Early Spring is the perfect time for creating floral flatlays. It’s a style of photography I love for Instagram. A top down look at what’s on the table and a different perspective from a still life. I love the creativity aspect, building a picture with objects to achieve a cohesive look and tell a story. There are more flowers popping up in the garden and it can be a quiet hour absorbed in creative therapy, making something for the the shear joy of designing an image. Instagram is full of beautiful flatlays and people make it look so easy. Yes, it can be with practice ,but sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start.
Where to start?
So many elements make up a flatlay that is pleasing to the eye and engaging for the viewer. I always start with the backdrop. Wooden table top or scaffolding planks or floor boards are my favourites. Ideally something non reflective, but anything goes if it makes you happy. I often use a vinyl backdrop from Capture By Lucy Just make sure that the backdrop is big enough and there is plenty of space around all the elements because you will be taking the photo from above.
Which light is best?
I love this style of photography in Winter or Spring because you are more likely to have flat, even light with cloud cover. This is the best kind of light. You want to place yourself near a window or door, but don’t want any harsh light with dramatic contrast which can often be found in the summer months. You need the light to be spread evenly across the image and this is where a reflector can be useful. The above image was taken in a greenhouse on a cloudy day. No need for a reflector here as there was good even light naturally diffused across the image. Make sure there are no overhead lights or lamps on in the room which could cause shadow and unattractive reflections.
You need to consider how the image will crop and don’t want to be too close to the subject otherwise you won’t get a feeling of depth. You can use the grid feature on your Iphone/camera to make sure everything is aligned as you want it.
Neutral backgrounds work best so that your main subject can stand out. Old books are a favourite of mine.
I quite like showing a table top and chair. It gives a sense of place which is why hands in the frame work really well. It can be quite tricky to get your own hands in the photo if you are the one taking it without a tripod, boom and self timer. I have to confess, I don’t rig that kind of set up very often unless it’s for a client and prefer to stand on a stepladder with my camera handheld.
Which camera settings are best?
This entirely depends on what kind of look you are going for and what camera and lens you have. Do you want to use a narrow DOF so that everything is in sharp focus or do you want to highlight a subject and use a shallow DOF. This will allow in more light which is good if you haven’t got the tripod out. I never go below F4 though for shots like these. The Iphone is perfect for taking a flatlay with its wide angle lens (I have an Iphone 8plus). You can hold the phone steadily and the default settings built in to the camera work really well for top down shots. I wouldn’t use the portrait mode for this kind of photography. I always do a test shot with my Iphone to make sure the layout and light are working well before using my DSLR.
Spring is a lovely time to add all the details that anchor the image to the season such as abandoned birds nests, eggs (chocolate pastel coated ones are a favourite or quails eggs), decorative birds and butterflies, pocket books, cards, cups, blossom and twiggy stems.
Here I used a shallow depth of field. The roses on the book are in sharp focus because they were the hero flowers for the shoot. Everything else is softer.
This style of displaying flowers is one of my favourites. It really allows each stem to have its moment and a beautiful way of displaying seasonal groupings and colours.
Roses look particularly good from above so that you can see their individual forms and shapes.
With the start a new season often comes a burst of new energy and I do hope you are going to have some fun experimenting with new ways of floral photography. As always let me know if you have any questions.