8 Mistakes you should avoid when creating a Flat Lay
8 Mistakes you should avoid when creating a Flat Lay
Have you ever started creating a flat lay for your business, only to discover that you can’t manage to make them look like you had in mind- but you don’t really know what you’re doing wrong?
Today is your lucky day, because in today’s video I will show you the mistakes you need to avoid when creating a flat lay for your business- and what to do instead.
Check Margalida’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqr1HrAj-FA
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
This video is a collaboration with landscape architect Margalida Nadal, who will show you how to arrange flowers in a flat lay so they look their very best. Margalida has an amazing youtube channel with plenty of tips for your garden – so if you speak Spanish, go check it out after this video.
So, what is a flat lay? A flat lay is a photo of a desk or any collection of objects taken with a bird’s eye view- or in other words, from above. Flat, because that’s how all objects look from that view (there’s nothing tri-dimensional no objects out of focus, no background other than the one where the objects lay. They’re very popular on Instagram because they’re relatively easy to take with a phone camera and you don’t need funny lenses to do so.
They look easy- but if you’ve tried to take one yourself you may have realized they’re not so much so. So, to help you out, I’ve compiled the most common mistakes I’ve seen online-so you can avoid them, and simple easy solutions you can put in practice today.
Mistake Number 1: You don’t have a strategy behind your flat lay
This is the number one mistake most people make. Having a strategy means: you know in advance where you want people’s eye to go, what you want them to focus on, what feeling you want to provoke in them when they see your photo and how and where you will be using the photo.
You are a smart ladyboss, you make sure you know this before you begin:
- What do you want to showcase: A product? Lifestyle? Some object you want people to identify with you.
- What feeling do you want to evoke: Fun? Ease? Aspiration? Comfort? Cozyness? Joy?
- How will you use the image ? Will you add text? Will you crop it in several different images? Will you overlay blocks of color?
- What objects that you have around your house speak about you, about who you are, about your values, about what matters to you? Could you add these to your photos?
Taking a few minutes to answer these questions will help you create faster and with ease photos that enchant your customers and grow your business.
Mistake Number 2: You don’t have a clear focal point or you’re not using it correctly.
The biggest mistake. This is when it’s not clear in the photo what you should focus on, or the most important objects are away from the places where the eye is naturally drawn.
You need to decide what you want people to notice FIRST when they see your photo, and place that object in the right place for that to happen.
What’s the right place? Here are a few examples:
Center: The easier one, where the rest of the objects frame the object in question and direct the eye to it.
Rule of thirds: draw two horizontal lines and two vertical imaginary lines in your background and place important objects in the intersection between two lines. Movies and series do this all the time (show framing of Outlander).
ONE NOTE: If you are creating a flat lay with negative or white space where you are planning to add text, consider text your focal point and style accordingly.
Mistake Number 3: There are too many objects distracting from the focal point
I love props. I adore them. Scouting them, buying them, styling with them. But the key with props is to use them STRATEGICALLY, to direct the view and to say things that you can’t say with words. Objects denote luxury, coziness, spirituality, fun, child-like joy, or your heritage..and pretty much anything you want to say, and, as such, are powerful assistants.
But when they clutter the image, they detract from your focal point (and remember, the focal point is what brings sales!) . Cluttered images are overwhelming…and an overwhelmed person won’t buy.
Allow the eyes to rest….and when in doubt, remove until what stays feels just right.
Mistake Number 4: The lines in your flat lay take the eye away from your focal point
Remember those foam hands with pointed fingers that were everywhere in 50’s adds? Or those images of a woman pointing at text?
The objects in your flat lay need to act like those fingers, they need to be like arrows pointing at your focal point.
So here’s what you need to do:
1) Take a look at the shape of the objects you’re planning to include in your flat lay and make sure that they’re directing the eye where you want them to. Example: pen, post its, erasers, spoons.
2): Use hands to draw attention to the most important objects by holding them or framing them
Mistake Number 5: The composition is not balanced
You either have too many objects on one side or none at all. Remember: The Human eye likes symmetry, so unless you’re creating a flat lat to act as a frame or partial border, make sure there’s balance in the number, position and height of your objects…
Which brings me to the next point…
Mistake Number 6: Some objects are out of focus
In a flat lay all objects should look crisp and sharp. You should be able to quickly visualize everything in them- which is why they’re so great to photograph with your phone camera
But in order for all objects to be in focus, you need to take care of two very important things:
1) Have the right camera settings. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, make that your aperture is higher than 4. I shoot flat lays at 7 or above (depending on the lens, the sharpest aperture varies). Lower numbers are great for close ups because they blur the background, but terrible for flat lays.
2) Make sure that all objects have similar heights.
Want to use flowers in your flat lay? Trim them! I cut the stems super tiny and put mine in a small glass of water (the tiny ones from Ikea). And always, always, always, set the focus on the most important object (your focal point).
Mistake Number 7: Whites are not white
This is the trickiest one, especially if you shoot with natural light, from a window that doesn’t reach the floor. Have you ever seen flat lays where objects that were supposed to be white look yellowish or blue?
This problem is called white balance. Some times, it’s easy to fix, sometimes it’s not.
Here’s what to do:
- Adjust white balance in your camera, and use custom white balance. The way this works is you shoot something very white first, so the camera can understand what constitutes pure white and adjusts automatically the color afterwards.
- Adjust white balance in post production. I correct minor color problems in camera raw, for example
- If all the above sound too complicated…choose backgrounds in another color. I promise you, there will be much less to adjust and you can add some personality to your flat lays.
Greys, blues, wood and pink and great options. Look at your brand colors and choose backgrounds that will make your products pop!
Number 8: Your flat lay lacks personality- or has a personality other than your own
You are a business woman, and as such, your flat lays (and all your photos) should promote your business and help you sell. The way to do this is for each and everyone of your photos to contribute to telling your brand story.
They should showcase your brand personality, remind people of who you are, start conversations.
Lots of people fall into the trap of the “luxe lifestyle” photo and end up choosing images that have nothing to do with them, their message or their target audience and end up alienating prospective buyers.
When you choose stock images or create your own, make sure your best friend would recognize YOU in them.
what do you talk about in your blog and social media posts?
What objects remind you of defining moments in your life and career?
What objects could act as anchors of your message and your personality?
What objects reproduce the shape of your logo?
These were the mistakes you need to avoid when creating a flat lay and what to do instead.
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