Product styling is a fun and creative way to play around with colour, tone, texture and photography while communicating your personal style to your audience/clientele - it is also a great way to educate yourself in styling, creative direction and branding in an accessible, easy way. The beauty of creating a flatlay is that you can do it by yourself at home, there is no need for a tripod, a photographer buddy or a great location plus you only need to utilize the things you have on hand to create a great image. Whether you are an aspiring stylist, online retailer, makeup artist, influencer, blogger or just a creative person, developing your flatlay skills will be of great benefit to your branding.
A white background is the best way to make a flatlay pop. Anything fussy will ruin the photo and detract from the items you are showcasing. To decide on a background it is important to understand your branding. Minimalists are best to stick to clean white backgrounds whereas someone with quite feminine branding can use a cream fluffy blanket for a soft, luxe feel. Something with a bohemian branding might like a softly printed mat. It is important to find a background which suits your style but is fuss free to ensure the product does the talking and it doesn't look like a big mess.
Unless your lucky enough to have studio lighting, it can be quite difficult to achieve a strong white background on a flatlay. I shoot my flatlays on my bed which is covered in a bright white cover but I still find the pictures come out quite dull. To get the lighting right I go extreme on the contrast. I put my highlight up to 100% and drop the shadow down to about minus 30-40%. This makes the image pop. Try to shoot in bright, natural lighting with minimal shadow - this is difficult and often means shooting next to a window and literally standing on a chair to achieve the "from above" angel without any product shadow.
BEFORE & AFTER EXAMPLE
I stick to black, white, grey, neutral and denim because this reflects my Instagram feed and the colours which I associate with my branding. You will likely have a colour scheme which you are naturally drawn to and is reflected in your Instagram feed, your website, your wardrobe or even the interior of your home. Familiarize yourself with your colour palette and start thinking about this in more depth. Every brand needs strong associations, this is what your audience/clientele think of when they hear or read your name - this is all built around branding ie fonts, logo, colour palette etc. Play around with different colours before shooting your flatlays and you will quickly workout which colours compliment each other and which work for you.
Also consider whether you want warm or cool imagery. It is amazing how much we as humans are affected by warm and cool colours and lighting. The emotion and feelings attached to warm and cool are endless but generally, warm colours such as pink, peach, beige and tan bring about happiness; the softness is associated with luxury femininity whereas cool colours such as bright white, silver, blue, forrest green and black will feel bold, clean fresh and clinical. Colour theory is an entire study in itself but the basics are usually fairly obvious. The impact of colour should never be underestimated.
In art, negative space is widely referred to - it is deeply important in creating visual balance and harmony. This rule applies to a good flatlay too - ensure there is space around your product, pay attention to the layout of your contents - is there room around each object, are there larger and smaller elements which balance each other out? A chunky pair of shoes will be offset with a small pair of sunglasses, a large magazine or book can be offset with a small makeup compact etc.
Select products which photograph well from above, think anything flat, easy to fold or monochromatic. If your items are too large or stand quite high you will lose the entire "flatlay" concept. Certain items which work well are clutches, magazines, books, sunglasses, makeup compacts, lip glosses, perfume bottles, bralettes, flowers, jeans, t-shirts and jewellery. Try different items out and you will soon work out which lay well and which are too bulky/messy.
When done well, flatlays are a great way to break up your Instagram feed, can be a good way to hone your skills in product styling and fine tune your branding or style. The most important thing when creating a flatlay is to have fun with the creative process, try different things, take loads of photos and enjoy playing with your favourites things!