How to Make Your Flat Lays Look Natural
The formula to a natural looking flat lay that makes sense and evokes curiosity to the viewer is exactly like forming a well written sentence. Think beyond what you see being used over and over again in flat lays (i.e. ribbons, ring boxes, invitations, coffee cups) and tell a story with your objects instead of simply adding elements that may or may not make sense for the sake of adding them.
1. Choose your subject first.
2. Complement your subject with “verb” and “adjective” items that relate to the subject and define it, making sure to stay in the color scheme and overall look of the flat lay.
3. Always ask if an object you’re putting into your flat lay makes logical sense to the viewer. It can be put there for the sake of pretty only, but it should still make sense and should not be completely out of place. For instance, ribbons are pretty and can frame a flat lay nicely, but simply using a ribbon because it’s the only thing you can think of may not make sense to the viewer and often looks poorly thought out.
4. Always, always, always choose balance and symmetry over random placement of objects.
In these first 2 photos, I kept the number of components simple to allow the flowers to bring all the impact. By looking for different frames within this one flat lay I was able to make several photos that have different focal points. I made sure each item made sense for the narrative the photo needs to tell, and in the second photo I added the second book subtly but purposely to show the word garden. Notice how I did not add ribbons or other textiles. I feel they would have distracted the viewer from the beauty and texture of the flowers and would have been unnecessary.
I did these flat lays specifically to showcase these fun spoons, but I wanted it to make sense to the viewer, so I added food and other dining related items. I did 3 different versions of this flat lay, playing with colors and materials to get a balanced image. Read through the whole blog post to see a video tutorial that goes more in depth on how and why I did the first image.
You don't need a lot of elements to create an interesting flat lay. These music sheets can be used in many different ways and don't need a lot of other pieces cluttering up the frame. I used a tray to separate the sheets from each other and add a hint of texture, flowers to give a little bit of color and more texture, and a magnifying glass to give some interest. Though someone may not be using a magnifying glass while playing music, it makes enough sense that the viewer doesn't need to question why it's there.
This fern themed flat lay has layers that allow your eye to travel over the frame without getting overwhelmed. The scissors make sense because they were actually used to cut the ferns, and the moss was found with the ferns, adding to the layers of texture while keeping in the same color family.
The theme of this flat lay is very obvious, and each component is well chosen to tell a story about what's in the drink, nothing more. No need for ribbons or items that don't match the theme. This flat lay is the perfect product shot and feels like the drink was literally just made for me, the viewer, to enjoy it right away.
Photography by Taken by Sarah Photography, Styling by Taken by Sarah Photography and Blue Ladder Botany