Now, the look of product photography is changing. Flat lay photography has been one of the biggest 2024 photography trends across the board and has quickly been snapped up by a wide range of eCommerce sites and businesses for its immediate appeal and distinct look.
In early 2024, we've seen a surge in eCommerce business owners seeking advice on product photography. Most want us to assess their current product page images and provide recommendations for a new-year photography strategy. There's also a strong interest in staying updated on the latest eCommerce imagery trends. Due to high demand, I believe it's crucial to share this information widely.
Flat lay photography is still the fashion trend
Now, the look of product photography is changing. Flat lay photography is still one of the biggest 2024 photography trends across the board and has quickly been snapped up by a wide range of eCommerce sites and businesses for its immediate appeal and distinct look. Here, we’re going to take a look at what flat lay photography is, why it’s become so big in eCommerce and a few flat lay photography tips to help you make use of this new mainstay in the visual landscape of the virtual storefront.
What is “Flat Lay”?
Let’s start by clearing any confusion. Given that flat lay has become one of the biggest trends in photography, seemingly overnight, there are a lot of people quick to mischaracterize it or use the wrong definition.
In the simplest terms: a flat lay is a photograph taken from directly above. Beneath, there’s a flat surface that serves as the backdrop and staging ground for the subjects of the photo. In most cases, the subjects are items that have been arranged on the surface like a vignette, lay flat in place. Often, there is one item chosen as the central focus of the shot, while the others are arranged around it to complement of contrast it. Sometimes, one product will be the focus of the flat lay and, sometimes, it might be surrounded by flat lay props to highlight a certain theme or atmosphere in the shot.
The bird’s eye perspective is considered one of the style’s defining traits, but it doesn’t have to be a true bird’s eye. Photographers sometimes choose to angle the photo slightly if it gives the subjects of the photo a better light, but if there’s too much of an angle, it stops being a true flat lay.
Which brands are utilizing flat lay photography to present products?
You can find flat lays just about everywhere. As mentioned, they’ve become hugely popular in the product photography and eCommerce world since their minimalist staging is well suited to common web design, amongst other factors. From small eCommerce business websites to big tech company launches, more and more are agreeing that flat lay photographs are one of the best ways to show off the design of your product.
On Apple's official website, the prevalent use of flat-lay photographs to showcase products highlights the company's commitment to sleek and minimalist aesthetics. This photographic style not only accentuates the design elements of Apple's products but also aligns with the brand's emphasis on simplicity and innovation.
Dior, featured on its official website, employs flat-lay photography as a prominent visual strategy to showcase its luxurious and meticulously crafted products. This approach not only captures the attention of the audience but also emphasizes the exquisite details and quality associated with Dior's fashion and accessories, creating a visually compelling narrative.
SEPHORA, as showcased on its official website, consistently adopts flat-lay photography to present an array of beauty products in an organized and visually appealing manner. This technique not only enhances the presentation of cosmetics and skincare items but also reflects SEPHORA's commitment to staying on-trend and visually engaging in the eCommerce world, aligning with the preferences of its beauty-conscious audience.
In summarizing these observations, it becomes evident that flat-lay photography has emerged as a prevailing trend in product imagery, with major brands such as Apple, Dior, and SEPHORA leveraging this technique to convey a sense of sophistication, simplicity, and trendiness in their respective industries.
Different kind of flat lay photography
There are a variety of flat lay compositions, too. Not every flat lay is the same.
The traditional grid style is one of the simplest and most popular styles. It involves arranging products in a neat grid, laying flat with the edges of the items parallel to one another so everything looks organized and well laid out.
A grid with an alternate angle follows many of the same rules. However, the camera’s perspective is rotated slightly to the left or right. Some items might be rotated to match the camera’s perspective, breaking from the grid slightly for a little contrast.
Controlled chaos has something of a more scattered approach, giving an off-beat, informal appeal to the photo. Items tend to roughly be spaced out evenly, so it doesn’t look like they’ve placed randomly but the mismatched angling creates a more fun, lively look.
Negative space flat lays are popular for displaying just one or a small number of items. The product or subject is placed in the corner or edge of the frame, allowing the background to take up a lot more space for a real minimalist vibe.
The negative space style can also be used to allow room for text, whether it’s a product title, description, selling point, taglines, or other information that can help get your ecommerce brand across.
Tailor product promotions by selecting distinct types of flat lay photographs based on product features, campaign characteristics, and channel advantages.
Why is flat lay photography important to eCommerce sales?
Now that we’ve defined flat-lay product photography and looked at a few different styles of shooting flat lays, it’s time to take a closer look at what, exactly, it can offer an eCommerce store.
Firstly, they are incredibly easy to work with. Stage your product or visualize a concept with little setup needed.
Secondly, flat lays look creative and unique. That immediately eye-catching style allows eCommerce businesses to tease potential customers with images of the product without giving away too many details, gaining their interest and inviting them to take a closer look at the site.
