Now, the look of product photography is changing. Flat lay photography has been one of the biggest 2020 photography trends across the board and has quickly been snapped up by a wide range of e-commerce sites and businesses for its immediate appeal and distinct look.
Flat Lay Photography is the fashion trend
A recent trend has taken over eCommerce product photography in a big way. In the past, showing products in their element, on models, and in vignettes were seen as the best way to give them center stage.
Now, the look of product photography is changing. Flat lay photography has been one of the biggest 2020 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.
Nowadays, 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.
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Different Kind of Flat Lay
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, lay 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.
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Why Flat Lay is 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. The first key factor is that they are incredibly easy to work with. There are few simpler ways to stage your product or to visualize a concept with little setup needed.
They have their own distinct visual appeal, too. 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 on the site.
The organized, well laid out nature of most flat lays also 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 innate appealing about the photograph’s 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 in 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.
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Advertising has been taken over by flat lays in a big way, too. In particular, if you want to learn how to photograph clothes laying flat, ads in fashion magazines have been using flat lay to create outfits without using models that has proven highly appealing.
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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 quick glance to entice them into taking a closer look on 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.
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What kind of product is suitable for flat lays
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. If you want to learn how to photograph clothing laying flat, 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. This same kind of appeal goes for accessory products, like handbags, watches, and jewelry.
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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 or products, or any other organized setup 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 lay flat on it, so recognition and setting are immediate to the viewer.
You can get inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest
If you want to learn how to start taking flat lay photography, jumping on social media is always a good place to start. Flat lays on Pinterest can show you how to photograph clothing, electronics, accessories, and a wide range of other products.
Instagram flat lay photography is a good way to get an idea of how to stage your shots, as well. You can get plenty of ideas on staging, product arrangement, and more by seeing how other ecommerce brands are using the style to highlight their products.
Hopefully, 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 own flat lay shots, so try it out and see if you can’t give your product photography the professional, clean appeal that’s inherent to the style.