Umm... What the heck is a flatlay?



While I have no idea who coined this term - and if a "true" definition even exists, I do know that killing the art of a flatlay, can elevate your insta-game, to a new level. As a content-creator or small business owner, flatlays are your way to tell pieces of your story, visually. Are you a freelance illustrator? Take us into your workday by creating a small flatlay of your workspace. A style-blogger? Give your readers a look at some of your recent buys before they hit the blog. A hair-care brand? Show off those new products you launched last week! As a photographer, I love using flatlays as another way to showcase my photogrpahy skills! 

Let's dive into my top seven tips on how you can create an EPIC flatlay:

001. Research and Develop your style. 

For me, stepping up my flatlay game meant figuring out what I wanted my images to look like. I definitely consider myself a 'modern minimalist'. I tend to gravitate toward clean and simple images, but with a modern kick. Over the years I've researched the way my favorite bloggers, photographers, etc. do things and found a way to incorporate the things I admire from them, while making it my own. 

Defining your style is something that will develop over time. However, you probably have an idea of what you like and perhaps have reference images embedded in your mind. Screenshot images you love, study them and figure out what you like about them and then try to make it your own. 

002. Step your prop game up. 

If you're lucky enough to have the lavish lifestyle that looks like a board straight out of Pinterest, then you can skip to step 003. For the rest of us, that need a little help getting the style we want, a shopping trip is in order. My style relies heavily on light colored backdrops. I use large white foambaord that can be purchased at Target or Walmart for about $3. Other times I use marble contact paper to simulate a marble countertop, which I get from Home Depot or Amazon ($10). Beyond the backdrops, I like having a lot of miscellaneous items to toss into my flatlay. Flowers, jewelry, beauty products, magazines, newspapers, notebooks, etc. Anything that speaks to the style and the theme I have in mind. Need more prop suggestions? Download my free flatlay shopping list

003. Setting it up. 

This is the fun part, arranging your flatlay. Once you know the look you're going for and have the items you need, it's time to start arranging things. I recommend starting with a central item and then building from there. Do you want to showcase a new read you've purchased? That's your central item. Let's say the theme is "Summer Reading."  Let's add some items to push the "summer" story. Add a stylish pair of sunnies. A glass of your favorite summer drink. A cute summer pouch. Toss in your cell phone, a small bowl of fresh fruit or a few small pieces of jewelry. Small little details like this really push your story! I tend to have one or two large items, and then add smaller items to give it balance. You can elect to lay out the items in a structured and uniform fashion like this or you can lay it out in a more "natural" way like this. I like ther natural look. Almost as if I haphazardly snapped a photo in mid-read. There are so many ways you can lay the items out, just have fun with it!

004. The Gear

There are hundreds of cameras on the market and while I'll save my recommendations for a different post, these tips can apply to anyone with a camera phone. Sometimes I'll put out my DSLR (Canon 6D) and my 24-70mm lens for images meant for my site or blog to ensure super high quality. For the sake of this post, we're talking instagram images and majority of those are taken with my trusty iPhone 6. The lens on this thing is pretty amazing and produces some crystal clear images. 


005. Taking the shot

Crispness is the number one goal for me. Before digging into apps, it starts with how I take the picture. Despite what phone you use my number one tip is to always, always wipe the lens with your shirt or cloth to remove dust or fingerprints. Smudges or dust cause foggy looking images, and unless you're able to pull it off creatively, you really don't want that. The next step for crispness is auto-focus. I only have iPhone experience, but most smartphones give you the ability to tap the screen over the item you want to focus on. In our  Summer Reading" scenario, the focus point is your new book. With the iPhone, you can "lock" this focus point, by tapping and holding your focus spot. This ensures that even with a shaky hand the probability of a blurry photo is reduced. 

006. Edit that sh!t

This is where you take a good photo to epic status. You can do a light touch up if you're into the bare minimal look, or you can go really hard and pass that baby through 5 or more apps. I've seen some crazy instagram editing processes. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd say my process is about a 3. I live for two simple apps, VSCO and SNAPSEED. I use VSCO to apply my filter first (usually A6 or S2) and SNAPSEED to adjust details with sharpening, contrast and highlights. Runner-ups are FACETUNE for smoothing rough areas or TOUCHRETOUCH for removing those spots or even unwanted items. You can check out this post, for a step-by-step guide on how I edit my instagram photos!

007. Save high. 

Saving your images as large as you can helps to retain the sharpness. If it's an image taken with my DSLR, before I begin editing, I transfer the photo to my iPhone via 'Airdrop' to ensure the highest quality. In VSCO you can save the image as 'actual size', which I personally do, and SNAPSEED automatically saves all images in high-resolution. For me, these extra steps toward working with a high quality image, give my photos the sharpness that I admire.

And there you have it! 7 tips toward an epic flatlay! If you happen to put any of these tips to work, let me know how they work for you! You can find me online @7thstreetstudio, on twitter and instagram and FB /7thStreetStudioLLC.