Thirdly, the organized, well-laid-out nature of most flat lays has a lot of appeal. People love order in photography. Whether it’s arranging art supplies in a neat line or creating a mock outfit with a clothing flat lay, there’s something innately appealing about the photographs' orderly nature. That minimalist background also brings the focus directly to your product. It can also make it easier to create a vignette. For instance, you can create a Christmas flat lay by simply surrounding your product with some candy canes, mistletoe, and miniature prop presents. Others use props like flowers in flat-lay photography to add a little atmosphere to the photo, helping match products to your eCommerce brand.
The sheer convenience of the flat lay isn’t to be underestimated, either. It’s not difficult for just about anyone with a high-quality camera, a flat surface, and a product to take one. Anyone can do it. Because of the little staging needed, it’s a cheap way to give your products a professional look, too.
Flat Lay photos can be used in many places
Simple as they may be, flat-lay photography is also highly versatile. It can be used in a variety of ways and a range of places to great effect.
Many eCommerce websites use them for page headers, creating a flat lay background that instantly sets the scene for the storefront and shows what the site is all about.
Advertising has been taken over by flat lays in a big way, too. In particular, if you want to learn how to photograph clothes lying flat, ads in fashion magazines have been using flat lay to create outfits without using models that have proven highly appealing.
Flat lays came to prominence primarily through social media, so it’s no surprise that those channels can be the perfect place to use them. Flat lays on Instagram, for instance, act as a teaser for your product, giving potential customers a glance to entice them into taking a closer look at your eCommerce page.
Nowadays, eCommerce businesses are starting blogs to give their products and services some spotlight and a little context. If you’re getting into content marketing with a blog, a flat lay can be the perfect way to set the scene of the post.
What kind of product is suitable for flat lay photography?
As versatile as they are, flat lay photographs can be used for a variety of products. It’s been interesting to see the ways that different industries use the form to highlight different aspects of their products, too.
For instance, the most common fashion flat lay is that of the mock outfit. To shoot flat lay for a single piece of clothing, position your product on a flat surface with good lighting, adding props if necessary. Capture from above, ensuring a clean and well-composed image. If you want to learn how to photograph clothing lying flat for multiple pieces of clothing, try arranging them, piece by piece as if you’re dressing an invisible model. It’s an easy way to show how different products can contribute to different styles.
Beauty products look great in a lay-flat arrangement, as well. There’s nothing like a nice, neat row of makeup products and tools while others prefer to go for a more scattered approach, giving the vibe of the average person’s beauty station.
Kid products, like toys, can benefit from the scattered look shown in the organized chaos style of flat-lay photography and are best contrasted with a bright, colorful background.
In the stationary and art supply world, flat lays are used to create a neat line of products, or any other organized set up like a grid or semi-circle that gives the impression of an artist ready to go.
Electronics are perfect for flat lays. Products like smartphones and notebooks that lay flat make for an easy subject while some brands will use flat lays to stage a mini unboxing of the whole package.
Both foods and kitchenware make great subjects for the style too, as well. We can all picture setting the table with these products lying flat on it, so recognition and setting are immediate to the viewer.
How can you get inspiration of flat-lay photography?
Looking to infuse creativity into your flat-lay photography? Unlock a world of inspiration with these tips. Whether you're a budding photographer or a seasoned pro, exploring diverse sources can spark fresh ideas for your next flat-lay masterpiece.
Explore Free Online Product Photography Libraries
Explore free online product photography libraries where you can access a variety of popular flat-lay compositions for different product types. These photo libraries showcase professionally curated images, offering a rich resource for inspiration. Observe how products are arranged, lit, and styled to create visually appealing scenes. Take note of the perspectives, color palettes, and prop usage. By immersing yourself in these extensive collections, you can gain a nuanced understanding of the current trends and timeless techniques in flat-lay photography.
Social Media - Pinterest and Instagram
Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are treasure troves of flat-lay inspiration. Create boards or follow accounts dedicated to photography and styling. On Pinterest, explore curated collections and pin images that catch your eye. Instagram, with its visual-centric nature, offers a dynamic space to discover trends and styles. Follow influencers, photographers, and brands renowned for their captivating flat-lay compositions. Immerse yourself in the vibrant community and absorb ideas that resonate with your aesthetic preferences.
Google Search for Knowledge Blogs
Dive into the wealth of knowledge available on blogs related to flat-lay photography. Conduct targeted Google searches on topics such as "flat lay composition tips" or "creative flat lay ideas." Many seasoned photographers and stylists share valuable insights, techniques, and case studies on their blogs. Learn about the principles of composition, color coordination, and lighting. Engaging with informative content can provide you with a solid foundation to conceptualize and execute your own unique flat-lay setups.
Incorporate these diverse sources into your creative process, and soon you'll find yourself brimming with ideas for your own stunning flat lay photography.
This guide has shown you not only how to use flat-lay photos, but just how valuable they can be to any product or e-commerce brand. It’s easy to start taking your flat-lay shots, so try it out and see if you can give your product photography the professional, clean appeal that’s inherent to the style.