Flatlays. I remember my unofficial attempts during my undergraduate Architecture School in Shah Alam, where I used to take pictures of food from an aerial view every time we go out to celebrate after hectic and no-life project submissions. We didn’t use camera phones back then, it was those digital cameras or DSLR’s. We even took pictures of ourselves from above (bird’s eye view/aerial view is what Architecture students call it); it was about snapping pictures of life instead of lifestyle, which is what I believe flatlays have evolved into.
Flatlays got serious for me a couple of years back when I used to join EVERY.SINGLE.FLATLAY.CONTEST by the dUckscarves. Although I’ve never worn, but my efforts have made it a few times on their Instagram, so that was partly made it in life for me -..-
Flatlay is a seriously expensive hobby to upkeep, so previously I had also explored iPhone Apps such as collages where you can pick items and add them to create a mood board. I’ve also experimented Polyvore where it’s kind of an OOTD flatlay or concept board, but none is as authentic and experiential satisfying like sweating as hell while snapping the umpteenth shoot, standing on a chair at Starbucks for the perfect depth for your shot, waiting for the perfect time of day to capture the perfect lighting, or pain in the ass cleaning after yourself and the mess you’ve made by scattering everything on the floor for all the items you thought you might need for the shoot.
Oh the drama. Unless you’re really passionate about it or repositioning/marketing your brand, flatlay really is the way to go. It’s really pretty and makes you want to have it; just like cupcakes, even though you prolly (read;me) don’t eat so much sugar, but once you see a cupcakes (especially in flatlays or a row of them), you’re tempted to buy and take one bite atleast 😀
So, let’s get down to business shall we 😀 The basic steps to master before you evolve, grow and own your flatlay skills! :3
White, Black, Slate, Marble, Grass, Sand are the normal backgrounds chosen for flatlays, but you are free to experiment. A busy background has to be balanced with a minimal items, and a plain (and aforementioned backgrounds) can be spiced up with many more elements and items. Be sure of your direction/story/concept (explained at No.3)
Might be the hardest to nail and requires perfect surrounding, but with practice you’ll find the perfect lighting for you. Usually natural/outdoor lighting is the best as it helps maintain the original colour of the product/items
This will help you to plan items that can be included in the frame. Too many items contradicting will make your concept messy and unrelatable. This is also one of the points that will make your flatlay different than the rest. We all could have the same story, but how you arrange yours in a flatlay and the items you include are what makes it unique 🙂
Should you wish to have a mix and match of many things, similar colour palettes will help bind and glue your concept together. Even the quirkiest items are toned down if they are in the same colour scheme/palette. A colour palette could define your whole story/concept too. Contrast and complimenting colours could also be experimented.
My favourite part of the whole exercise, and I love emphasizing on composition when I used to tutor Undergraduate Architecture Studio at Universiti Malaya. There are many types of composition, and the key is balance. Whether you introduce a breather space, an organized chaos or lay a grid of items, this will dictate on how the overall frame will look like. The goal is to be pleasing to the eye, and not be an eyesore. If you have no idea what kind of composition to start off with, try copying some you’ve seen on the #flatlay hashtag and you’ll master the art of composition with enough practice!
Have a go and have fun! Nothing is as easy as it looks 😉