, lipsticks with nice packaging) 
- Trays and Small plates 

I hope this post was helpful! I'm in no way a flatlay or photography master, but I had a few requests to write a photography post so I thought I would share the things that I have learned so far. Let me know if you have any more tips/tricks in the comments, I'd love to hear them! 


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