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5 Hacks to Master Flat Lay Photography

16 October 2017 | Joel Vijay

Do you want to take sweet shots of your stuff to post on social media? Then you need to try flat lay photography! Flat lay photography is a style that is relatively new to the photographing community. It was recently developed to showcase items that may reflect the mood and personality of the photographer. Particularly suitable for Instagram and other social media, flat lay photography creates a 2-D outlook on subjects rarely photographed.

Unlike other types of photography, flat lay is incredibly easy to shoot thanks to the sedentary nature of each shot. As items are placed, the photographer arranges each in relation to the other to create an ensemble. The subjects are photographed from a bird’s eye view using either a smartphone or a DSLR camera. Want to try flat lay photography? Here are some hacks to master flat lay photography.

1. Find Your Instaspiration

Yes, we said it – Instaspiration – simply inspiration from Instagram.

Social media is a powerful influencer and Instagram is no exception. Get your inspiration from the best flat lay photos on Instagram and you have a strong base to start on. Watch how ordinary people use everyday items to create beautiful photos. Take note of the combination of elements in each photo and see how they interact.

As an alternative to Instagram, flat lay photos are also popular on Pinterest, Tumblr and occasionally Facebook.

2. Get Lit!

Ask any photographer and he/she will tell you the importance of lighting in every shot. Lighting can make or break a photo. Flat lay photography in most cases minimizes the use of shadows but maximises the clarity of each object. You can do this with a DSLR camera by setting the aperture size to large and make everything in focus. Alternatively, you could use various sources of lighting to set the mood.

Sunlight, candles or a mini spotlight all make for good lighting. If you’re going for a bright, white look, get a fluorescent white bulb to light the entire frame. You could also reflect light off a mirror or aluminium foil to further create opposing moods.

3. Create A Curious Background

A background plays an important role in any photo. For flat lay photos, choose a background that is flat and preferably contrasting with the items in the frame. As a basic start, choose a black background for a white item, or vice versa. You can immediately see how flat lay works.

Some possible suggestions for a curious background are:

  • Wooden table (textured)
  • Blanket
  • Bed
  • Chopping board
  • Road
  • Sidewalk
  • Carpet
  • Tiled floor

4. Let Your Mood Do the Work

You may initially find it tricky to choose your subjects to shoot. But use emotion and mood along with the items you have with you as your subjects and you’ll get the hang of it. It will also be good to select a theme.

If you are on a holiday and find an interesting background along with great lighting, go for the theme of travel. Find your items such as your bag, passport, notebook, laptop, postcard, and something from the are to which you are travelling to. Arrange them together and snap from the top. You could also do the same for food and beverage, work, clothing etc.

5. Shoot and Reshoot

The truth is, there is no one-step solution to master any type of photography. It takes patience to build and master the skill of photography. It is the same with flat lay photos. Having a good DSLR camera could prove useful, but there are many more elements to flat lay photography you have to consider.

We recommend that you try shooting and readjust your view on the frame and subjects. Remember, you don’t have to get all the items in the shot and you don’t have to arrange them right next to each other. Use your imagination and randomize your shot interchanging your items. As your skill progresses, you may want to upgrade your shots with these cameras and photographic equipment:

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