Thursday, December 3, 2015

DIY Flat Lays for CHEAP!!!

OK, so I was in a Facebook group yesterday, answering questions, like I do. No, that's all I do. I never post my own questions. I try to post my blog posts in the promotion threads, but sometimes I don't even do that. I'm just a super friendly lurker who answers any question I can.

Anyway, girls were talking about flat lays...where you lay stuff out on a surface and photograph from above. They were talking about consistency in Instagram feeds and you know, like what do you do when you don't live in the tropics and can't photograph the sun and palm trees every day? There was a lot of IG conversation happening, and I sent one of the girls a private message chock FULL of photographic information. And then I thought, why not make a blog?

Basically, it's like this : You live in a land with winter and darkness and not turquoise waters and bright sunshine all the time. You work in a job that doesn't allow you any second you want to take off and play with the light. So what do you do? You want a consistent IG and you like bright colors, so how do you accomplish that during all seasons?

The answer : Maybe you adjust your colors seasonally. Take summer colors and then pic three other colors per season that compliment at least one summer color and do that. Or you use my tricks for making personal, non-stock photos that do not kill you to create.

How do you do it? Watch my video, which is 20 minutes long, and then read my comments below and check out what I made.

I didn't edit the video at all. I didn't want to. I just shot in my totally messy studio and filmed all the time it took me. When I was done, I ditched a couple of flat lays that did not look cute. I want to expand on what I said:

1. You DO NOT need a fancy camera : I get so sick and tired of hearing people go on and on about how a DSLR will make your photos better. Will it? Maybe. Maybe not. You could easily buy a new camera and not understand it and be crap at focusing. Focusing a camera is a skill. It is, and it could take time to learn. An iPhone is touch to focus, and if you're using Instagram, you're already good at it. (Galaxy phones are also good cameras, but I can't speak to anything else.) You just don't need a fancy camera, so get that out of your head right now. Until you really, really, really, really need a fancy camera because you've done all you can with what you have, then don't buy one.

2. Use a window OR a desk lamp : Using a window or a desk lamp will provide you with ample light for your flat lays. You can use a desk lamp at NIGHT! AMAZING! You can also hang a sheer or white sheet over the window to diffuse the light you have. As I said, food bloggers, you can lay a board with white fabric stapled on it over your sink and use the light from your kitchen window. Style as you cook. If you have a window, you can do flat lays.

3. Collect all your bits and bobbles and keep them in one spot. This is supposed to be EASY. Take your old, empty Sharpies and keep them in a shopping bag. Keep your old makeup containers in a bag in your closet. Grab a handful of notions from your sewing box whenever you need some flat lays. Steal your kids' hot wheels and use them! I mean, you can do a LOT with a little. If you're gearing up for holiday posts, take a half hour just before you decorate the tree, and play around with some flat lays. Keep an eye out at the flea market. Buy an old shoer curtain, piece of poster board, or white sheet and keep that with your stuff. You'll be ready to go and can dedicate any odd day to do a handful of flat lays.

4. Don't be afraid of shadows!!! : One of the things that makes stock photography so obviously stock photography is super flat lighting. When everything is perfectly lit with ZERO shadows, you can bet there's some serious lighting going into it. That's just not necessary. You don't want HUGE shadows (or glare that makes something unrecognizable), but you do want depth in your images. Shadows and reflections create depth. USE THEM!

5. This is all possible with an iPhone : I shot with my iPhone, added text via Over, and then edited in Instagram. It took me about an hour total and I got five flat lays. That's not bad...and I was just fucking around without a ton of interest. If you could dedicate two hours to this, an hour styling and an hour editing, you'd have some sweet flat lays.


Filter : Gingham

Filter : Amaro

Filter : Amaro

Filter : Lark

Filter : Amaro

Some final notes on IG and flat lays...

Consistency in filters is a myth. Anyone who says, "Use the same filters," lacks an understanding of how filters work. The problem is that filters don't always have consistent effects. Amaro, for example, is a fave of mine. I use it for outdoor scenes often...unless I want the scene to be warm. Amaro makes things bluer (and sometimes greener). If I'm shooting outside in the rain or snow, then Amaro is great. But if I'm shooting in the woods, then I prefer Rise, because it warms it up. Similarly, Amaro can make my eyes look blue but can make my skin look green and make shadows in skin look deep red. Sometimes, Nashville or Walden is better for skin tone. What's more important is to pay attention to how the filters work and use them accordingly. Sometimes, you'll want one that lightens things and sometimes you'll want one that darkens things.

Better idea : Remove the filters you NEVER use. Instagram has a TON of filters, and there will be some that don't work for you. I never use Perpetua or Aiden. I don't like them at all, so I used the "manage" option at the end of the filters, and I unchecked them. Instagram will seem less overwhelming when you remove some of the filters.

Consistency in colors and subject matter is what you want. : If you want a bright, light Instagram (consider @sophlog) but you don't live in Atlanta, then you're going to have to cheat. Consider taking extra pictures of an event that really suits your theme and pull them out when you're low on photos. If you want to utilize the weather and climate available to you, take your cue from nature. Rich greens and deep browns go with EVERYTHING and exist in many climates, as does a great, sky blue. USE it!

Umm...that's it. Come back next week and I'll have another post on creating selfies inside, with poor lighting. I've got some fun tips you're gonna love! If you have any question, please comment! Let's talk! Maybe I'll even tailor a blog post to your question!!!


  1. This is awesome. The video is great. I love those flat lays too, especially the knicked up desk one! I haven't done anything like these because I just don't use them, but it's all great info that I will be saving.

    Also, THANK YOU for that piece on the filters. You're exactly right, they don't suit every photo.

    Look forward to the selfie one!

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you like my video (I should've pulled my hoodie down and didn't like the way the lens kept focusing and refocusing.) I think you're gonna LOVE the selfie one. I'm gonna do it at night so everyone can see just how possible it is to have good, indoor lighting.

  2. Really great photo shoots Fenna, Thanks for all the tips. I keep striving to get pictures I really love. I like your straight shooter information about the filters and such. I'm bookmarking this one.
    Kellie from Princess and the Yard Ape.

    1. I'm glad you like it! You have such a dream scenario...all your food, wine, and gardening make for great style props! Now you just need a table in front of a window and you can have tons of fun!!