One of the main questions I get about photography is how to shoot flatlay. I think that most people get the general idea how to shoot flaylay, but I think often times they get a little stuck with the actual technical part of shooting their flatlay. So, today I am going to do my best to share all my tips and tricks to mastering flatlay photography by sharing how I got today's shot. The shot below comes from our most recent travel collection and it's by far one of my favorite collections to date.
One of the first things I do before any shoot is evaluate my light. Light in our apartment is kind of tricky, but you definitely want to start your flatlay with natural light. If you have a room in your house that is absolutely filled with natural light then you are off to a great start. If you are like me and have uneven light coming in from not so great light sources then you will want to add filler light with either softboxes or a camera flash. For all of my work and for the photo below, I shot with natural light and two softboxes. For this particular photo my natural light source is coming in from the left of the photo.
Keep in mind that when shooting with a camera flash or softboxes you don't want to point the flash or softboxes directly at your subject. You want to position the light in such a way that is bounces off your ceiling or opposite walls. Pointing your flash or your softboxes in a way that allow the light to bounce means you'll have softer light.
DIFFUSERS & REFLECTORS
Speaking of light lets talk about diffusers and reflectors. When I set up for shoot I position my flatlay in front of my natural light source and then I set up reflectors (out of frame) around my flatlay. These reflectors help reflect that natural light back into frame, which in turn leads to better light.
Now, let's talk about shadows and diffusers. Depending on your natural light source and how the natural light is filling your room you may want to use a diffuser to reduce shadows. I almost always use a diffuser to minimize shadows in my flatlay. For this particular photo and set up (and for almost every photo I take) I placed my diffuser between my main light source (the window) and my flatlay. If you get comfortable using your reflector you'll notice that the tilt in which you have your reflector changes the light as well.
On to our tripod. I wouldn't recommend shooting flatlays without a tripod, unless you have a crazy amount of good light. Flatlays are tricky because it's important to get all of your props in focus. In order to do that you have to use a specific f-stop and a tripod is necessary to match a good f-stop with a good shutter speed. Using a tripod reduces camera shake and also keeps your camera stationary. This means your can leave your camera in place while moving around your props. Otherwise you will be picking up your camera every time you want to take a photo and the composition may change every time.
APERTURE & SHUTTER SPEED
Aperture is key when creating a solid flatlay. What makes flatlays work is that every prop is in focus and in order to do that it's important to use the correct aperture. In order to have all your items in focus you need a narrow aperture or large f-stop. This is opposite of shooting portraits, but similar to shooting landscapes. When I take portraits I usually use an f-stop around 2.8. This type of f-stop means we'll have a photo with a really nice blurry background.
Now, back to using a large f-stop number. The photo above was shot with an f-stop of 8. This f-stop ensured that all of the items were focus. I have done other flatlays were I used an f-stop of 14. Keep in mind that when using this f-stop, this also means that you need to shoot with a long exposure. The exposure for this shot was 1/10. A large f-stop number paired with a long shutter speed definitely means you need to shoot with a tripod. Something else I almost always do is to also use my timer. With such a long exposure I want to make sure there is zero shake on the camera.
One thing that I think is important to remember as a photographer, whether you are seasoned or brand new, is as long as you continue to study photos and how each photo is made, you will start to understand how a photo is created. Flatlays are a give away for a large f-stop, because all the props are in focus. I wouldn't have seen that in a photo, except for the fact that I study photos. Over my years as a photographer I started to study every photo I saw and slowly I learned to see where the light was coming into frame, what type of f-stop they were using and the shutter speed as well.
That does it for today, friends. I'll have to come back with tips for mastering the styling next, right? Whew, I think that would be harder, haha! xoxo. Samantha