The November and December theme in our Members program is “Your Story” and we’re looking at different ways to tell our stories. We’ll be sharing some posts in the coming weeks encouraging you to capture your own story this year.
What is a flat lay? Think of a flat lay as a bird’s eye view of a collection of objects, mementos, and/or keepsakes. It’s a way to tell a story with items that would not likely normally be gathered together. You can create your own keepsake flat lay in just a few easy steps.
1. Pick a theme
A few themes that fit this month would be things you’re grateful for or memories of someone you have holiday memories of. Vacation, birthday parties, ages and stages, or the current season are other great ideas. Maybe you want to document a bunch of your kiddos’ artwork (because we just can’t keep it alllll). Flat lay is perfect for that, too! Really, the sky is the limit with themes.
2. Gather your items
As soon as you have your theme, start thinking about the items you’d like to include in your flat lay. Start to visualize how you would like it to work. Try choosing a main item and then supporting items to go with it. It’s okay at this point to gather more items than you will use. You’ll figure out what stays and what goes when you work on arrangement in step 5.
3. Find your light
Natural light will be easiest to work with. A window, your front door, your porch, or even the edge of your garage can be fantastic sources of light.
You’ll need to take a look at where the shadows fall on your objects and decide if you need to adjust your items or the entire flat lay. Shadows are inevitable for the most part and will help add dimension to the objects, but you don’t want such harsh shadows that they distract from your flat lay.
Pro tip – avoid standing between the light and your objects or you’ll cast your own shadow across them.
4. Find your background
The textures and colors of your items might determine what would make the best background. If you have a lot of texture and color represented in your items, you’ll definitely want to have more of a plain background. Other times, a little color or texture in the background can add to your story and really help to add perspective to your items.
Don’t forget that you’ll want to be near some good natural light, so keep that in mind, too.
5. Arrange your items
You can arrange your items however they are pleasing to your eye. You can play with layering, negative space, leading lines, and each item’s coloring.
Not all items have to be completely in the frame. Start with the items most important to you and then use the other items and their placement to draw the eye to it. Do two items clash? Spread them out or pick the most important. Try propping items on one another to add more depth.
Keep in mind how a viewer who doesn’t know the significance of these items would see them. Can they pick out the story?
6. Take the shot
Get up high. Make sure you are high enough so that your camera lens is parallel to the surface. You want to be sure to take your shot from directly over your items and not at an angle. Take your time and preview your shot through the viewfinder. You’ll see if anything needs to be adjusted, if you’ll want to crop your image after you shoot it, and if anything falls too far into the shadows.
Pro tip – if you do any rearranging, take a quick snap with your phone before you do it. It’s so much easier to backtrack to an arrangement that was almost perfect if you have a reference point.
Remember that your flat lay doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay if your angle isn’t quite right or your arrangement isn’t quite what you hoped. You’ll be so glad that you gave it a try!