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For businesses, bloggers and shopaholics alike, flat lay photos have become the new black.
They are just as the name describes – items that are laid flat on display, with or without complementing items. Flatlays present handmade brands a great opportunity to showcase products, as well as a great networking opportunity to connect with other businesses.
When my daughter Isla was born, my husband and I made a decision to not place photos of her on social media. So when My Little I Designs started up I had to work out how to present my pieces without the use of a model, and flat lays were the answer!
In this article I’ll share my top tips for photographing a great flatlay, which can in turn boost sales.
The background in your image is almost as important as the items you wish to showcase. A background should be as neutral as possible, so as to not draw the viewer’s eye away from the product.
Consider the colour of your item in contrast to the background; for instance, a white top may get completely lost on a white background.
There are tonnes of options for backgrounds. I know people who use a pallet, plain white sheets, floor rugs, stretched art canvas, fake grass panels, and even wallpaper.
In my flat lays I have chosen to use a whitewashed timber board, which my very handy husband made for me. All of my images are taken on this board. I like the consistency of scrolling through my feed and having the same background for my images. I believe it gives my page a clean, sleek look.
I am sure that like me, a vast majority of you don’t have access to a photography studio complete with all the bells and whistles. So we have to work with what we’ve got – natural light.
My house is particularly dark, which was something I didn’t realise until I tried to photograph items for sale.
Every picture I took had large shadows and just didn’t look right. So now I take them outside. My ‘spot’ does not get full sun, so the images don’t become over exposed (too bright), and also does not get shadows across the board either. Shadows are your enemy, you can’t Photoshop them out later, so be sure to choose the right spot.
I always take my images at the same time of the day, so as to gain the same light – hence, consistency in images.
Make sure you don’t use a flash either; I always find natural light to be the most effective, and the most accurate indication of the colour of your product too.
You have put so much love, time and effort into creating a beautiful handmade item, now its time to make everyone else fall in love with it.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to press your piece before photographing. Hang it up if you can until you are ready to take your photo.
Consider stuffing your items. It creates a 3 dimensional effect, and really showcases special areas of interest such as frills or pleats. I find regular polyfill is great for filling out ruffled nappy covers or rompers. It is easily manipulated to bring just enough lift to the frills so they don’t sag inwards.
This romper has been stuffed to lift the ruffles.
In social media, this one image could be the difference between a sale or not, so position your item so that you are providing the customer with an accurate indication of what the item actually looks like – personally I’m not a fan of items which are bunched up at the sides, or folded in half down the centre. As a shopper I want to see the entire item. Similarly if the item comes folded in a packet, take it out and show it off in all its glory.
Flatlays do not need to have any other products in the shot, however it does provide the customer with inspiration as to how they might put together the full look.
In selecting your props there are two main directions you can take: Outfit Solutions, or Inspirational Items.
In my situation I select items that complete the look – shoes, hair ties, necklaces, etc. Think about how you would wear the item and select pieces that will complement your main piece.
As I said earlier, this can be a great opportunity to foster valuable business relationships with other handmade brands. It is an opportunity to boost your exposure by using items from brands with a loyal following. It is easiest if you already have a relationship with the brand owner; they may be a friend or a brand you have had dealings with in the past. Alternatively they may be a brand which you have not had contact with before. It may make you feel a little uneasy at first, so my advice is to make contact with the brand if you don’t know them and ask for permission to reference them in your images. The handmade community is such a warm, uplifting group of people and the vast majority are more than happy to assist and work collaboratively, particularly if you have purchased the items.
Inspirational flat lays are a little trickier in my opinion.
Some brands choose to follow a colour theme. For example; if your item is blue, you may choose to include blue pieces that may not have any relevance but create an overall ‘mood’ for the picture. Or you may want to show off blankets you make, so you may show people a relaxing afternoon at home with perhaps a pretty teacup and a magazine.
Whichever direction you choose to take it is important to consider what you want to showcase in this image; your product should always be the focal point of the shot. It is easy for your ‘message’ to become diluted if the focus is drawn to other items in the shot.
Finally, leave space between items so that it does not appear busy, as they can easily become overwhelming. Think about the placement of dark colours and try to have them balanced i.e. at opposite sides of the frame. Aim for odd numbers as it balances out the image and is more pleasing to the eye.
Taking the shot
Now that the preparation is done it’s time to take the picture. I use a Sony DSLR camera. I know smart phones have amazing cameras these days, but I like the control a proper camera gives you. Aim for a birds eye view.
The most important thing to consider is your position.
Make sure you aren’t casting a shadow across your beautifully laid-out display. Try to have the camera as close to directly above the centre of the frame as you can. I fi nd it helpful to use a stool so that I am a little higher.
Zoom in so you are filling the frame with the items, otherwise you’ll need to crop the image later. Remember, however, that you’ll need a square image for Instagram so make sure you’ve got enough around the outside so you don’t cut out anything. (I know Instagram now allows portrait and landscape images, BUT I’m a traditionalist and I like them square still. Not to mention when scrolling through your profile the images are still displayed as square so can look strange).
If you are comfortable editing your images feel free to adjust the brightness or vibrancy if you need to, but be careful to ensure you are still providing an accurate representation of your product.
I always watermark my images. It not only protects your image from potential copycats but it ensures your brand is always referenced if it is ever shared. If you are not in the habit of including a logo (or even a tagline; ‘@mylittleidesigns’) on your images I strongly recommend you do so.
For more inspiration search #flatlay on Instagram. There are thousands of images, and you will soon be able to see the good from the not so good.
In no time you’ll be joining the flat lay faithful, and by following these tips I’m sure you’ll be rewarded with great sales.
For more blog posts in this series start here: