BLOG | 5 Tips for Prettier Flatlays #NaBloPoMo

It's November which means mustaches for Movember, Remembrance Day, getting ready for the holidays and of course, National Blogging Post Month or more affectionately known as #NaBloPoMo. I thought about doing this last year, but my current average of 17-20 posts per month is already quite the struggle for me so doing 31 will prove challenging, but what I have decided to do to fully embrace and become one with #NaBloPoMo is to talk about other areas of interest. This is when I wish I was FAR more interesting and could give you a glimpse into my secret life as an exotic dancer or part-time pirate, but alas that is not the case and you will have to settle for my relatively PG-13 life.

I thought I would kick this off with some flatlay tips that I have learned on my own and from other bloggers over the years! Far be it from me to give advice about anything blogging-related as I have often felt that someone else always does it better, but after seven years I can safely say that I have learned a few things about taking photos and have accepted the fact that there will always be people with better photography than I and that that is perfectly alright! If there weren't people to learn from constantly, there would be nothing to strive for and I never want to feel like I am plateauing or bored with this space I treasure so much.

Let's start by establishing one thing - I am a terrible photographer from an artistic perspective. I have poor spatial abilities and everything "artistic" I do comes down to a well-practiced formulaic methodology. I learn by watching someone else, use that as my baseline "formula" and merely swap out the variables so if "a + b = the perfect photo" where a = an object of a certain type or value I know then as long as I stick to the requirements the result *should be* a decent photo. Maybe not the most inspired, but aesthetically, it should not look like a train wreck.

1. Eliminate Shadows 

If you do not have the luxury of space or evenly placed natural daylight, something to provide more light will be your friend. A light reflector was recommended to me by Gerry from PBunnieP because my corner apartment faces away from sunlight and has a large tree on the corner which blocks quite a bit of light. I had been taking photos on the patio which I still do if the weather is tolerable, but when it rains or gets cold, it gets REALLY uncomfortable being outside.

Taking photos inside means that light enters in just one direction, BUT it can be bounced with a reflective surface so that the bottom of your photos will not be dark. I used to see tons of beauty photos with product photographed right next to a window with great lighting, but darkness underneath the product because no light was being reflected back.

I got this light reflector from Amazon and selected the 80cm option for around $20. For a homemade  option, I also use posterboard covered in aluminum foil especially for close-up shots. The foil option also makes a scary noise that will scare the cats away when they walk all over your products!

2. Choose items of similar depth

I think this rule can be broken when it comes to being artistic, but I struggled with this concept when I first started trying to take photos of product collections with jars, standing lipsticks etc. You can see in the first photo that everything in the photo is the same height except for that jar of moisturizer in the corner. In this case, the blurriness was intended, but you can see that the height of the jar created a shadow that my reflector wasn't able to overcome.

If you really have to have products of different heights in the shot, the other tip I picked up was to zoom out far enough so that all the items appear at the same depth. In the second photo, my main focal point is the Glamglow mask which is higher than everything else in the photo, but if I zoom out enough, everything looks like it's relatively the same depth.

3. Build a border around your central item or theme

This is not for everyone as this is where artistry comes in, but I have a BRUTAL time with flatlays. Once I started getting paid opps for Instagram-only campaigns, I realized I needed to up my game and learn some tricks. I was reading a photo styling post at MakeupSavvy and took away this much needed piece of advice - fill in the corners of your photo with props/product and build a border around your main item. I have found that once my 9 x 13 photo has followed this rule, my Instagram photo also works when I crop the photo to a square like in the Clove & Hallow photo below compared to its Instagram sister here.

If creating a border is a bit overwhelming, I have also found that off-centering the products also works like with this VDL product shot.

4. Include other products from the same brand

Not sure what items you have to build your flatlay? Use makeup or skincare from the same brand to create a beautifully mono-branded photo! The focus of the above photo was the Lolita Lipstick and though this was at the beginning of my journey of flatlay photo-taking, I realized that if I didn't feel like digging for props, I could just use other KVD products to fill the space! The same principle is followed for this review I did of the Sephora Collection JGoldcrown Brushes as  I had quite a bit of Sephora product on hand.

5. Use sticky tack

This tip was given to me by Chelsea of Olive and Ivy  to stop items from rolling away or rolling so you cannot see the brand. Never before have I been so aware of how bottles or lipsticks are weighted! I use the Elmer's Glue brand that I picked up from Amazon here, but any brand should work. If you photograph on top of fabric, there is usually enough grit to hold a cylindrical item from rolling in any other direction than what you initially place it in, but on a smooth surface like a floor or posterboard, sticky tack has kept my haircare, skincare and lipsticks from moving every which way!

These have been the most useful tips I have gathered in the last year or two and with the rise of Instagram and photos have become more than just having clear photo, but one that has a bit of personality too. I don't think my photos are the best, but if you struggle with product placement in photos like I do, I hope you find these tips helpful! 

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