More and more often they write to me privately asking me how do I take those photos from above that I use for both the blog and Instagram. Momentarily they are among the most popular on the web, especially when it is necessary to portray inanimate products and objects. I have also often been told not to reveal it because then everyone would learn and the “competition” would rise excessively. True, but in my opinion a blog is born from the desire to share what we know and I can’t see why denying what little I have learned in these years. This is why today I want to reveal all the secrets and the best tricks on how to make flat lay photos without resorting to too professional equipment.
5 best tips on how to make perfect flat lay photos
I want to clarify that I am not an expert photographer and I am careful not to define myself as such. I am passionate about it, yes, and I particularly love flat lay, minimal and no filter photos. Especially on Instagram. Of lights, exposure, opening or closing shutter I know absolutely nothing if not very little and in broad lines. Shot after shot, however, I learned to get all the flat lay photos that I have in mind taking into account the following points:
- Natural light. When it comes to photography, natural light is always the best choice but never as in flat lay photos has it become so fundamental. It allows you to have images with a more delicate contrast with less harsh shadows.
- Background. Privileging clear backdrops allows you to be able to work in multiple colors, obtaining simpler post productions to get bright and perfectly clear photos.
- Positioning of subjects. The secret to best positioning the objects in a flat lay photos is to seek harmony between them, giving a fake randomness to the composition. As if they had really been left so long ago.
- Shooting. The name itself says it, flat lay photos are relaxed images taken from above. We must therefore position ourselves above the whole composition, keeping the camera perfectly perpendicular to the set, framing it with a raised and central point of view.
- Post production. Final editing should not be too invasive. This type of photographs prefers naturalness, at best we can increase the brightness, the higlights (to reduce the contrasts of shadows) and obviously cut the image according to our layout preference.
This explained in outline, now let’s analyze each point in detail.
Online you can find many types of artificial lights that come to our rescue to create photo sets in your own home. The ring light, for example, is the most common but I personally think that there is no better photographic light than the natural one. The ideal days to take flat lay photos are cloudy. They create few shadows and contrasts already starting and the light is more neutral. The best time to take photographs is from morning to early afternoon, no later. Finally, remember to always shoot near a source of natural light such as a window.
Statistics teach us that flat lay photos on a white background and clear light are the most loved ones loved not only by the viewer but also by the subject we want to enhance in the photo.
Personally, I avail myself of the help of a white shelf which, if necessary, I place on the window sill of my study. Obviously, those who do not have a sufficiently large window sill can use any support to approach direct window light. Also in this case online you can find many backdrops to be placed on the floor or on a table to further personalize our photos from above. The most loved are those with a marble and wood effect.
If you need to take photos from above, remaining more horizontal to the subjects, we can help you by creating a homogeneous background with a sheet or white cardboard to be placed behind and vertically to our set.
3. Positioning of the subject
Having found the corner with the best natural light and inserted the background, the time has come to think about the positioning of the subjects. To give a practical and visual example I took the first things at hand. The Mac keyboard, a pair of eyeglasses, a pen and two pink Moleskines. It seems that using odd-numbered subjects is better than even ones.
For those who are beginners I recommend using subjects that have similar colors and not overlapping them trying to always leave a minimum of space between them. In this way it will be much easier to get used to the eye, being able to immediately find the harmony needed to take our flat lay photos.
At this point you need to balance the image by starting to move each object until we find the frame that we like best visually.
If you have tall subjects it is better to put them in the upper part of the photo because by tilting slightly we can stand them out without losing the right shooting angle.
Finally, a little bit more is to introduce live elements, such as fresh plants or flowers, into our photos from above, which make them even more beautiful and refined.
4. The snap
When we take a flat lay photos we have to position ourselves above the subjects we have chosen. Camera or smartphone must be perfectly perpendicular and frame the set from a raised and central point of view. We can help you in elevation with chairs, stools or stairs. Personally, I never limit myself to taking a single photo from above. I try multiple variations of compositions and layouts even from different shooting angles. The important thing is to try to always maintain a certain type of order of the objects without forgetting symmetries and spaces.
5. Post production in flat lay photos
Being very fussy it is rare that I get a perfect flat lay photos from the original shot. I have to resort to a slight post production in two variants depending on the trigger.
Post production on smartphone
In the event that the photo was taken with the smartphone, I use the Afterlight application. I select the photo to be modified, the cut in the format that I consider most suitable and then change the values only and exclusively for brightness, contrast and in the case of temperature. Once you have obtained a convincing result, save it and it is ready to be used.
Post production on a fixed PC
If instead the photo was taken with the digital camera, the amount on the PC and I use Photoshop.
From the top menu I go to Image, then Adjustments and finally Curves. A square window opens in which I move the oblique line at the point where the preview image reaches the light I prefer. I click on “Ok” and continue.
I go back to Image, but I go to Adjustments and finally Brightness/Contrast. A rectangular window opens and I usually just need to bring the brightness around 10 and the contrast around 20. Again “Ok“, except for the photo and stop. Ready to be used.
Below you can see the difference between the original photo and the one with the post production on Photoshop. In this case the photo from above was taken with the smartphone.
I’m sorry to know nothing more than to have been very professional in this tutorial but I still hope it will be useful for those who want to approach the world of flat lay photos.