Creating a flat lay photo is one of the easiest ways to take your Instagram from “nice” to “are you a production designer? This looks like it was in Vogue.” Whether you want to create some sweet ads for your small business or up your personal branding game, we’ll take you through all the steps to creating the perfect flat lay design.
1. Get inspired
If you’re not sure where to get started, or what direction you wanna take, we suggest browsing Pinterest or Instagram with the #flatlay to get an idea of what looks you like. Check out these styles for some ~extra~ inspo.
2. Assemble your props
What’s the theme of your flat lay? Maybe you’re running a beauty blog and the answer is super straightforward (cosmetics!) or maybe you’re going for something a little less concrete (like trying to capture the feeling of excitement before an impending journey). Whatever you’re going for, keep your theme in mind while selecting your props so you end up with a cohesive look.
Pick a lot of props (more than you would conceivably use) so that you can swap things in and out while you’re composing your shot. Also, try to pick objects of varying sizes and shapes in order to create visual interest. Lastly, it helps to have a color palette in mind while you’re picking your props—the color coordination adds to the overall polish.
3. Grab an extra pair of hands
Some of our favorite flat lay designs look more “candid” because they include people (or, more accurately, body parts). If you want to create a look that has a sense of movement and action, consider enlisting the help of a friend/hand model. It’ll be way easier/less impossible than trying to pose and photograph yourself.
4. Pick a background
When choosing a background, it’s best to keep things simple. A plain white background works well because it won’t distract from your props, but you can also pick a neutral like a wood floor or table. If you want to use a colored background, you can get crafty by taping some matte wrapping paper to a floor or table. Or, consider investing in some vinyl backdrops to easily create a rustic look.
5. Compose your shot
Now that you have all your props and your background, it’s time to get organized. Set up next to a window and try to shoot in the morning or late afternoon, when you’ll get the best light. Try not to use a flash, as this is going to create shadows.
When setting up your shot, leave a little bit of space between each object. This will help highlight each prop and keep your shot from looking cluttered. Create balance in your photo by mixing smaller objects with larger objects and placing objects of similar colors on both sides of the image.
If you want to post this photo to Instagram, a square layout will look really nice. If you’re shooting with your phone, it’s easy to set up a shot by picking the square setting in your camera.
6. Leave space for text and graphics
You might want to leave some space where you can add text or overlays in post production. If you’re creating an ad, this is where you can add your brand name and logo. Or if you’re going for a more inspirational look, you can stick in a quote.
7. Shoot from above
Climb up on a ladder or step stool and get shooting. Creating distance between you and the flat lay will help you fit everything into the shot. This is also one of the only ways to ensure that your photo really looks flat.
Once you’re up there, take a few test shots and don’t be afraid to keep moving props around until it looks just right. When you have your perfect shot, it’s time to get editing.
8. Work some basic editing magic
You might have a good photo, but there are a few simple edits you can make to seriously up the wow factor.
To make these edits in PicMonkey, start by opening your photo in the Editor:
- From the homepage, hover over Edit and choose your photo’s location from the storage options that display in the gray bar. Your photo will open in the Editor.
- If you haven’t done so already, you can easily crop your photo into a square by clicking Crop and selecting Square from the drop-down menu. Drag the crop into place and click Apply.
- Go to the Colors tool and adjust the Saturation slider to make your colors pop. Click Apply when it looks just right.
- Hop over to the Exposure tool and adjust the Contrast slider to either brighten up your image or make it a little more sultry. When you’re done, click Apply.
- Finally, go into Sharpen and adjust the Sharpness slider to bring everything into focus. Apply it and you’re all done with basic edits.
If you want a one-click solution, you can also try out the Auto adjust button at the top of the Basic Edits tab. If you don’t love the results, just click the Undo button in the bottom toolbar.
9. Add text and overlays
If you left space in your image for some text and overlays, this is the time to add them.
To add text:
- Go to the Text tab (the uppercase and lowercase “T”).
- Pick a font and click Add text at the top of the tab.
- If you want to use a font from your computer, just click Yours.
- Type your words and then drag the text box over to the blank space in your photo.
- Turn the top handle to rotate the text, and pull the corner handles to adjust its size.
- Use the Text palette to adjust the color, fade, and add any text effects.
To add overlays:
- Go to the Overlays tab (the butterfly icon).
- Add one of our overlays by clicking it, or add your own by clicking the Add your own button.
- Drag the overlay over the blank space.
- Turn the top handle to rotate and pull the corner handles to adjust your overlay’s size.
- Use the Overlay palette to adjust the color, fade, and blend modes.
When you’re done, click Save in the top toolbar, or add your image to Hub.
10. Post it and bask in the glory of your social media savvy
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the shiny glow of all your newly acquired likes.
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