Have you wondered how people achieve those stunning flatlays on Pinterest and Instagram? Well, wonder no more. This article will give you easy step-by-step instructions for how to make incredible flatlays of your own.
Flatlays are a great way to showcase products and attract readers to your website. Plus, creating flatlays is a satisfying process that enables you to utilize both your creative and critical thinking skills. (So many good things here!)
But how do you create flatlays? Read on for instructions on how to make incredible flatlays like a professional photographer.
1. Create the background
When I first started seeing flatlays, I didn’t understand how everyone seemed to have white marble countertops and reclaimed wood tables.
Would I have to redecorate my home just to create a flatlay?
Then I learned a little secret that I’m going to share with you. Two words: Contact paper.
You don’t need a Martha Stewart-inspired kitchen to create an incredible flatlay background. All you need is some foam board and contact paper.
By attaching contact paper to foam board, you can make a variety of unique backgrounds to use for flatlays.
Once you have your supplies, attach your contact paper (or wallpaper sample) to your foam board. I usually create two foam boards with the same contact paper (you’ll see why this comes in handy in the “set-up your flatlay background” section below).
Boom! You have an incredible flatlay background!
Pro Tip: Any bubbles or imperfections will show up in pictures, so be really diligent about smoothing out your contact paper when you attach it to your foam board.
2. Establish good lighting
Lighting is the next step in our journey for how to make incredible flatlays.
If you look at the most aesthetically pleasing flatlays on Pinterest or Instagram, you’ll probably find that they all seem to have similar lighting. That lighting tends to be soft, white lighting.
So how do you recreate this lighting?
The easiest way to recreate this lighting is to use natural lighting from the outdoors. To do this, set-up your flatlay materials next to a window or glass door. You want to avoid direct sunlight but still get as much light as possible.
When I take my own flatlay pictures, I set-up my flatlay materials next to my glass patio door. Since the door is westward-facing, I wait until the sun is shining on the patio but hasn’t reached the inside of my house yet. This gives me the maximum light possible without putting the direct glare of sunlight on my flatlay.
While this is the easiest way to create soft, white lighting, it’s also entirely dependent on the weather behaving. And me remembering to take pictures while it’s still light outside.
To remedy these issues, you can get a light fixture that provides this lighting for you. I’m partial to tripod ring lights because the height is adjustable. These lights are also great for shooting videos to give you that movie star lighting. (Because we all deserve to look like movie stars, don’t we?)
3. Set-up your flatlay background
Now it’s time to set-up your flatlay background. While it seems super simple (you just put the foam board on the ground, right?), there are a few tips that can really take your pictures to the pro level.
After you’ve put your flatlay background on the ground, you want to create a semi-enclosed box around your flatlay.
First, you want to create a wall on the side of your flatlay that’s opposite of your lighting. This wall will reflect the light back on to your flatlay to maximize the lighting. (Let’s call this the “reflecting wall”.)
I use a white, stretched canvas for this purpose. I made sure to get one with a 2″ bottom so that it would stand on its own and not fall over ontop my beautiful flatlay.
Next, set-up another wall perpendicular to the reflecting wall. This will be your “backsplash wall”.
The “backsplash” wall is essentially just that – it creates the appearance of a backsplash behind your flatlay.
Without this backsplash wall, you’re restricted to shooting pictures directly above the flatlay. With the addition of the backsplash wall, you can also take pictures that recreate the look of a countertop/backsplash. This is particularly helpful for round or cylindrical objects that don’t look great from above.
For the backsplash wall, I usually use another foam board with the same type of contact paper as my flatlay foam board. This creates the appearance of a seamless countertop and backsplash.
4. Determine the purpose of your flatlay
The next step is to determine the purpose of your flatlay. Why do you want people to look at or click on your flatlay picture?
Do you want readers to make a recipe you creating? Do you want your audience to purchase the clothes you are recommending? Maybe you want people to read your tips on creating a blog?
Determining the purpose of your flatlay will help you decide what items to include in your flatlay picture.
5. Select items to include in your flatlay picture
Once you’ve determined the purpose of your flatlay, you can start selecting items that will represent that purpose in your flatlay.
For example, say you want to discuss tips for writing a blog post. What items would readers connect with writing a blog post? How about a laptop? Your laptop can then be the primary focus of your flatlay picture.
Since having just one object in the flatlay picture isn’t very interesting, you then want to select complementary objects to include in your picture. For example, you could add a sprig of flowers, a cup of tea, a plate with a croissant, and some pens to your flatlay.
Be creative with the objects you have lying around your house. You’ll be surprised at how many items will work well in a flatlay.
6. Design your flatlay layout
Designing a flatlay layout is entirely up to your preference. Do you prefer a minimalist appearance? Or do you prefer to fill the space?
Do you like light, bright colors? Or do you prefer bold, dark colors?
I recommend trying several different arrangements to see what items look best in your picture. Seeing how the objects look through a camera lens can help you decide upon the best layout.
7. Take pictures of your flatlay
We’re getting closer to the final step of how to make incredible flatlays! Next up: it’s time to take pictures!
After you’ve arranged the objects in your flatlay, start taking pictures.
You don’t need a fancy camera to take your flatlay pictures. I use a Sony a7SII camera for all my pictures, but you can also just use your phone camera.
When taking your pictures, think of what platform you’ll be using to post the pictures. If you’re posting the picture to Pinterest or Instagram, shoot the picture from a portrait angle. If you’re posting the picture to Facebook or a website, shoot the picture from a landscape angle.
I post my flatlay pictures to all of those platforms, so I take both portrait and landscape pictures of my flatlays.
When taking flatlay pictures, I tend to just stand directly over the flatlay and take the picture. I usually position myself to make sure I’m not blocking any of the light.
You can also set-up a tripod to take the flatlay picture. This option works well if you want your hands or feet in the picture (like when you’re holding a pen or showing off high heels). If you’re using your phone to take your pictures, the tripod right light I mentioned above has an attachment for your phone and works well for this type of set-up.
8. Edit your flatlay pictures
We’ve reached the final step for how to make incredible flatlays! Now we edit!
After you’ve taken your flatlay pictures, use an editing app to make the final touches to your pictures.
Here are a few things that I do when I edit my flatlay pictures:
- Crop the pictures to hide any edges that go past my flatlay background
- Straighten the image
- Lighten the shadows so that you can see the detail of the flatlay objects
- Lighten the exposure so the picture looks brighter
- Since the last two items can lighten the colors, I’ll often increase the vibrance or saturation to make the colors pop a little bit
And that’s it! Congratulations, you’ve now learned how to create incredible flatlays! I can’t wait to see them!