If you follow me on Instagram (or if you’ve checked out my gallery) then you’ll know I am a big fan of flat laid images (if you haven’t and are new to this blog then go have a squiz and then find out what a flat lay is here). I love how easy it is to tell a story with this technique. I participate in a photo-a-day challenge on Instagram and most of my photos are prompted. The prompts give me a story (much like a client would) and then I go and find a way to tell that story with props, styling and composition.
In my post 5 tips for the perfect flat lay I mentioned that composition is key and that it isn’t always east to get right. Well, as promised, I’m going to share 5 flat lay compositional ideas that you can practise and master. Which one you use depends on your props, your personal style and your preference.
1. The Grid
I LOVE a gridded flat lay. Essentially you line up your items parallel to the sides of your frame and square them up (this is where the tip on shooting square and having your grid lines displayed on your phone helps immensely). The lines in your image are all horizontal and vertical, the outside edges of your objects create a square, with space between them and around them. It takes a whole lot of patience and is a great way to learn to slow down, be deliberate and “see” your compostion.
2. Controlled Chaos
I also love this technique and it is probably my most used flat lay composition style. The objects may look like they’ve just been dropped on the desk but they have all been deliberately placed. The key to making this “lifestyle look” work is balance. If some objects are cropped by the edge of your frame then make sure one on the opposite side is cropped too (or very close to the edge). Spread the objects out so there isn’t too much crowding and mix up larger and smaller items. The same goes with colours. Try not to make one object too dominant over the others. There of course can be a focus piece (as there is when I am shooting a product, the product becomes the key to the image) so choose and place items that complement it rather than pull focus from it.
3. The Combination
This is for you if the Grid feels too stiff and the Chaos feels too chaotic. There is some element of a grid, most of the objects are parallel to each other, but they aren’t square to the frame. This has a more dynamic feel to it with the items free to be cropped at the edges of the image and more space between them. If you are going to the trouble of lining up a gridded flat lay, after you’ve got your shots I would definitely recommend changing your angle, moving a few objects around and trying this technique too. (And by changing your angle I mean actually shifting your body or your feet… you don’t need to realign all your objects!)
Your image doesn’t have to be crowded to be effective. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes you can get your story or idea across clearer with something much simpler. The use of negative space (more nothing than something in your image) is a way to draw attention and focus to your subject. As with the other techniques you will still need to create balance. This won’t necessarily be an object in opposite corners like I have used here, but maybe a collection of 3 objects in one corner or a focus piece in the centre with even space around it.
Last but not least is a framed arrangement. Here you leave a space in the center of the image and place your objects to the sides with some of them being cropped. (If you do have a hero piece you could also place that in the centre and have your supporting props spaced around it.) This is a great composition to try if you want to add some text to make a graphic as I have below.
So, there you have it. Five effective ways to create impact with your flat lay. Have a practice with some of these and let me know how you go! Tag me on Instagram @heyhey_itsaj or post a link to your shot in the comments below.
If you want to know more about flat lays, how to master them and how to take better photos with your phone don’t forget about the Photography and Social Media Masterclass that’s on tomorrow at One Brighton in Mandurah. There’s only 2 spots left! Event details and tickets are here or drop me a line for more information.