I've recently been fully enthralled with flat lay photography. Shay Cochrane is what sparked my creativity, because her work is on point. Usually what sparks my creativity is seeing something that I have yet to figure out, something that I know will stretch me... knowing that I'm not quite sure how to accomplish it, but knowing that I can, if I stick with it.
A few weeks ago I decided it was time to figure it out, so began my journey in mastering lay flat photography. I definitely haven't mastered it yet, but I have been making progress and it's so exciting! Flat Lay photography is definitely more then just laying items out and taking a photo from overhead, because I tried that and it doesn't work, ha! I also think that you can create your own style with lay flat photographing. Some may say that you need a light colored background for good lay flat photography, but I think lay flat photography can take great shape with lots of different backgrounds, especially if you are creating your own unique style.
As usual lighting is incredibly important when shooting any type of photography and the same goes with lay flat photographing. Natural light is best, but if you can pair natural light with good solid bounce flash, then that's even better. You may be wondering why you need flash if your shooting in natural light? Flash, when used correctly, will help reduce any shadows. It had been years since I shot with my flash. It had been so long that I was feeling a little intimated, but I finally decided I needed to start taking advantage of my flash and I was so glad I did. I'm still learning the best techniques when using flash, but a little progress is better then nothing.
The image below was shot with a Nikon Speedlight SB-600 paired with a light sphere. My natural light was coming in from the right and I had reflectors on the left and on the back. I shot with my flash facing the ceiling so that when it fired the flash would bounce from the ceiling.
Shot Details : Nikon D300s, 35mm, exposure: 1, aperture: 14, ISO: 350
Once you have figured our where the best light is and where you'll be shooting you'll want to set up your sturdy tripod. A tripod does multiple things for you, but the number one thing is that it allows you to have a long exposure and reduces camera shake. When shooting lay flat photography you want to shoot with a narrow aperture which means a large f-stop. A large f-stop means a long exposure. The second great thing about using a tripod is that you can experiment with your layout without having to move your camera. You can snap a photo, move things around, and snap a photo again.
Okay, friends, let's talk about how the tripod ties into our aperture. When shooting lay flat photography you usually want all of your items in focus. In order to have all your items in focus you need a narrow aperture or large f-stop. If you're apt to shoot with a wide aperture or small f-stop, this will be a great opportunity to stretch yourself. A large f-stop number will get all your items in focus, but it also means that you need to shoot with a long exposure. A large f-stop number paired with a long shutter speed definitely means you need to shoot with a tripod. ;)
Most of my lay flat photos were shot with an f-stop of 14 and a one second exposure. Remember to set your timer when shooting with such a long exposure, this will minimize camera shake.
After studying lots of different lay flat photos I recognized something that they all had in common, consistency. The most visually appealing lay flat photos were consistent in their styling. The photos had strong color schemes, balance, and solid backgrounds.
When choosing items to style in your photos, look for items that are similar in color or are complimentary colors. Avoid pairing to many different colors together. Stick with two to three main colors and consider adding accents.
Well styled photos have a balance between each items... these consistency techniques are ones I'm sill working on myself. When choosing items to style in your photos create balance by having items of different size in your photo. If you had a bunch of items all the same size, each item would be competing for the viewers attention and the photo would be unbalanced.
I love the opportunity to work with all different types of photo backgrounds. But I also love to create consistency and mood with the background I choose. White backgrounds translate fresh, airy, and clean. Wood backgrounds translate a rustic feel. Each tell a different type of story, and both create beautiful imagery.
I love learning more about photography techniques and sharing them with you! I'm still learning more about lay flat photography and I can't wait to continue to stretch myself to create better photos. Have you considered creating lay flat photos? How have you stretched yourself lately? xoxo. Samantha