You all know I love a good flat lay, and a recently I came up with the idea of doing a “step by step” tutorial of how I create mine. Now I’ve done some flat lay tips and tricks posts in the past (How I Take My Flat Lay Photographs and How To Compose The Perfect Flat Lay) which have touched the surface of my photography process, but today you’re in for a bigger treat, a step by step! I created a set up specifically for this post and it’s a hypothetical blog post about how much I’m loving Rimmel at the moment (because I totally am), so you can see exactly what I’d do if I was photographing these products.
The first thing I do is get all the products together that I’m featuring and roughly map out how I’d lay them out for my landscape photograph. I do take square and portrait photographs too for other social media, but my main image is landscape and this is the one I always start with. I use my camera so much that I kind of know the framing in my head of a landscape photograph, but if you’re starting off it make you a few attempts to get everything within the edges. I start thinking about main props at this stage – I tend to use flowers – so I’ve left a spot in that top left for a nice bunch! Once I’ve got a rough idea I take a snap then lay them in the same positions on an alternative surface.
Setting up the shot
If you read my previous photography posts this will all be familiar territory, the behind-the-scenes of my flat lays are incredibly unglamorous. I use natural lighting to shoot so I work as close to the window as possible, which happens to be on top of my desk. I then use a white thick canvas to stand on the opposite side to the window to bounce back the light and calm down any shadows. Whether I have the blind slightly open or fully open all depends on the weather, and if it’s really sunny I put my translucent board up to diffuse some of the harsh light. I then stand on a chair and shoot from above – serious back-pain inducing.
The next step is finding a background. Firstly, I look at my blogging schedule and see which posts are surrounding this one that I’ve already shot. I don’t have an infinite amount of backgrounds but I do try to spread them fairly evenly so I’m not using the same one in a row. This time I went with the hearts as it’s quite a simple pattern which lends itself well to “busier” shots which involve a lot of products. I generally decide a colour theme back at step one when I’ve lay my products out, for this one I liked the purple tones from the eyeshadow palette, plus I think it’d look nice with the bronzy face palette and mascara. I decided to swap out one of the lipsticks at this stage and go with a purple one to strengthen that colour palette. White and purple is one of my favourite colour combinations for flat lays so I kept my trusty white Ikea plant at the ready!
Pairing the background and products
This is probably the most time-consuming section as it involves a lot of trial and error and getting up and down from my chair (!). At first view I thought I’d sussed this one straight away, I used the same product pattern as I’d originally planned and I thought it looked great on the background. However, on camera things don’t look as pretty. All the products are way too close together and there’s loads of excess space around the edges. So this is the stage I just keep tweaking, I move things around and sometimes I completely deviate away from that original layout, and play around with the two background sheets as well.
Ok so the products are looking much better now, they all have a nice amount of space and everything is in the frame. It’s time to start playing with additional props. I wouldn’t say I’m that good at making the most of props, people like Gemma and Jodie absolutely ace this, but it’s a complete work in progress step for me. However, I do think I have a decent eye for what doesn’t look good, and for me that flower I’ve thrown in above doesn’t look good. It weakens my white and purple colour theme and is too “weighty” for an additional prop. At this stage I play around with buttons, ribbons and other flowers, until I come up with this…
The final photo
Much better eh?! I’m pretty happy with this one, the little white flowers and white flower buttons are delicate enough to not detract from the products but just fill in any blank spaces and make the photo feel a bit more whole. I’m not too bothered that it’s slightly wonky as I’ve got enough room around the edges to fix this in editing and although it seems a bit dark I’d rather brighten it after rather than shooting something too overexposed, the lighting is nice and flat so very easy to work with.
I’m not going to go too much into detail about how I edit photographs because that could be a post in itself as I have lots to say, but generally I brighten the photographs, make the blacks a little bit darker, increase the vibrancy on some of the props (and try and get the products to look as accurate to real life as possible). I really like the tools in Photoshop which you can draw with, such as the Dodge, Sponge and Burn tools, I find this quite a fluid and instinctive way of working, rather than upping and lowering tons of dials. I also skew photos and crop them to make sure everything is in straight lines!
I really hope you found this post useful! I always love creating photography posts, so please let me know if you have any tutorial requests or if you’d like more step-by-steps in the future!