Simple Flatlay Tutorial

I incorporate flatlays into my instagram feed (@chanelgphoto) on a pretty regular basis. I see them as a way to give people insight into my personality by incorporating things I love, including books I'm currently reading, recent purchases, and items that speak to the essence of me. I've decided to share a few tips here for anyone interested in getting better at flatlays. I'm by no means an expert, but if I can help someone who may find flatlays difficult to execute with the little bit that I do know, then I'm alright with that :)

First, a few general tips:

  • Lighting seriously makes ALL the difference. I personally use natural light from a big window in my room. 
  • There are many different ways you can create a backdrop for your flatlay. Blankets, rugs, and flooring are all affordable options.
  • Taking your photo in an app, such as VSCOcam (my personal favorite) helps a ton. You can use the grid to help make sure your lines are straight, and edit immediately after taking the photo without having to move it from one location in your phone to another.

Step 1: 

The first step in my process is deciding on the overall mood of my image.

I like to tell stories with my images, so deciding on a mood is essential. For this image, I wanted to convey a sultry mood with a touch of coziness. The question I asked myself first was: "what items would I think are essential to getting ready for a date?" Then I built my flatlay with the goal of answering that question.

Step 2:

Gather the items that will be used in the flatlay.

Next, I start scouring my surroundings for the items I'll use to tell the story. Usually I'll already have an object or 2 that originally sparked the theme in my mind, so I'll build around those items. 

Step 3:

Start construction on your flatlay.

I start arranging items in a way I find attractive. I try to keep the frame feeling balanced and avoid having empty spots. Including negative space in your flatlay can be effective, but having what I call "bald spots" that are unintentional can bring down the overall attractiveness of your flatlay.

Step 4: 

Take a photo & see how it looks.

Snap a pic of your flatlay "rough draft", so to speak, and see how it looks in-camera. This helps to see those bald spots you may not have noticed with your naked eye. In this flatlay, I felt like there wasn't enough texture/dimension so I decided to include a blanket in the corner underneath the candle. It not only brought in that texture I was missing, but it also added to the overall mood of the flatlay.

Step 5:

Take & edit your final photo.

This is where your in-camera grid comes in handy. Try to keep horizontal and vertical lines straight while taking the photo. This will keep your image from looking tilted and like the items are gonna slide right out of the frame at any moment. I like to take my image with plenty of room around the actual layout in the frame so I can crop in and straighten during editing without having to worry about any of my items being chopped unintentionally.

I edit my photos first in VSCO using my favorite filter(s) + a few basic edits, then copy and paste the image into Snapseed (another great app) for a few more in-depth edits. And VOILA! I now have my final flatlay image ready to share on instagram or integrate into a blog post.

Flatlays aren't always the easiest concepts to get started with, but if you keep practicing and playing around you'll find what works for you. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty fun to come up with an idea & figure out how to execute it. It's a challenge, but the main thing to remember is to have fun and let your creativity flow!