Flat lay photography is easy to learn and incredibly powerful. Here’s my nine tips for finding the flat lay style that blends perfectly with your brand.
The internet is a stunning place. There is so much information and beauty.. But the internet is crowded, and it can be hard to cut through the noise to reach your desired audience.
There are several ways to successfully push through, and one of them is Instagram. Instagram is a fantastic tool for finding an audience and connecting with them in a unique, personal way.
My favorite way to connect with my Instagram followers is with gorgeous flat lay photography.
The Art of Flat lay Photography
Flat lay photos are great for all kinds of subjects – books, planners, art, food, jewelry… you name it! The basic idea behind flay lay photography is simply taking a picture from straight up above with no angle at all. But naturally, there is more to it than that. Here’s my tips for getting started!
Find Instagram Inspiration
Before you start snapping photos, I would suggest you dive into Instagram and find accounts that you love. Find accounts that already attract the audience you want to build.
Take notes on the consistent elements in their photographs. How do they use light? Are the photos crowded or minimalist? Do they have a color theme?
Here’s a few of my favorite Instagram accounts that display fabulous flat lay photography:
Of course, you can always see how I do my Instagram account. And you can follow me, too, because you’re so cool 😉
Use Natural Light
Unless you are a professional photographer with a proper lighting rig, you need to always take your flat lay photos in natural light. Brightly lit photos are almost always better than dark ones, and the flash on your camera ain’t gonna cut it.
Find a window or simply go outside to get those delicious natural rays. My Instagram photos are taken in an area with three windows for light all around the subject. Be aware of the shadows and take your time to position everything just right.
Most of my favorite Instagram accounts have brightly lit photos, but occasionally I find someone who can pull off the dark moody look. @_foodstories_ is a great example of how to achieve a more rustic feel without getting too dark.
Play with Color for Your Flat Lay Photography
Play around with color themes in your flat lay photo. It’s a great rule of thumb to have a general color theme for your whole feed for consistency. After all, you want your Instagram followers to be able to recognize your style in a second.
I tend to have a broad range of colors in my photography, but I keep everything very bright and poppy. In an individual image, you can try different color themes to add intrigue.
You can go monochromatic and stick with just one dominant color like my gold photo.
Or you can mix multiple colors to create a bright rainbow effect. Play around and you will find something that is pleasing to the eye.
Use Texture in Your Flat Lay Photography
Try different texture elements to add character to a flat lay photography. Fur, cloth, metal, glass, wood, stone…. there are tons of options!
If you have any small potted plants, they make for great flat lay photography props. I love using my succulents to add color and texture.
Of course, larger plants can add gorgeous depth to your photo, as the top of the plant will be out of focus.
Creating contrast can really add an extra something to your photography. The contrast can be with any element: colors, sizes, shapes, textures, lighting – you name it. I enjoy using contrast with different sized props.
Mixing delicate props like acorns, crystals, and paperclips with bigger elements like plants, candles, and boxes can add tons of interest to flat lay photography.
This tip is essential to pleasing your Instagram followers, but it takes a bit of practice to figure out.
Balance is a somewhat subjective measure of a photograph, so here are some basic rules of thumb.
Try not to load lots of big items on only one side of the photo. Create balance by keeping the mass fairly equal throughout a page.
In the photo below, I have the main subject matter in the center of the photograph with a large bottle and small stone apple on the top left. To create balance, I have the medium plant, a key, some paperclips, and a garland on the right/bottom.
This disperses the weight fairly evenly and doesn’t let the photo be dominated by the large bottle. Like I said, it will take some practice, but you will get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Edit Your Flay Lay Photography Uniformly
After the photos are taken, it might be tempting to slap them on Instagram right away. But if you take a little time to edit your flat lay photos, you can really impress your Instagram followers with a polished feed.
If you are wanting to keep things cheap and simple, then all you need to do is pick a premade Instagram filter and only use that one filter.
Of course, if you are wanting to step up your Instagram game for your business, I would suggest a more professional editing method. I use Adobe Photoshop and I love it. There are tons of tutorials on Youtube if I ever have a question, and the tools are damn near limitless.
For consistent editing, I created an action sequence, which basically means I programmed a certain chain of editing events. I use that on all my Instagram photos to get the exact same lighting, color editing, saturation, etc. It works like a dream.
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Experiment to Find Your Style
Take your time to set up your flat lay photos. Don’t try to rush it, and feel free to tweak your props a few times to get the photo perfect. With a little bit of practice, you will get a feel for how you like your images getting set up.
Try using things around your home for photo props, even if they are unrelated to the subject matter, like:
Think outside of the box! I’m sure there are dozens of items around your home that you can use to punch up your photos a little bit.
Bonus Tips for the Aspiring Photographer
When you are just beginning, you can definitely use your smart phone as your camera. After all, you have it right there! It’s super easy and convenient. However, the equipment you use can have an enormous impact on your finished product.
If you really want to step up your photography game and get into the big leagues, I’d suggest an upgrade. If you are blogging as a business, I can’t stress enough how much you need a decent camera.
I used my phone for all my blog photography until I finally caved and bought a Nikon Coolpix last autumn. And wow what a difference! This camera covers all my blog photography (and filming) needs without breaking the bank.
It is one step below a fancy DSLR, and is incredibly user friendly without sacrificing quality. If you’re wanting something on the cheaper end, I’d suggest a Nikon Coolpix L32, which will give you everything you need for basic photography.
I also love using a tripod and adjustable arm to get a perfect shot over my work space. This really helps me achieve consistent flat lay photos over and over again. It’s also great for filming, but that’s a whole other beast.
If you must continue using your phone for budget reasons, I’d suggest you grab a phone mount so you can still enjoy the benefits of a steady camera. If you want a tripod that’s a little smaller or more flexible, I’ve used and loved the Gorillapod tripods – both the small one and the large one.
Schedule Your Posts
My last tip for anyone wanting to step up their Instagram game is to start scheduling your posts. I was incredibly stubborn about this for months, refusing to make it easier on myself. Looking back on that, I have no idea why.
Literally the day after I started using Buffer to plan and schedule my posts, I was saying “I should have done this ages ago”. With Buffer, you simply select an image, write your description, and set your schedule.
When it’s time to post, Buffer sends a push notification to your phone so all you have to do is push a few buttons to get the post up. Scheduling your posts ahead of time means you can:
- Spread your content evenly so you don’t have post-heavy days followed by content droughts.
- Write all your descriptions and hashtags ahead of time, then just copy & paste them when you post.
- Save yourself from forgetting to post.
I’ve been using Buffer for a few months now, and I don’t stress near as much about Instagram anymore. With regular posting and smart scheduling, my followers have increased by the thousands.
Buffer has a free trial, but their paid service has proved itself worthwhile to me. Whatever you go with, scheduling your posts can really take you one more step towards impressing your Instagram followers.
Now Go Make Something Awesome
With a basic understanding of what works for flat lay photography, you will be off creating an amazing Instagram feed in no time.
Just experiment a little bit, try something new, and take your time to get everything just right. You are a busy person, but rushed pictures don’t get the same attention or love as a proper photo.
If you really want to get a jump in your Instagram followers, you need to start thinking of your photography as an investment. Build a beautiful, consistent feed and they will come. Now all you gotta do is go out there and build it!
P.S. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!