Flat Lay Tips to Perfect Your Instagram Account

10 July 2018
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*This post is sponsored by Panasonic

With the Instagram algorithm constantly changing, the struggle to grow your following is tougher than ever (read more about my love/hate relationship with Instagram here). As Facebook (and consequently Instagram) try to give their users more of what they love, their focus has shifted to the quality of content users offer to their following. Add into this the obvious fact that the stronger your content is the more likely people will follow and like your pictures, you have a strategy for success. But improving your Instagram images isn’t as easy as it sounds, so let’s take this one step at a time – starting with flat lays. To put it simply, flat lays are images taken of a collection of objects from above. Not only have they become one of the most popular types of Instagram image but they are also some of the most popular images on my account. So keep reading for my favourite flat lay tips…

The best tools for the job

Ever heard the saying ‘a bad workman blames his tools’ well when it comes to photography sometimes bad tools are to blame. You could be the best photographer in the world but if your image is grainy or pixelated it can ruined. Look for a digital camera with a high megapixel and the ability to change exposure and shutter speed. The Panasonic Mirrorless 12-60mm Lens Camera is a great option if you have the budget, as it has 30k optical zoom, 4K photo and video all in a compact design making it perfect for a variety of uses not just taking flat lays. 

Background focus

While the background is not the main focus of your flat lay, it is the foundation of your photo. I always opt for a light, white surface as this is non offensive and won't distract from the focus of the image. Don’t worry if you don’t have a white floor or table for your flat lays, simply lay a towel or white bed sheets on a flat surface and you have your background. This also allows you to move your white material around your house to find the best lighting. 

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Lighten up

As with all photography, lighting is the most crucial part of creating the perfect flat lay. I use natural lighting in all of my photography as I find it gives the best results without the need for lots of editing. But for natural lighting to work you need to consider a couple of things:
  • Time of the day - as the light changes throughout the day it will have different impacts on your image. At midday the sun is at its brightest and this may lead to your image being overexposed. Sunset (or the magic hour) can create beautiful soft lighting in images but can often have an orange tint resulting in the need to alter white balance. During the evening (or on a dark cloudy day) there is no light meaning you won’t be able to see your image. 
  • Positioning – it could be lovely and light outside but if you’re in a dark room you won’t benefit from it. Position yourself close to a window to maximise your lighting.
  • Shadows – Depending on your positioning and the time of the day you can sometimes get quite harsh shadows in your images, especially if the light is coming from behind your objects. To avoid this try repositioning yourself or use a white piece of card to reflect the light onto the shadows. 

Less isn’t always more

Some of my favourite flat lays have to be the ones crammed full of products and objects but they still somehow manage to look beautiful rather than a mess. To make this work, vary the size of the objects you are arranging and fill bare gaps with ribbons, petals or confetti. Also layer textures and objects such as magazines and patterned fabrics to break up your white background. 

Colour co-ordinate 

A huge part of Instagram is how your profile looks with all of your images sitting together. Most people try to make this look more co-ordinating by having a ‘theme’. The easiest way I do this is through adding little accents of colour into my images to ensure they all co-ordinate. For example in the above images I have added hints of red through the strawberries on the pancakes and the rose petals. By keeping the rest of the image black and white and then adding this pop of colour means that they sit together nicely on my Instagram page. I have also done the same with the below images by adding a pop of pink. I will consistently use one colour in at least 6 of my images before gradually transitioning to a new colour if I want to change the look of my feed.  

Practice makes perfect

Flat lays may look easy but sometimes it can be hard to get them to look ‘right’. Take your time, moving different objects and adding bits or taking away items that don’t quite look right. With a bit of trial and error you will finally find the perfect arrangement to take your photo. 

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What are your tips for the perfect Instagram flat lay?

Eleanor xx
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