How to easily get amazing flatlays even if you’ve never taken a photo before!
So, I’ve had so many requests from IG followers and Facebook fans on how to get better flatlays. Once you understand the basic principles of light, styling and composition – I promise yours will start to look seriously amazing.
Here are the answers to some of the questions I hear the most often!
I hope you get all the info, right here, to start taking the flatlays of your dreams!
No Shadows. ‘Hey Tilly, how do I get rid of the shadows in my images. They’re seriously bringing my photos down.’
Shoot with a massive light source and use reflectors to bounce light back into the shadows. As pictured this type of crisp clear light makes products look clean and new.
Here – have a chuckle at my hand drawn diagrams explaining one of the easiest ways to get rid of harsh shadows.
And side by side:
The difference between the above two photos is literally $2 worth of white cardboard! How easy is that. (both images are unedited)
Products Are Easy to Come By. ‘Tilly, tell me where you get so many amazing props!’
Pick up things from the bargain bin. Check out the dollar store for party décor. Raid your makeup cabinet and jewellery box. Pens from Typo are a personal fave, lots of very cool designs and very affordable.
Always keep a microfiber cloth near where you shoot and wipe everything down before you shoot. With good light, dust and hair show up too easily.
Some makeup from my makeup bag, my favourite watch and purse with a chain, my iPad and Apple Pencil, a few notebooks from the office and my laptop. Add a few household items and a pretty pair of scissors and ta-da: a gorgeous found items flatlay. Nothing in this image is new. It was all found around my house (and the deepest caverns of my makeup bag).
Where Do I Put It All? ‘I have no idea how to style a flatlay, is there a formula I can follow?’
Not sure how to place those products once you’ve found them.
It is far easier to show you, that’s why I host flatlay workshops but I will explain as best I can with words:
The key is balance and flow. I usually ensure equal and even spacing between most objects.
Take inspiration from a shape in nature and mirror that.
A flowing river = a flatlay of items pointing in one direction and ‘flowing’ out of frame.
A flower = a flatlay of longer items (lipsticks or pens) all pointing outwards from a central item (a round lipgloss pot).
Start by placing down a visually ‘heavy’ item, usually the most colourful or large item you’re using. Then place down a few things around it. Move them again and again until you’re satisfied.
Keep round or cylindrical items in place with a tiny dab of white reusable adhesive gum (blutack).
Use little items, like rings or earrings or paperclips or leaves or flower petals, to fill in gaps and spaces.
Remember, white/negative space is a good thing!
Notice the spacing between most props is around the same size in every direction (excluding white spaces destined for text or logos). Try to keep things even and balanced.
Layers and Texture Really Pack a Punch. ‘My photos are pretty boring, how do I make them more interesting?’
Just like fashion or interior décor, layers and different textures are key to an interesting flat lay or product shot. When choosing an outfit I pop on my top and bottom and then I always add a third item in a different material/texture to add interest, like a large bib necklace, a crochet cardigan or a denim jacket.
I do a modified version of this in flatlays. Add plants for life, flowers for colour and softness, a tea towel in the corner of a food photo steps it up to the next level. Even a scarf or denim jacket in the corner of a desktop flatlay. Fur rugs, pieces of nature (wood, rocks, sand, leaves, feathers) and different metals. Change up your background – use a dark timber table, or white washed beachy wood, or even sand.
SmartPhones: The Best Camera is The One You Have With You.
How do you get the best quality flatlay or product shots from your iPhone/smartphone? Take it all outside!
Obviously not when it’s raining, but seriously take all of your stuff outside. Invest (About $5) in a piece of ply or craftwood (mdf for the Aussies) and lay that down in the shade outside. Head outside, onto your porch or in the shade of your house and snap away.
Smartphone cameras have incredible imaging capabilities, but they lack the ability to capture good images in poor light. By moving outside, you’re increasing the amount of available light for your phone’s camera sensor and will increase image quality. Sharpness, contrast, colour – all do best outside in the shade.
These images were all captured outside with no fancy photography lighting. In the opening of a large garage door in the shade.
They’re all straight from a Samsung Galaxy S8.
Say You Still Want a More Professional Rig.
If you’re still not happy with the images coming out of your smartphone and want to take the step up to a higher resolution camera, these tips all still apply!
So that’s it really. Go forth and make amazing flat lays.
I understand that not everyone has the time to take amazing images for their social media.
That’s why I created the Oh Tilly Styled Stock Library. Over 1500 high resolution, beautifully styled images ready for instant download for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week and you can get access now!
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