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Flat lay photos are styled images shot directly overhead. They are an intriguing way to tell the story you want to convey about your product. This technique can also be used to give your audience a peek into your day by showing items on your desk or in your makeup bag.

Simplicity is often key to a flat lay photo, but don’t be afraid to experiment and explore different layouts.

How to Style a Flat Lay Product Photo | Studio oe Photo

Setting the Right Vibe

Before styling the shot, you must first decide on the story you want to tell. This story will set the tone for your photo. 

What emotion do you want your potential buyers to feel when they see the image? If your product is a candle, do you want your audience to imagine themselves relaxed while enjoying a bath, cozy at home on a dark winter’s night, or even a feeling of passionate romance.

Consider styling these moods:

  • Minimalist
  • Light and Airy
  • Vibrant and Colorful
  • Cozy and Rustic

Color selection will play a part in creating the mood. It’s possible you will want to keep with your brand colors, which is a great idea if you are trying to create unity throughout your social media platforms. Just remember that color evokes emotion. If you’re aiming for the relaxed bath scene, try using pops of sea green or light peach in your composition. Going for warm and cozy? Consider using the colors of fire – earthy reds, oranges, and yellows.

Choosing the Background

The key to choosing a background is to pick something that compliments your subject. It is the foundation of your visual narrative. Solid colors work well, as do subtle textures.

Consider these backgrounds to begin styling your image:

  • Basic White
  • Classic Granite or Marble
  • Soft Fabric
  • Faux Fur
  • Sleek Metal
  • Rough Wood

Prop Selection

Flat lay photos often include a variety of props. These props should enhance the overall story you’re telling. Start with your main subject, then build the story using supporting elements.

For example, if your product is a seafoam colored candle, you might add seashells, a small bottle of sea salts, and a white fluffy towel. The candle alone doesn’t tell the whole story, the additional props remind us of how lovely a relaxing bath can be.

Add visual interest by including different sized props with a variety of textures, keeping in mind your color palette and intended vibe.

Consider these props when styling your flat lay:

  • Natural – potted plant, rocks, pinecone, flowers, leaves
  • Stationary – open book, journal, handwritten note, pens, paperclips
  • Food – mugs, silverware, coffee beans, desserts
  • Accessories – sunglasses, jewelry, charms
  • Beauty – eye shadow palette, makeup brushes, essential oils, perfume bottle
  • Tech – laptop, keyboard, mouse, earbuds, cell phone, smartwatch
  • Game – dice, playing cards, poker chips
  • Party – confetti, lollipop, balloon, party hat, mini mirror ball
  • Misc – blanket, ribbon, letter tiles

Styling the Image

The most important aspects of styling a flat lay photo are the composition and lighting.

Composition is all about how you arrange the elements to create a visually pleasing and balanced image. A well composed flat lay draws your audience into the story. Experiment with different arrangements. Move your chosen props around and add depth to the scene. Try stacking or overlapping items. Larger items can be placed partially out of the shot.

Things to keep in mind when composing the image:

  • Final Image Size – Is the final image a 9:16 vertical shot? Horizontal? Square?
  • Negative Space – In a flat lay, the white space is important. Consider the spacing between props and aim for a balance that allows your subject to be the focal point.

Play around with these layout techniques:

  • Rule of Thirds – Strategically place your subject ⅓ of the way into the frame of your image
  • Leading Lines – Position props to direct the viewer’s eye to your subject, such as in a diagonal or triangle
  • Curved Placement – Lay out props to create a curved shape, such as a “C”, “S”, or spiral

Lighting transforms the overall mood of your image by playing with light and shadow. Flat Lays are often shot with soft, indirect light creating a pleasing, calming image. But, don’t be afraid to think outside the flat lay box and explore creatively with light.

Consider using light in these ways:

  • For a soft shadow, use white foam core or reflectors to bounce the light
  • To add drama, use a bright artificial light directed at your subject
  • To create a warm feeling, try shooting with natural light during the golden hours

It’s Time to Shoot

After all the time spent styling, it’s finally time to take your photos. The only rule here is to get above your layout and take the photo looking straight down. Ideally, you will use the best camera you have – whether that’s a DSLR, point and shoot, or cell phone. Heck, I’d use a GoPro or underwater camera if those were my only options. Don’t let the tech part get in the way of your fun flat lay photo shoot.

Studio oe strives to create a welcoming space where you can be creative and productive.

Call today at 971-297-1444 to schedule a visit or book a tour online. We can’t wait to meet you!

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